THE INITIATIVE PROMOTER’S PERSPECTIVE
Mulingula is a multilingual reading project for primary schools with children of migrant families whose first language is not German. Children from the 1st to 4th primary classes are read to once a week by native speakers – at the moment in Russian. Romany, Polish and Arabic. The lessons are integrated into the timetable. Story telling, acting short plays based on the stories read, together with loan of books in the mother tongue are complementary activities. The aim of the project is to develop a culture of reading which corresponds to the mulitlingual nature of present day schools. Having enjoyable and happy experiences with literature in the children’s first language for thinking and feeling is intended to foster motivation for reading and to give them a way into the language of schooling. The social prestige of the mother tongue is appreciated in the school. The children’s linguistic identity is recognised and valued. The native speaker readers, who themsleves have a history of migration and a teaching background, work on an hourly basis are integrated in the every day life of the school as professional reading trainers. A further important goal of the Mulingula project is in the development of a general text processing competence which is language independent.
•DESCRIPTION OF THE CONTEXT AND OF THE NEEDS THE INITIATIVE RESPONDS TO:
Children whose first language is not that of the school face linguistic hurdles when they are confronted with reading texts in a language they still have not mastered. Research in linguistics shows that the value gven to the mother tongue is crucial to the general educational development of children. The first language has important functions in the development of children’s socialisation and general linguisitc development. It is also the first language of thinking in which the basic linguistic competences are grounded. When they learn their mother tongue, children develop their initial concepts about language, for example with regard to pronunciation, grammar, structure and meaning and these can be transferred to the use of a second language. The researches into second language acquisition have led to a consensus of the need to foster both languages for children in bilingual environments. Because of this education in two languages develop in parallel and not to the detriemnt of one or the other language.
Migrant children have low achievement especially in the area of reading. From research into reading we know how important it is for the family to set an example of successful “reading socialization”. One can therefore conclude that a majority of migrant children have not had enough pre-school experience with written culture. The material situation of migrants and the conditions relating to migrants seem to be the cause of this and it also seems more difficult for migrants to pass on their “cultural capital” from one generation to the next (Gogolin/ Neumann / Roth), (v. Speck-Hammann A. 2005). The rationale for the Mulingula project is to be seen in this context, and it saw its first priority to be to compensate for the missing reading experiences of migrant children. It sought to develop interest and motivation for reading and literary knowledge through giving children access to books in the mother tongue.
The Pisa and Iglu studies have carried out several assessments of the performances of German children in international comparisons.Since the shock of the 2001 study where the results for reading comprehension were spectacularly bad, there have been considerable improvement. Nevertheless, both studies have shown that children from migrant backgrounds have a significant deficit in our educational system. The reason for this is connected to the children’s competence in language.
It has often been said that this is due to the fact that little German is spoken in the family environment. This is not completely true, since international comparison has shown that other countires with similar conditions have achieved better school results for these children. If parents with incomplete knowledge speak German to their children, there is a risk that they get an unsatisfactory language model and end up learning neither german nor their mother tongue correctly.
This is not in contradiction to the development of skills in German. What is relevant is the presence of a correct language mode, above all in the mother tongue. In parallel there must be opportunities for intensive contact with German since here too it is important to experience correct models of language.
The neglect of the mother tongue has grave consequences for identity development and social integration.
« The mother tongue has a range of vital functions : it determines the development of the child’s basic personality ; from it stems the naming and the awareness of the child’s environment ; it enables them to process and communicate important experiences ; it is the vector of social knowledge and the communication medium of the family and social group ; it determines social relationships, the transmission of important stories and the exchange of value and ideas ; slef image and integration also depend on it. » (Bönsch, M., 1999, S. 11)
To improve migrant children's integration into primary schools and their reading motivation through including reading in their mother tongue in the weekly programme. This is intended to facilitate the attitudinal and cognitive development of children and help them to learn to read efficiently.
In the primary school there are weekly lessons with readings in the different mother tongues which are integrated into the morning’s lessons. The readers who belong to the language group of the children’s family reinforce the children’s social and language identity. Their linguistic and intercultural competences and act as cultural mediators who break down the barriers between the school and migrant parents. Parents evening, school events and children’s performances become characterised by their multilingual nature.
The project demands that we emphasise, in the context of intercultural approaches to teaching, the introduction of contemporary approaches to intercultural learning as well as improving the educational chances of success for migrant children through an approach to teaching reading, based on a consistent reference to the hetereogeneous nature of the langauge biographies of the learners in our classes.
The different languages of the school are given public recognition both in the reading lessons and in their presentation within school events and celebrations. Multilingual theatre productions let all the children in the school to realise that all the languages present in the school are given eaqual value.
In addition to the reading lessons in homogeneous language groups, Mulingula also foresees bilingual reading workshops (German and a foreign language) in the classes. In these classes German speaking pupils encounter the foreign languages their school comrades speak in a didacticised context.
The readers, who themselves come from a migrant background, are paid on an hourly basis and are integrated into the school as professional teachers of reading.
Mulingula is not to be confused with the didactic model of teaching the mother tongue since it does not allow training in writing. The reading and the communication is primarily based on oral work.
