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Multicultural kindergartens A Handbook for Teachers and Parents

Public Service Language Centre




his Handbook is an English summary of the publication in Lithuanian “Daugiakultūriai darželiai. Gerosios praktikos vadovas” (“Multicultural Kindergartens. Good Practice Guide”) which is available online at the following address:

The Hanbook is intended for teachers working at multicultural kindergartens, for parents of children from different cultures residing in Lithuania, as well as for specialists interested in linguistic and cultural education of young children. The guide and the summary were produced as part of the project “Modernisation of multicultural education methods for pre school and pre-primary level” implemented by the Public Service Language Centre in cooperation with partners – Høgskolen i Bergen, Norway, Klaipėda University, the Centre for Special Needs Education and Psychology – and in consultation with the kindergarten „Saulės gojus“. The project was funded through the European Economic Area Financial mechanism 2009-2014 under LT08 “EEA Grants” programme. Application number EEE-LT08- ŠMM01-K- 02-006.

Summary and translation: Olga Medvedeva

Printed by UAB “Grafija”

Editing: Nida Burneikaitė

Tiražas – 1000 vnt.

Illustrations: Emilija Stankevičiūtė

ISBN 978-609-95876-1-5

Design: Rasa Ulevičiūtė-Maziliauskienė

ISBN 978-609-95876-0-8 VIKC 2016



Early multicultural education

I Why introduce multicultural education at an early age

n contemporary societies, multicultural education has become an integral part of pre-school and pre-primary education. Multicultural education aims to create appropriate conditions for every child’s development, according to the child’s individual needs, and to foster children’s positive attitude towards diversity in society.

Reasearch has shown that pre-school children are aware of social attitudes and values that exist in their closest environment. Even very young children show features that will later develop into self-awareness and self-respect. They notice similarities and differences in the people around them and learn to position themselves in social environment. A multilingual setting has a positive impact: children who hear and use more than one language have a wider outlook, they are more flexible and communicative, they become better learners. Thus, multilingualism stimulates the development of linguistic, social and cognitive skills. Migrant children, who acquire the host country’s language and develop their native language skills, are likely to maintain the ties with the culture of their origin and their relatives back in their homeland, which would lead to higher socialization and wellbeing of migrant families.

Kindergarten teacher’s role in the multicultural environment

The teacher who works in a multicultural setting should acquaint the children with the concept of diversity, teach them to appreciate and respect other cultures, and ensure the engagement of the children in multicultural educational activities. The teacher should have:

• • • • • • Multicultural education in Lithuanian kindergartens

a positive attitude to other cultures; respect for each child and his/her parents; willingness to use self-reflection in learning from pupils and their parents; interest in every child’s family background and experience; willingness to overcome the language barrier; a constructive approach to solving problems caused by cultural differences.

The basic principles of the current educational policy in Lithuania, such as democracy, social inclusion, accessibility and others, lay a sound basis for promoting multicultural education at an early age. Kindergarten practitioners set such goals as:

• teaching tolerance (e.g. children are encouraged to accept differences in appearance); • promoting love for their country (e.g. children listen to folk songs and stories, visit ethnic sites, learn about national symbols, mark state holidays);


• promoting respect for other cultures (e.g. children are encouraged to get acquainted with other countries, their people, traditions, food etc.);

• kindling interest in one’s own and other languages (e.g. children listen to samples of languages, learn the most common words/phrases in other languages). Children’s linguistic / cultural background

In Lithuania children can attend pre-school institutions with Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, French, English or other languages of communication. Teachers have to take into account every child’s linguistic and cultural experience, and create favourable conditions for all children to acquire more than one language, preserve their national identity and get integrated into society they live in. According to the language(s) they use, preschool children can be grouped as follows:

• monolingual children who use Lithuanian only; • bilingual children who use Lithuanian (native) and another/foreign language (e.g. English);

• bilingual children who use the state language (Lithuanian) and the native language (e.g. Polish);

• multilingual children who use more than two languages – the state language (Lithuanian) and parents’ languages (e.g. Russian with the mother and Georgian with the father);

• multilingual children who use more than three languages – the state language (Lithuanian), their parents’ native languages and their common language (e.g. the Polish mother and the German father use English as the language of communication in the family). How to make multicultural education in kindergartens more effective

• Promote activities that foster respect for people of other cultures and enhance awareness of diversity in society. Design a series of activities to focus on languages and cultures.

• Engage all members of the kindergarten community – teachers, administration, children, parents, support specialists, local people – in joint initiatives and encourage mutually beneficial cooperation.

• Create a multicultural environment: invite people from different cultures (foreign exchange students, parents, representatives of ethnic minority communities) to visit your kindergarten and get involved in activities with children.

• Collaborate with colleagues to share professional experience; take part in workshops and discussions that focus on practical aspects of implementing multicultural education.



Cooperation with parents and communities

P Before the first meeting with a family from another country, kindergarten teachers could:

Discussion points for the first meeting with parents

Written information for parents in their home language could include:

arents make an indispensable part of the kindergarten community, and their contribution to the education process is essential. Successful cooperation between teachers and parents should be based on a regular contact, friendly and clear communication, recognition of equal partnership, and confidentiality.

