Teacher partnerships between mainstream and complementary

Developing bilingual learning through
partnerships between complementary and
mainstream teachers
Mahera Ruby & Charmian Kenner
Goldsmiths, University of London
Tower Hamlets
Majority second and third
generation British
Bangladeshi children
Some children with other
languages: eg Somali,
Arabic, Russian...
Newcomer children from
Teaching assistants
bilingual in Sylheti/Bengali
Some bilingual teachers
Only English being used in
Parallel world: complementary classes
(thanks to www.stifford.org.uk for the image)
Often just round the corner or down the road
After-school or weekends
Children learning mother tongue and often
maths or other curriculum subjects as well
Strong links with families
The need for a bilingual approach in
both settings
Second and third generation in
complementary school: English stronger
Same children in mainstream school:
drawing on all their language resources
(Kenner et al, 2008)
Children strong in both languages doing
well in both settings
New project: partnerships between primary
and community teachers
(funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Tower Hamlets)
Collaborative action research on bilingual learning
Teachers visit each other’s settings
Plan jointly around a topic, adapt to own context
Deliver lessons and observe each other
Plan and deliver again
Supported by Goldsmiths and Tower Hamlets
Languages Service
Characteristics of complementary classes
Multi-age, multi-level
Bilingual – children often stronger in English,
teacher in mother tongue
Teachers devise strategies to meet the
Zainab’s Somali class, visited by James,
primary school teacher: a learning
community, everyone pools their resources
A two-way exchange
Mainstream teachers recognise the value of
complementary teachers’ strategies, as well
as vice versa
Example of James, primary teacher
(music/drama) co-teaching at the primary
school with Zainab (Somali class teacher)
Children in class mainly British Bangladeshi,
two Somali children, one child from
Child as teacher
Changes power
Multiple practice
Each child highlights
different aspects
Fine-tuning learning
Synergy in teaching
and learning through
exchange with peers
(Gregory, 2001)
James on the child as teacher
‘It’s a more rounded use of resources,
it develops the children in different
ways – self-learning, self-monitoring…
the understanding you get from having
to teach something, to try to explain it,
focusing in your head on what it should
Learning keywords through drama
Children choose keywords and build into English
sentence, then act out – consolidate meaning,
kinaesthetic learning
Equal status of teachers
James introduced Zainab and Muna:
‘we’re teaching buddies’
Co-teaching in the mainstream
classroom was conducted seamlessly
and with mutual understanding
James’ comment on complementary
strategies: ‘it isn’t what you do, and
that’s why it’s good for you to see it’
Developing topic-based bilingual learning
Primary school: adding a multilingual
dimension to topics for IPC
(International Primary Curriculum)
Community teachers help develop
ideas and teach topic in own setting
From ‘parallel worlds’ to ‘connected
A partnership project
Smithy Street Primary School
after-school Somali class
Family tree: words
for relatives
Children learn with
actions and rhythm
Afternoon at Smithy
Street School
Make family trees in
different languages
Messages to grandparents
Families bring photos of grandparents
Imagine what you would like to say to
your grandparent in Somalia (practise
orally and on phone)
Write messages to grandparents
Create powerpoint presentation for
Tower Hamlets Languages Celebration
My sweet grandma I miss you
could you come with me
bye bye.
Warqad awoowe
by Mohammad and Asya
Awoowe Salaam calaykum
Aad baan kuu salama aniga. Aad
baan u fiicanahay. Awoowe Allah
waxan kaaga baryaya-inaad ku
waarto caafimaad.
Awoowe ii so ducee.
Letter to dada (grandpa)
Asalamu alaikum dada. Are you O.K.
I am writing to you to hope you
have good health and wealth. Could
you read me dua (make a prayer for
Benefits for learning
Community teacher’s understanding
enriches ‘grandparents’ theme for school
Children exploring their roots and who
they are
Building attachment to grandparents
Developing language to communicate
with elders
The Rag Trade
A partnership project
Smithy Street Primary School
Stifford Community Centre
What can you see in these pictures?
Tomra ei chobi gulate khi dekte parteso?
Why are they asking us to save their life?
Key words
Rag Trade – kaporer bebsha
Labour - srom
Export – roptani
Slums - bosti
Exploit – shujuger bebohar
Trade - bebsha
Fair Trade – sromer mullo
Questions to ask parents
Ma babader jonno proshno
Bangladesher bachara ki bhabe thake?
(How do the children in Bangladesh live?)
 Ora pora shunar kototuku shujug pai?
(What opportunities do they get to read and write?)
 Amra ki bhabe bachader srom dur korte pari?
(How can we stop child labour?)
 Tomra Bangladeshe tader che pora shunar kototuku shujug
(What opportunities did you get in Bangladesh to read and
 Tomra ei deshe eshe khi khi kaz korso?
(What work did you do when you came to the UK?)
Investigation with children in Bangladesh
A teacher from Smithy Street School visited
Bangladesh. Children from Smithy Street and
Stifford Centre sent questions to children there.
Some children go to daytime school. Others
work in the rag trade by day and go to night
The teacher brought back answers which
children from Smithy and Stifford performed at
Tower Hamlets Languages Celebration.
Night Time School
Benefits for learning
Engaging children in meaningful issue, drawing
on knowledge of community teacher
Thinking through ideas in Bengali and English
Aiding biliteracy, using transliteration as a
bridge to Bengali script
Developing speaking skills
Empathy through role-plays and preparing
The importance of bilingual learning
‘It’s about the whole child really for me…just by having
contact with their community schools I feel I can
understand a bit more about their learning in a broader
context – they’ve got skills we don’t always use in class
and doing the poetry work has given us the chance to use
some of those skills…it was lovely to see the confidence of
the children who were able to take on the task and
engage with it, using their mother tongue, it just felt very
positive to see them…obviously English is what we’re
being asked to teach but what I think I learned from this
is that children who are actually being very successful in
English seem to also be children who are engaging with
mother tongue classes as well’ (Annika, Smithy Street)
Ideas for joint activities between
mainstream and community schools
Topic-based teaching
 International languages celebration event
 Bilingualism advice panel for parents
 Dual language book making
Training for complementary and
mainstream teachers, led by teacher
partnerships from the project
Resources to be placed on Tower
Hamlets languages website
National conference in Tower Hamlets,
Thursday July 1st
Kenner, C., Gregory, E., Ruby, M. and Al-Azami,
S. (2008) Bilingual learning for second and third
generation children. Language, Culture and
Curriculum 21 (2), 120-137.
Kenner, C., Al-Azami, S., Gregory, E. and Ruby,
M. (2008) Bilingual poetry: expanding the
cognitive and cultural dimensions of children’s
learning. Literacy 42 (2), 92-100.
Al-Azami, S., Kenner, C., Ruby, M. and Gregory,
E. (2010) Transliteration as a bridge to learning
for bilingual children. International Journal of
Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.