Mulingula recognises the mother tongue knowledge of the children as a resource and as an additional potentiality which can be activated for the development of general and basic language competences which are part oft he education in the schools which were previously just monolingual.
One of the results oft he project has been increasing interest in the families for reading in the mother tongue, since the families‘ readiness to do this has been increased by the recognition of their language as valuable – previously they tended to undervalue their own cultural traditions. This does not mean neglecting German as a target language nor the overall aim of inculcating a general competence in dealing with text. We recomment that in addition to the reading lessons children should have the opportunity for systematic education in theri mother tongue.
• Mulingula gives prestige to the languages present in the school, and parents as well as children experience the official recognition of their mother tongue. The tension caused by the development of double identities – often a consequence of the split in languages between home and the school – is eased.
• Without exception the children are motivated to take part in the Mulingula lessons. It is usually the first time that their own languages become a self-evident part of the school day. They enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the reading lesson and appreciate the high value which is given to their own cultural and linguistic roots. At the same time their receptive skills for appreciating literature are developed.
•SYSTEM OF PROJECT EVALUATION USED:
Mulingula was implemented initially as a pilot project in the Melanchthon-Grundschule in Munster in 2008. It was assessed in the context of a doctoral dissertation supervised by Porfessor Grieshaber of the Language Centre of the Westphalian Wilhelmsuniversität. A key question in the evaluation is how far the real reading competences and achievement of the children taking part have improved. The first results will be available at the end of 2012.
•OUTCOMES AND ‘DELIVERABLES’ PRODUCED:
As a result of the positive experiences and reports by all those involved – children, parents, teachers and readers – convinced the authorities to broaden the experiment and to introduce it into four further schools in Munster. The schools chosen have a high proportion of children with migrant backgrounds; the language groups vary according to the schools; the principal ones at present are Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Polish, and Romany, and the reading lessons are offered in these languages. A pre-condition for the project is the availability of mother tongue readers capable of communicating the content of the texts and doing follow up activities. They do not need to master all the semantic and syntactic details of the language as the most important factor is the emotional link to the mother tongue. The development of reading and reading skills are far more strongly connected to emotional / affective factors than previously thought. In order to identify the views of the children they were prompted to talk in small mother tongue groups about the story book “Frag mich (Ask me)” by Antje Damm. These initial experiences of the presence of their mother tongues in previously completely German-speaking environments left a deep impression on the observers.
The first contact of children of Romany groups with their future reader almost took their breath away. The experience of encountering authentically in school a language they only met previously at home released quite intense emotional reactions. (How do you know our language? Are you one of us? Do you know my parents?)
The Rom language group had a special place in the project which required a rethink of the preparation of the lessons. Romany, the language of the Roms and the Sinti, is a living language mainly in refugee families from the former Yugoslavia. Its traditions are mainly oral and have only in recent times found any literary expression and there is very restricted access to any children’s literature so in the reading lessons we mainly used German sources, though the key concepts and expressions were identified and translated into Romany. Explanations and introductions to the texts, discussions clarifying the meaning, anticipation of the next parts of the story as well as sketches recounting the story were all done in Romany. The children found switching between the languages was easy as they are accustomed to change from one language to the other. What was new for them was to do this in the school environment, not just at home and to experience that someone who belonged to their own culture could have the role as a teacher. The recognition of the language and its culture reinforced their self-image and the readiness to learn of the children. This was echoed among the parents who attend school events together with grandparents and siblings and are delighted by their children’s performances of sketches in Romany.
These positive effects are felt for the other language groups, too. For Russian-speaking children we have been able to set up a lending library for Russian in the Melanchthon School. Anna Slavina, the Russian speaking reader is delighted about this investment: “the children are enthusiastic about the library and there is a long queue to borrow the books we have read in the lessons.” The lending of books takes them directly into the parents’ homes and helps establish a family reading culture. The children ask the parents to read to them and are encouraged by the information evenings in the school to pass on their literary traditions. Parents often neglect this family literary tradition under the misunderstanding that fostering the mother tongue hinders the acquisition of German.
German-speaking children profit form Mulingula, too. In the common bilingual workshops they encounter in a teaching / learning context the languages which are present in their school. They realize that these have equal value and show respect and acknowledgement of the language skills of their schoolmates. In discussions where the languages are compared they learn about specific features of their own language and the differences of grammar and structure. They learn, for example, that there are different ways of forming articles, as a first introduction ot language analysis and comparison.
Mulingula is a soundly grounded addition to our language development activities in the school. The child with his / her individual linguistic resources stands in the centre. These are seen as learning opportunities and used as introductions to the language of literature and of education. The results of the project are being assessed in a doctoral research programme which will be published in 2014
To gain reward and prestige for an innovative and successful project.
Publicity for the project. Continuation of the project activities after the project.
Not major, but useful for both internal approval for continuation of the project activities and as a means of gaining outside recognition and links to other networks.
Combining clear theoretical backgrounds to good practice with an inclusive approach to language education
THE NELLIP NETWORK’S PERSPECTIVE
The project fulfilled the aim of promoting plurilingualism, of helping migrant intergartion, of including all stakeholder groups. The approach was both innovative and practical.
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