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1. Who are the students in our classrooms?
2. What is the particular context in which they are learning/or have learnt EAL/D?
3. What are the different trajectories - personal, academic, cultural, ethnic, linguistic trajectories - which they negotiate as the come to the classroom?
4. How does the student describe their EAL/D language learning journey?
5. What resources does the student bring to their language and literacy learning?
6. How might you reflect on the above through the lens of the debates described in the study guide, readings and materials in topics 1 – 5?
7. How does your thinking change the ways that you understand your languages teaching practice?  

Identity and experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse learners in Australian classrooms

Australia has been a linguistically and culturally diverse country and the modern nation consists of over 200 ethnic backgrounds. Many different languages are taught at homes and communities all over the Australia and in many primary schools, English is being taught as an additional language or a dialect (Baker, 2012).

The main aim of this paper is to describe the identity of the learners and their specific language learning journey. This paper would also reflect on the experiences of the students in this language learning journey supported by their personal experiences. Finally this paper would also reflect on the different resources that the linguistically different students bring to the classroom that helps in their language learning, the ways in which they are taught about the English language. All these will be described on the basis of the language learning theories.

Most of the learners in the classroom came from a large number of different nations with diverse cultural and ethnic background. Students came all over from Europe, South America, Middle East, Asia and pacific Islands. They come with diverse language and culture. The learning background of the students differed with the time span for which they have spent in Australia. Students also come from Saudi Arabia, China and UAE.

It is important that the teachers become familiar to the cultural and the linguistic background of the students. The teachers should thrive to develop the classroom environment that utilizes, values and explores the diverse and the rich cultural and the linguistic resources and the heritages that the children brings with them (Conteh & Meier, 2014).

Multilingualism has been a part of the Australian mainstream agenda. With the growing prosperity of Australia, the immigrants have chosen Australia as the place of their residence. Multilingualism in the Australian classrooms are a long drawn concept (Conteh & Meier, 2014).

The Australian government has long been trying to assimilate the aboriginal Australian to the Australian cultural and many aboriginal students are also being admitted in the Australian schools. It should be remembered that the immigrant communities when stand in the new gateway are faced with several challenges and so do the teachers (Conteh & Meier, 2014). The students often face difficulties to cope then up to the complex ethnic and the racial patterns created due to the immigration. It is an irony that the teachers who have traditionally focused on the binary issue of black and white have to teach increasing number of students with different cultures. Immigrant students often faced with structural challenges such as high stakes testing environment that has not been designed for the immigrant students (Turner & Cross, 2016). The educational policies that have been implemented for the political rather than for the pedagogical reasons are also one of the barriers. An unequal high enrollment in the linguistically and the racially isolated schools and low resources schools and finally, the racism that is being faced in few situations. These are the few factors that guide the experience of the learners in a multilingual classroom. The syllabus or the stories that they are learning in the English language can be influenced by the local history that can act as contradictory for the linguistically background students. Furthermore, in most of the students having English as the second language face difficulties while conversing with the peer students or during classroom interaction and discussions.

Resources brought by linguistically and culturally diverse learners for language learning

Language is the part of a culture and is shaped by the culture. It is also the carrier of culture and is shaped by culture. Language and culture are closely related. Hence cultural assimilation should be encouraged in the classroom (Murray & Christison, 2011). In most of the cases the English learning is occurring in the multilingual classrooms. In a multilingual classroom the teachers and the students can experience difference cultural practices and rituals that might not be acceptable to different students. Hence the learning should be such that it suits to students coming from any cultural background.

Different student have different cultural views and life trajectories. They have negotiated with their identities and have assimilated with the new linguistic and the cultural notions, but has been done within the institutional terms and the conditions. Learners have to sacrifice many of their personal belief and notions after coming to the classroom, where they have to accept new cultures and practices (Hilburn, 2014).  The classroom composition of the student is always influenced by the immigration policy, the economic and the political scenarios, and the increasing demand of English in all aspects of life. Teachers and the students located within similar geographical context often have common cultural, academic, linguistic behavioral pattern and understanding. The teaching experiences while handling students from Islamic countries are different due to their different cultural practices. Hence it is necessary to imbibe cultural sensitiveness among the students (Hilburn, 2014).

