Rules, rules — My rules!

The current pandemic has brought up a lot of challenges to how we live and interact with each other. While we have tried to make sense of what is happening in the current moment and how we should behave, many officials and public authorities have inundated us with rules: rules about physical distance, rules about touching, rules about movement and contact with one another, etc. Unfortunately, our learners have not had the chance to vocalize their own rules and to add their own guidelines to what we can do to make our experiences during the current pandemic more manageable. For this reason, we have developed an activity where we can design our ‘own rules’, where we can voice our expectations. Rule-making can be fun and creative, and it can contribute to our well-being so enjoy this activity with your learners!

Rules_Storyboard – Activity Sheet (English)

Head in the Clouds

Today we’re looking up high. During the pandemic, we have heard quite frequently the phrase “We’re in this together.” The phrase means that we can still stay connected and we can keep our social links through the internet, phone calls, walks at a safe distance from our loved ones, etc. But there’s another way in which we can think about being in this together. We are all guarded by the sky with its sun, moon, stars and clouds.

We are sharing with you an activity sheet which engages learners into a series of mini-activities where they can simply get lost among the clouds. Head in the Clouds is about looking up high and wondering what the clouds might see. Children oftentimes like to get lost in the vastness of the sky and adults may also enjoy re-seeing the sky through the children’s eyes. Feel free to download the sheet and adapt it to your own context.

Head in the Clouds – Activity Sheet (English version)

Language Passports

Passports are powerful documents that say many things about who we are and where we have been. In these times, many of us may have passports but not the option to move around. With limited mobility, we may feel confined to our homes or neighbourhoods.  But, there is an alternative! A creative one! We are proposing that you play with a different idea and a different document: a LANGUAGE PASSPORT.

You can design and travel around with the help of your imagination with a language passport. This is a document that language learners can develop over an extended period of time in which they record language stamps: bits of language that they know, capture, pick up from their contexts, etc. As language users, we are the totality of all these language stamps that we live with, hear on a regular basis, or use to reach out to others around us. Language passports are also a creative way to engage with the ones around us, collecting not only our bits of languages, but theirs as well. Be creative and journey around through language(s)!

Language Passports – Activity Sheet (English version)
Language Passports – Activity Sheet (Polish version)
Language Passports – Activity Sheet (Romanian version)

Translanguaging Comics

Storytelling has been important to human beings for thousands of years. Even before the invention of writing, the stories were drawn on the rocks and told by the campfire. Storytelling, in one form or another, can be found on every continent and is enjoyed by children and adults alike. We tell stories about things we love and things we are afraid of, things we know very well and things we have just discovered, and by doing so we make sense of our world.

Stories can be told in many ways, some people like writing novels, others make films or act the stories on stage, others yet – draw comics. Drawing comics can be a combination of everything: you can draw, paint, cut out pictures and words from newspapers and you can write whatever you want. Better yet, you can use any language and any tool you have at hand!

Monika Szydłowska, an artist from Poland, moved to Scotland with just a set of watercolour paint and pencils and created a story about her new life in Scotland. There were many things she found funny or strange in her new life and she documented them. She drew people she met or others she saw on the street and wrote down conversations she heard around her. She used many languages in her comic (and sometimes no languages at all!).

Activities we propose below are inspired by Szydłowska’s work and allow children to create their own comics in which they can tell a story about current times, someone else’s life or an imagined world, whichever they feel like creating.

Translanguaging comics – Activity Sheet (English version)
Translanguaging comics – Activity Sheet (Polish version)
Translanguaging comics – Activity Sheet (Romanian version)

The Language of Feelings

Over the past few weeks, the influx of information about the coronavirus and the lockdown applied in many countries have taken us through a wide range of emotions. Many people describe this period as a ‘roller coaster’ with a mix of positive and negative feelings. To find a balance and to re-focus our energies on positive feelings, it is important that we begin by acknowledging where we are. We can then begin to shift our attention to feelings that help us cope with the situation.

Our children also experience intense feelings in their households but may not have the language  to talk about them or the opportunity to explore these. For this reason, we share with you an activity that helps children explore the language of their feelings by drawing on all the resources they have at hand. Feel free to adapt this activity to your context and remember to encourage language learners to explore their feelings in a safe and comfortable way.

The_Language_of_Feelings – Activity Sheet (English version)
The_Language_of_Feelings- Activity Sheet (Polish version)
The_Language_of_Feelings – Activity Sheet (Romanian version)

Using Idioms

We make sense of ourselves and our environment through concepts such as time or love, which are often abstract and can be quite difficult to express. To talk about such concepts, we often use figurative language, for example, metaphors or idioms, such as time flies, once in a blue Moon or head over heels.

Image of cloud over a human figure with an umbrella walking in a rain of cats and dogs
Raining Cats and Dogs

Although idioms exist in all languages, they differ because of our cultural diversity and the fact that languages, despite being interconnected, have evolved along different paths. This can make learning about idioms from different languages a useful and enjoyable way of exploring different cultures.

Idioms can be partially inferred from their underlying image-schematic structure. For example, in être dans la lune (to be in the Moon), someone’s thoughts are conceptualised to be in a separate space from the spatial location of the time of speaking. The idiom I love you to the Moon and back is based on the image of a long distance representing the intensity or extent of a feeling. As these structures are shared by us all, we can often guess the meaning of idioms we have not heard before, even in a different language! Sometimes, though, we also need some knowledge of the culture to understand the meaning of an idiom and that is why it can be difficult to work out the meaning of new idioms.

