sprint – Promoting pragmatic communication skills in multilingual children. Developing a support concept.
Background and aims
The question as to how to promote language skills effectively, and what concepts and methods are appropriate and practicable, is still of great interest today in the departments of education in all cantons and school districts.
The staff at the University of Applied Sciences in Special Needs Education (HfH) are currently working on this important issue in the world of practice due to a current problem situation in a school district in Zurich. In the school district, there is a very high percentage of children with German as a second language and resulting deficits in language skills as well as children with suspected language acquisition disorders. At the same time, there is a lack of qualified personnel trained in promoting language skills. The HfH staff have been asked to develop—working together with the practitioners—a concept for promoting the pragmatic communication skills of multilingual kindergarten children through action-oriented language support.
The aim of this research project is development and publication of a theory-guided concept for promoting the language skills of multilingual kindergarten children, with a particular focus on pragmatic communication skills.
The concept for promoting the language skills of multilingual kindergarten children through language support is aimed at:
- Multilingual children of kindergarten age (4–7 years), to support untroubled language acquisition in the second language, German
- Multilingual children of kindergarten age (4–7 years) with potential developmental risks in acquisition of a second language: risk of language acquisition disorders in the first and second languages
- Multilingual children of kindergarten age (4–7 years) with potential general learning difficulties that can affect second language acquisition.
Karoline Sammann and Anke Sodogé are developing the concept in constant exchange with cooperation partners in practice. In the development phase, it is being implemented additively by a therapist in small groups in kindergarten. All sequences are being videotaped and are then studied and revised by two specialists based on specific criteria. The composition of the support concept is determined by the basic assumptions on pragmatic communication skills by Sallat and Speer (2018) and Achhammer (2015). On the foundation of basic abilities (such as sensory, motor, emotion, attention), children acquire paraverbal and nonverbal skills (facial expressions, gestures, prosody) and language skills (such as speech acts, implicatures, irony, politeness, among others). These are represented in the support concept within the intrapersonal and the interpersonal levels and in flexible contexts receptively and productively in meaningful play and movement sequences.
The support concept promotes second language acquisition and contributes toward prevention of language acquisition disorders. A great benefit of the concept is that it gives children and teachers working in the area of early language acquisition (in the curriculum: 1. Zyklus LP21) pragmatic language-oriented teaching materials that are compatible with everyday schooling. Through this, teachers are not burdened with extensive preparation and receive targeted support and continuing education in the area of language acquisition. In the long term, teachers can in this way become sensitized, which can be very important regarding language promotion and language acquisition disorders. The concept provides kindergarten teachers and therapists with fundamentals and ideas for designing movement-oriented sequences to promote pragmatic communication skills. These supportive sequences should become a part of everyday kindergarten routine.
- Development of a theory-guided support concept for the cooperation partners and practitioners
- Completion and publication of the ‘sprint’ support concept
- Evaluation of the support concept in the framework of a follow-up research project.