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We Are All Teachers of Language

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Original post 26/6/2017

If you read the IB standards and Practices they are pretty clear: language learning in the IB programmes is very important:

​"all teachers are responsible for language development of students"  But what does this responsibility look like? How do we know if we are supporting language development?

At Tokyo International School we have been trying to work this out. The IB guidelines are useful, background reading, but for us they lacked tangible descriptions of what doing this actually looks like in practice. So, we got together to create indicators of 'best' language practice and here's what we have come up with so far. ​These descriptors now feature in our language policy. 

We all support English language acquisition:

  • Visuals Gestures & Actions: teachers use visuals, gestures and actions during instruction and discussions to increase comprehensible input for EAL (English as an Additional Language) learners.

  • Collaborative Learning: teachers utilize collaborative learning strategies where EAL and JAL (Japanese as an Additional Language) learners have the opportunity to discuss, make meaning and use the language.

  • Graphic Organizers: teachers use graphic organizers to simplify the content being delivered.​

  • Reducing Speech Rate: teachers reduce the rate at which they speak to make instructions and discussions more accessible to EAL learners.

  • Paraphrasing: teachers paraphrase and rephrase instructions, conversations and descriptions for EAL learners simplifying vocabulary and language.

We all support literacy across the curriculum:

  • Modeling Correct Language Usage: All teachers model correct language usage, high standards of written presentation and clarity of diction at all times.

  • Provide Language Opportunities: teachers provide opportunities to integrate reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing & presenting across the curriculum.​

  • Feedback About Language: all teachers of all subjects provide students with feedback about reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing & presenting and encourage high standards.

We all honor and support our students' home languages:

  • Promote Mother Tongue At Home: We encourage students and parents to maintain their mother tongue(s) through parent education.

  • Making Connections Between Languages: Teachers highlight connections and encourage students to make connections between their mother tongue and languages taught at school for example by discussing the meaning of a suffix in science and asking children to reflect on the word in their own language.

  • Home Learning: We send home concepts and vocabulary to parents prior to lessons or units of inquiry so that parents can discuss vocabulary with students in their mother tongue​.

  • Mother Tongue Discussion Partners: teacher pair EAL learners with a mother tongue partner who is proficient in English so that the partner can explain concepts and content in the mother tongue.

  • Mother Tongue Resources: the school provides texts (e.g. books, videos and audio books) in the mother tongues of the student body.

We would love to hear how other schools bring this 'all teachers of language' concept alive! If you have additional ideas please leave a comment.  Below is the advice from Columbia University Teachers College Reading & Writing Project.

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