Idiom activities work well as a stand-alone activities or integrated into other learning activities. We include here one such activity that can be completed and shared at home:

Using idioms – Activity Sheet (English version)
Using idioms – Activity Sheet (Polish version)
Using idioms – Activity Sheet (Romanian version)

If you are interested to find out more, Creative Multilingualism, a four-year research programme investigating the interconnection between linguistic diversity and creativity, have some multimedia resources on metaphor and idioms:

Podcast: How do metaphors shape our world?

Metaphor and Cultural Diversity

Metaphor and Creativity


Language Activities from home

During these unexpected times brought about by Co-Vid 19, our team will work on and share new ideas for language activities that our primary children can try at home with or without the help of their parents, family or friends and carers.

Our Language Toolkit already provides a wide range of activities that can be adapted for home contexts. However, given the demand for new ideas adapted specifically to the current conditions of lockdown in many places around the globe, we offer in this Blog section of our website a few new ideas to use and trial. We hope our activities serve you well, fill you with joy and creativity.

If you would like to design your own activities on our template, we are sharing here the default Template_Activity_Sheet format so you can populate it with your own ideas. If you develop your own activities, we would love to hear how they worked. Please send and share your ideas with us and we would be happy to post them on the Blog as well. We’re doing our best work when we put our minds together!!!

Board games. Moon idioms. Language Suitcase. Art-making. All-In

On February 22nd, I attended the Glasgow EAL TeachMeet, a friendly group of teachers who come together to share resources and ideas to support EAL (English as Additional Language) learners. The beauty of this meeting was that all the presentations were short and to the point and very rich in teaching ideas and innovative ways of engaging pupils in different contexts. I presented the Language Toolkit, developed with our creative team and two of our team members, Dobrochna Futro and Sally Zacharias, also shared their own projects. Dobrochna presented a whole range of activities that build translingual environments by engaging in art-making. Some of these activities, the creative of use of idioms in different languages and language portraits, are already included in our Language Toolkit. Sally shared her project on moon-related idioms and used this as an example of how to teach learners to work with abstract concepts. Building on metaphors as key conceptual tools, Sally shared with us the many benefits of using metaphors to make sense and engage with each other’s languages and worldviews.

Many other colleagues shared fantastic resources that I will briefly mention here:

Activities for multilingual learners included board games (e.g., Scrabble) where words can be formed individually or in groups and where more than one language can be integrated as part of the learning exercise. For timid learners, the Chatterbox Champions toolkit was a very interesting set of resources. While this set has not been designed for a specifically multilingual context, it could be easily adapted and the tasks included on the cards could encourage learners to bring in all their linguistic resources to complete them.

All-In is an app and resource platform that provides support with learning subject content by accessing a wide range of topics. In an effort to make subject-specific content accessible to all learners, the app uses key words and definitions that have been professionally translated in multiple languages. If learners search for various topics or key words, these can be listed in single, dual and tri-lingual lists helping learners move from one language to the next more quickly and seeing them side by side. The app offers support for 29 languages, including transliteration of languages in different scripts.

Another resource, digital storytelling was presented as a framework for focussing learners’ attention to languages, digital literacies and family engagement. We also learned about a whole school intervention that aimed to bring parents into the school activities and culture, making visible and valuing their language and cultural resources. This intervention developed an entire range of events, from sessions on teas around the world to craft-making meetings, family book groups, sowing, beauty therapy, etc. It was refreshing to see so many colleagues work with passion and creativity to create rich environments for all our leaners.  This spirit of inclusiveness is at the heart of a translingual approach and to see so much openness to new ideas and energy in creating new activities for our learners was very rewarding for me as a researcher and teacher as well. If you haven’t been to a TeachMeet before, make sure you organise or go to one in your area. They will fill you with energy and lots of new ideas!

Kinetic Reading: Dancing through Language Learning

In early November 2020, Edinburgh hosted a creative workshop in which children (and their adults) experienced the potential of dance for language learning. The workshop was based on the idea of kinetic reading, a technique that blends movement and learning, developed by the professional dancer and choreographer Zoë Leigh Gadd.

During the workshop, participants were led by Zoë through a variety of contemporary dance techniques, movement exercises, words games and poetry in both English and other languages spoken in Scotland. They learnt the ‘Alphabet of Movement’ and explored the poems through dance.

These movement-based approaches to language learning involved a lot of clapping, stretching and jumping, included creative kinetic explorations of one’s names and led to the highly inventive ‘Body Conversations’ explored by children with great enthusiasm, including over lunch and coffee break. The final performance in which participants danced the poem was mesmerising. It was fascinating to watch how the words look when they move and speak through the bodies, even when the bodies were following the wrong hand and the chin or a leg did not listen at all. The motivation was super high, and it was a good workout too – mentally and physically stretching. What’s more, the memory of the exercises and connected to them words lasted long after the event.

The workshop was part of the project, devised by Marta Nitecka Barche, from the University of Aberdeen, and Dobrochna Futro, from the University of Glasgow, in collaboration with Zoë Leigh Gadd and was funded by Creative Multilingualism as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) and supported by Bilingualism Matters, a research and information centre at the University of Edinburgh that specialises in studying bilingualism and language learning. For more details visit:

Some photos from our public event

On November 2nd, 2019, we organised two public events dedicated to parents and children from multilingual families. This is where our new friend, Urcus, had the opportunity to meet young language users who were both very creative and interested in learning languages!

We were very grateful to our collaborators, The Mitchell Library and the Bridgeton Library, that opened up library spaces for us to meet and have fun. The activities we prepared were developed in collaboration with two creative artists, Elina Karadzhova and Paria Goodarzi, who took the idea of translanguaging and transposed it in new activities, modes and media.  Two students studying in the TESOL programme at the University of Glasgow joined the team and engaged with our participants. The activities we used are very easy to set up and useful for both classroom settings and community projects. For this reason, we will add them to the Toolkit. We also include some photos from the event to share with you the spirit of our language encounters!

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