In most of the cases the student has described that the pedagogy of the language learning can be made more systematic as it is necessary to make up the grammatical base, which they did not have from the beginning like the other children. Secondly, according to the opinion of many of the students, the assessment pattern of the multilingual classrooms sometimes becomes difficult for the students and should be simplified. However many have confessed that the proactive approach of the peer have helped them to understand other culture and practices. Hence the task of an EAL/D teacher is to channelize the thought process of all the students in to a common direction (Kleyn, 2016).

The language learning journey of all the EAL/D learners has always not been very pleasant. In many cases the aboriginal learners have to experiences racism and discrimination in classrooms. There requires a common understanding of the linguistic diversity of the aboriginal learners and their needs (Chinh, 2013). The learning curriculum should be as per the linguistic capacity of all the students. While reflecting on the migration story of Yasmeen, she has described the ambience to be totally different from her native place. While describing her experience she have described that it really takes a hard time to assimilate in to a totally new culture, but is all depends upon how one accepts the other culture. The students have expressed concerns that if the teachers do not have comprehensive control over a particular language that is when the language learning becomes very difficult for them (Chinh, 2013). One of the student have shared concern that he has learned English by memorizing 10 English words each day as he walked around the villages. Many students have also said that they have learnt languages by watching the English subtitles of the television shows. Some of the students have tried to learn English by listening to the English songs repeatedly. One of the learners has described how he had to walk several miles to attend an English school that is present in the town. However other children have expressed stories about how their beloved teacher has grown the interest of lifelong English learning.  

Challenges faced by students in a multilingual classroom

The main resources which the student brings in order to learn EAL (English as Additional Language) is the grammar book and audio recording in order to correct the pronunciation and pictorial dictionary in order to improve their understanding about the English terms via relating it with their own native language and picture of the same. Students also come up with audio sounds of English rhyme which help them to learn English while listening. Other literacy learning resource includes copy, pen or pencils. These are used while taking dictation in English.

                                       

Figure: Resources student bring in class in order to learn English like English Grammar book and word book with pictorial representation

                                                                               (Source: Kleyn, 2016)

As per my understanding, these are the few basic resources for learning any language from the grass-root level. These kinds of resources help the student to get a detailed academic over-view of the language and thereby helping them to nail the exact concept of English from the literature point of view. However, I think the students must also come-forward with story books with pictorial representation of the images. The story books must be written in simple English language. Reading such story book will help the students from different cultural background other than Australia to learn English as an additional language. According to Sanders (2015) reading story books is extremely important to learn a particular language. Reading story books help a person to learn the thumb rule of sentence construction and to understand the flow or the use of different sentences under different circumstances. This inherently increases the chances of learning a language under a faster space. However, the story books which the students will use in order to learn English as an additional language must be based on the stories of their own culture. Like for the students who are from the Middle East or Torres Strait Islanders (aboriginal Australians) the stories must be mainly be super –natural stories or the moral stories. Such stores will help to gain attraction of the students and will help them to indulge in reading those story books over and over again. The pictorial representation helps to attract the attention of the children. According to Langhamer (2013) reading story books with images is always interesting for the students. After gaining a habit of reading story books, more complex sentence story book must be selected, one which deals with the English culture and literature and this will enlighten the students with the cultural perspective of learning English as an additional language.

Ways to promote cultural sensitivity in the classroom

The study guide 1 deals with diverse learners under different classroom settings. In relation to the study guide 1 and study material discussed in topic one, I want to reflect that having diverse learners in theclass-room make it difficult for the teachers to handle all the students comprehensively via following same or identical learning concept. It is the duty of the teachers to take unique strategies as per the students’ intellect and cultural background and work accordingly for the better outcome. The study guide two highlights "how students learn language", in relation to this, I want to say that every student have different learning approach like memorizing, watching videos or reading story books. It is on the basis of the learner's characteristics that are age, aptitude, personality, and language level and learner style that the overall learning approach is defined. It is the duty of the teacher to understand that specific learning approach and devise the learning plan accordingly. Study guide three highlights the "language learning context". Language learning context is mainly highlighted by numerous theories however apart from abiding by the theories strictly; it is the duty of the teachers to adopt the learning process as per the students’ requirement. The study guide 4 highlights "understanding language", in EAL/D settings in pedagogy. I think language is a reflection of and a manner of expressing the cultural reality and thus a teacher must act accordingly on the basis of the cultural background of the students. Study guide five highlight “teaching language skills”. For me the important skills of a teacher is reading, listening, speaking, learning and writing. For me execution of these macro skills helps the teacher to effective fight back against any odd situation.

