Multilingual Grouping

Multilingual grouping is a fun way of using everyone’s L1 and can be used in any EAL or mainstream classroom.The following example is based on a recent Year 7 Geography lesson about Hazards.

As a warmer activity, give all students a card with either volcano eruption, earthquake, tsunami/flood or hurricane/typhoon/cyclone on. The students then have to walk around the class and talk to other students about their topic (without showing the card or using the word on it) in their first language. The aim is to find out who else in the class has the same topic. After about three to five minutes, everyone is told to find their matches and stand in a group with the students they think were talking about the same topic. It is important to explain this beforehand to encourage active listening. If there are a lot of English as a first language speakers in the class, I usually challenge them to do it in their L2 (some do and some prefer not to which is OK too). Once they have formed groups, students then check each others cards and share feedback about why they joined up with each other. At this moment, not only pre-existing knowledge on the subject topic can be evaluated but also students discuss the differences and similarities between all the different L1’s present in the classroom. I used this it as a warmer for a Geography lesson but it is clear that the this kind of activity can be perfectly used for any part of the lesson and would be equally great to use as a closing activity.




If you have more time available (EAL lessons), students could prepare what they are going to talk about. Because the topics they have to talk about are academic, many of the students will need to look up some words in their L1. This then becomes a more planned translanguaging activity in which students use their languages as cognitive tools to transfer skills, concepts and learning strategies across languages.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

“…research also indicates that an inclusive attitude to students’ L1 has positive effects on their personal and cultural identities, their social and emotional well-being, and their engagement in the education system.”

from The Role of the First Language in English Medium Instruction, 2018- Oxford University Press




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