3. Code-switching to promote thinking skills

Once skills and understanding are established in a well-known language, it is easier to transfer them to an additional language. Many academics also believe that if a person can look at a subject through the perspectives of two languages, their thinking skills are improved. It is important that you make sure your pupils see themselves as richer – rather than poorer – because they have two or more languages.

When your pupils have discussed ideas in the home language or lingua franca, it is valuable for them to find and learn ways of expressing these in the additional language. You need to continually think of ways to help them do this. This part offers you some ideas.

Case Study 3: Expressing ideas in English

Zawadi made sure that the Kiswahili notes from the lesson on the king and the shoemaker were not rubbed off the board.

In the next Standard 7 lesson, she started discussing with the pupils how they could answer, in English, the questions she had asked.

They talked about some of the key Kiswahili words or phrases they had used, terms like tabia, maumbile. What kind of person, or quality, did each term refer to? Did they know people with these qualities?

They also discussed, in the same way, some of the key English words in the questions: educated; wise; clever; happy; learned. She reminded them that there are not always direct translations for words from English into Kiswahili, or from Kiswahili into English. However, they found ways of expressing the ideas that were on the board in English. In the process, they learned new language structures and some new vocabulary.

Zawadi put these on the board, she asked them to work in groups and write English answers to her two questions. The group could create the answers together, but pupils had to write their answers individually.

Zawadi found that this code-switching helped her pupils develop their English much more.

Key Activity: The adult I want to be: a vision statement

Ask some of your pupils to share their descriptions of adults they admire with the class. Ask the class to identify one or two adults they admire in the community, and see if these adults would talk with the pupils.

Decide on a few questions to ask, e.g.:

  • what is most important for you, in life?
  • what life experiences have made you stronger?
  • who had the greatest influence on you as you grew up?

Agree who is going to ask the questions, and how to record what the person says. Pupils and adults will probably use the home language.

After the visit, discuss what the pupils learned.

Ask your pupils: What qualities and values would you like to develop in yourselves as you become adults?

Work out home language and additional language terms for these, and write them up.

Ask them to write out their own ‘vision’ and/or ‘mission statement’ in the additional language. (Resource 5: Vision and mission statements gives examples.)

2. Bilingual approaches

Resource 1: Poem