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Using bilingual strategies in drama

Learning and teaching for bilingual children

“Research has established that affording children the opportunity to continue to use their first or home language(s) alongside English in school for as long as possible and to use it in the context of cognitively demanding tasks, will support both the academic achievement of the child and the development of an additional language. There is considerable evidence that bilingualism can benefit overall intellectual progress where both languages continue to develop and when children add English to their language repertoire. The first language has an important role in a child’s sense of personal identity, and whether or not children feel their first language is recognised and valued is enormously significant.”
Primary National Strategy; Excellence and Enjoyment Unit 2

Drama provides the opportunity to both employ and celebrate the bilingualism of the children in a contextualised and meaningful way. There are a variety of strategies that can be used:

Using bilingual strategies in drama

  • Encourage the children to use languages other than English – places and characters can have names that will resonate with the children.
  • Involve bilingual adults in planning, implementation and review
  • Use bilingual storytelling e.g. with bilingual support (a member of staff or a child) a character can speak solely in a different language and necessitate the expert skills of the children in translating what they say
  • Help the children create texts for younger learners using dual languages
  • Use parents and communities as a resource
  • Pairing children (particular where they share a home language)
  • Mapping/sequencing a story
  • Telling a story in home languages
  • Children using home languages to role play
  • Introducing the drama/story/context in both home languages and English.
  • Providing a story ‘logic’ for why children have to use their home languages to communicate within a drama
  • Bilingual performance
  • Using culturally diverse stories
  • Including words from other languages within performances
  • Translation into home languages sections of storytelling


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