• • • • •

find out some basic facts about the country of origin of the child’s family;

• • • • • • •

Why did you choose our kindergarten?

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Kindergarten mission, vision and shared values;

learn a few words in the family’s native language; put up the national symbol/flag of the country of origin of the child; on the door, write “hello”, “welcome” in the language of the family; get prepared to welcome the child and ensure his/her well-being.

What would you like to find out about the kindergarten (rules, education etc.)? How does your child feel about attending the kindergarten? Has your child attended any nursery / kindergarten before? What do you expect from the kindergarten community? What could you do to support your child’s integration into the group? What help do you think you may need?

Rules and regulations, healthcare and security, working hours etc; Premises, facilities, playground, library etc; Contact details of administration, teachers, support specialists; Curriculum, priorities, specific activities etc; Daily routine and timetable; Food and meal times; Individual kits: clothes for indoors and outdoors, personal hygiene items; Holidays and celebrations, including parental involvement; Contacts with parents, meetings, visiting hours, open days; Support to children and family, specialists and institutions; Cooperation with social partners, ethnic communities, joint events, projects.


Formal and informal communication between teachers and parents

How to involve parents and community members in kindergarten activities

Formal ways of communication

Informal ways of communication

• • • • • • • • • •

• • • • • • • • • •

individual consultations info leaflets, memos kindergarten Board meetings kindergarten Facebook page kindergarten website lectures, discussions Open Doors days parents’ committee activities parents’ meetings questionnaires

excursions for children and parents exhibitions of children’s arts and crafts festivals and parties involving parents in kids’activities making teaching/learning aids notice board sorting out library books talks when children arrive and leave thank-you messages tidying up the playground

Preserving one’s ethnic culture is vital for building up the child’s personality and national identity. The support of local communities is indispensable for harmonious education in multicultural kindergartens. Teachers and administration should try to involve children’s parents and local community members in the kindergarten activities. They should try to:

• create a friendly environment for all children and parents; • learn some basic words and phrases in various languages and use them in communication with children and adults;

• use both the state language and the family language in written communication; • invite representatives of ethnic groups to give a talk about their national traditions and customs, to tell sories or sing songs to the children and the staff;

• encourage local community members to work as volunteer assistants; • organise joint events, competitions, picnics with traditional food; • organize chidren’s trips to ethnic cultural centres, museums, libraries, concerts etc.



Cooperation in kindergartens and between institutions


ooperation between kindergarten teachers can help them find the most effective solution in a difficult situation. It can also help in building up a friendly team, where everybody contributes to common goals and benefits from the shared experience. For teachers working in a multicultural setting, cooperation will facilitate acquiring new competences necessary for educating children who speak more than one language.

Forms of cooperation in the kindergarten

• Informing, discussing, consulting. Colleagues share new information; exchange opinions; give advice to each other on particular issues; discuss ways of tackling urgent matters.

• Mentoring. A more experienced teacher offers professional advice and guidance to a less experienced one through observing sessions, giving feedback, consulting etc.

• Regular in-house training. Each teacher gets a chance to share his/her knowledge and skills gained at professional development events or through personal work experience.

• Kindergarten projects. All teachers work on the same theme for a certain period of time in a coordinated way. All agree on a topic, plan activities for each group etc.

• Open Doors Days. A teacher invites his/her colleagues to participate in an activity or event. Such days are a perfect opportunity to enrich one’s “bank of teaching ideas”. How to work as a team

Cooperation with other institutions

• • • • • • • • •

Respect every member of your team; take into account all opinions; Share information; encourage everybody to contribute to joint effort; Make decisions based on constructive discussion; Agree on a leader to coordinate team work on any specific issue; Promote mutual trust and friendly collaboration; Agree on the result you want to achieve, analyse challenges and opportunities; Look for new ways of working together; promote socializing; Share responsibilities and team roles when implementing projects; Volunteer to offer your help to other groups’ activities if necesasary.

• Cooperation with other kindergartens can enrich the educational process, for example, kindergartens with different languages of communication (e.g. Lithuanian, Russian, Hebrew, Polish) organise joint events, such as concerts, performances, competitions.

• Festival and holidays organised by ethnic communities can be part of a joint ethnocultural project with kindergarten and families involved. Such events can be used to present the activities of children’s folklore groups and ethnic music bands to the general public.

• International projects. There are various exchange programmes for teachers, for example, NordPlus Framework, Comenius. Communication technologies (Skype, Viber) can be used to communicate with project partners in other countries. Children can talk to their peers in different languages and show live performances.