While teaching English language as an additional language to the non-native Australian, or Australian aboriginals and immigrants in Australia, I came across a variety of cultural thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. The culture and the pattern of learning is different among the different students from different cultural perspective. For example, the immigrants are scared to respond to questions or come up with their queries. On contrary, aboriginals lack confidence in sharing their gaps or difficulties as they are majorly the victims of the social exclusion and suffer from poor self-esteem.

So in order to handle students from different cultural background, I mainly undertake a unique teaching approach and this is guided by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST). This framework mainly highlights professional knowledge development via identifying the learning requirement of the students and the ways in which they feel they are comfortable in learning. Professional development is followed by execution of the professional practice via proper planning and implementation of the teaching program among students from different cultural background. Professional practice also entails creation and maintenance of supportive and safe environment for EAL/D learners. I have personally witnessed that creation of safe environment helps the students to come up with their queries spontaneously. On the basis of their queries and performance I provide them personalised feedback. This helps them to refine of their language earning which is again a professional practice approach under APST. As per the norms of APST, I also engage in the professional engagement via developing and engaging into respectful and reciprocal cross-cultural relationships. This cross-culture relationship helped the students from the different cultural background to get an overview of different cultural and thereby increasing their horizon of knowledge and understanding.

                                 

                                                                                 Figure: APST standard

                                                            (Source: Queensland Government Australia, 2013)

Another personal change in thinking apart from the making modulations in the APST standard is working upon the 10 different strategies known and effective teaching and learning strategy as proposed by Queensland government. Strategy 1 highlights, “Leave English behind” (Queensland Studies Authority, 2018). Under this strategy, I attempt to use the target language as the main language for learning and teaching in the classroom. I also enhance communication via using non-verbal or visual cues like after viewing any object, I ask, “what is this?”, this help to increase their attachment with English and thereby helping them (students) to work on the same. Using non-verbal communication also coincides with the strategy 2 of effective learning. Thus like the contemporary teacher, without remaining strict to any specific command in English, I attempt to use a friendly approach so that the students feel homely and at the same time indulge in the overall learning experience. I also promote teaching in full sentences and conversation like telling them, “This is the door, now you people tell me where the door is”. Using full term sentences help the help the student to grab the language fast. I also focus on listening and speaking rather than writing and performing the grammatical analysis. At the end I focus in the use of audio and videotaping in order to teach them in an interactive way. According to Mathew and Alidmat (2013), using audio-visual media helps to student to indulge in the overall reading session.

References:

Baker, W. (2012). From cultural awareness to intercultural awareness: Culture in ELT. ELT journal, 66(1), 62-70.

Chinh, N. D. (2013). Cultural Diversity in English Language Teaching: Learners' Voices. English Language Teaching, 6(4), 1-7.

Conteh, J., & Meier, G. (Eds.). (2014). The multilingual turn in languages education: Opportunities and challenges (Vol. 40). Multilingual Matters.

Fillmore, L. W. (2014). English language learners at the crossroads of educational reform. TESOL Quarterly, 48(3), 624-632.

Hilburn, J. (2014). Challenges facing immigrant students beyond the linguistic domain in a new gateway state. The Urban Review, 46(4), 654-680.

Kleyn, T. (Ed.). (2016). Translanguaging with multilingual students: Learning from classroom moments. Routledge.

Langhamer, C. (2013). The English in Love: the intimate story of an emotional revolution. Oxford University Press.

Mathew, N. G., &Alidmat, A. O. H. (2013). A study on the usefulness of audio-visual aids in EFL classroom: Implications for effective instruction. International Journal of Higher Education, 2(2), 86.

Murray, D. &Christison, M. (2011). Vol 1. ‘Learner Identities’ (Chapter 1).

Queensland Government. (2013). Capability Framework Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAL/D learners. Access date: 17th August. Retrieved from: https://indigenousportal.eq.edu.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/eald-capability-framework.pdf

Queensland Studies Authority. (2018). Effective teaching and learning strategies. Access date: 17th August. Retrieved from: https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/downloads/p_10/snr_atsi_languages_11_strategies.pdf

Sanders, C. (2015). Reading skills and earnings: Why do doing words good hurt you’re wages. Working paper.

Turner, M., & Cross, R. (2016). Making space for multilingualism in Australian schooling.  

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