Education support in Lithuania


n a new cultural and language environment, a child may experience negative emotions, such as insecurity, inferiority, agression, and have difficulty socialising with peers. In most cases parents and kindergarten teachers are able to solve such problems, but sometimes professional assistance is needed: education support professionals will analyse each case and will recommend individual measures to help the child. The decision whether such assistance should be offered is made by the Child Welfare Commission of the institution. Education support may be provided to children who

• • • • • • Child Welfare Commission

find it difficult to adjust to a new environment; have serious difficulties with pronunciation; require special assistance due to general developmental difficulties; need mediation in communication between the family and the institution; need an individually adapted social skills development programme; are visually impaired or hard of hearing; or use cochlear implants.

The Commission is made up of administration, teachers, support specialists who work in the kindergarten (e.g. psychologist, speech therapist, special needs teacher, social development and healthcare specialist) and parents; it may also include local community or NGO representatives. The Commission helps the child by

• • • • • • • Pedagogical and Psychological Service

assessing the child’s primary development needs; providing psychological, speech and social skills development support for the child; giving advice and professional support to teachers and parents; if needed, recommending applying to the Pedagogical and Psychological Service; coordinating the adaptation of the syllabus for children with special education needs; informing parents about support opportunities beyond the kindergarten; assisting in dealing with critical situations.

The Service provides free consulting for children, parents and teachers. On parents’ agreement, the Child Welfare Commission may apply to the municipal Pedagogical and Psychological Service to take decisions about the child’s special needs education. The Service will advise on the adaptation of the child’s development programme, technical support, teaching aids, learning environment and progress assessment. Parents should apply to the Service if they wish to get professional assessment on their child’s psychological, personal and deveopmental problems; special education needs; level of readiness for pre-primary or primary education; or when they wish to get professional support which is not provided at the child’s kindergarten.


How can kindergarten teachers cooperate with education support specialists

Parents and society expect pre-school teachers to ensure harmonious development of every child according to their individual needs, which is a huge responsibily. Every child should be viewed as having a complex combination of individual features and demands. Teachers should be able to adjust their teaching methods to match the child’s individual rate and manner of development. Here are a few tips for the teacher:

• Look out for development deviation signs. If the child’s achievements differ considerably from those of the peers, try other teaching methods. Apply to educational support specialists only after you have tried alternative ways of teaching.

• Talk to the parents about the child’s problems. Your sincere concern, calm and friendly words will encourage the parents to take action to help their child. Avoid using specific medical terms. Conclusions and recommendations will be given by a team of professionals after thorough examination and assessment.

• Collaborate with education support specialists, follow their advice to achieve the best result. Reflect on the result of your joint effort: Does it meet the child’s needs and abilities? Does it satisfy the parents’ expectations? Is it effective enough? How can parents cooperate with education support specialists

• If your child’s teacher recommends applying for professional support, get ready to cooperate. Try to analyse the situation, ask yourself a few questions: Are the teacher’s comments on my childs development and behaviour convincing? Do I see the same problems at home? Do they affect our family life?

• If you decide to apply for professional assistance, provide all the required information, trust the professional competence of the education support specialists, feel free to ask any questions that worry you.

• Keep in touch with specialists and follow their recommendations, for example, allocate 15 minutes per day to do the exercises with your child recommended by the speech-therapist or another specialist. Try to do them in a natural and playful way.

• Discuss your child’s progress with specialists regularly. Remember that you are a key person who is responsible for your child’s development. You are equal partners with teachers and specialists in helping your child.


5. Learning at home and outdoors

Tips for parents: how to learn Lithuanian together with children • Use the home environment and everyday activities to practise Lithuanian, for example, name the foods you are eating, the products in the fridge, the clothes you are wearing etc.

• Name your activities throughout the day, for example, we are playing, we are eating soup, we are going for a walk, we are putting on shoes etc.

• Describe the things you see outdoors (buildings, people, cars, animals, trees), look for similarities and differences etc.

• While shopping, name the products you are buying. At home, repeat the names of the products in your shopping bag.

• In the playground, name the equipment (swings, a sand box, a merry-go-round etc.); talk about what children can do (run, jump, climb, slide etc.).

• In the park or forest, focus on the trees, flowers, birds, insects, clouds etc. Try to describe all you can see around, collect and count various objects (pebbles, chestnuts, acorns etc.). Audio stories and songs

TV and Radio media library

Educational websites

Listen to the same story and song several times. You will memorize phrases, sentences, and passages of text, which is very useful for learning to speak. In the end, you will learn to tell the story and sing the song. If you choose popular stories available in many languages, read the story in your family language – this will help you understand the same story in Lithuanian. Watch popular TV programmes for kids. Have the radio on when the child is playing: the backround language stream is very useful for developing listening and speaking skills. Check the media library for recordings of programmes for kids. Use technologies you have at home to access various educational resources online.

Audio tales and stories TV and Radio media library Tales from around the world 2z1IBWIgm5MI0_0i__JCCvPkfb-9


Animated songs Educational websites

Apps for mobile devices

Lithuanian tales ABC Learn words Merry Sounds Pictures and words Interactive tales Interactive book „Braškių diena“ Colours Big and small Fruits and vegetables Animals In the kitchen Transport My backpack My wardrobe


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'Multicultural kindergartens. A Handbook for Teachers and Parents'