Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education and Classroom Strategies

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Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education and Classroom Strategies

Diane Dekker

SIL International

12 Big Horseshoe
Quezon City
63 02 722 6186

Leah Gawon

Dep Ed Lubuagan

Lubuagan Central Schools
Pudpud, Lubuagan, Kalinga

Angelita Calsiw

Dep Ed Lubuagan
Lubuagan Central Schools
Pudpud, Lubuagan, Kalinga

Marlyn Lumasoc

Dep Ed Lubuagan
Mabilong Elementary School
Pudpud, Lubuagan, Kalinga
Rose Dumatog Camacam

Dep Ed Lubuagan

ALS Mobil Teacher
Lubuagan, Kalinga

Narcissa Sabian

Dep Ed Lubuagan
Lubuagan Central Schools
Pudpud, Lubuagan, Kalinga


In this paper we discuss Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education and suggest specific classroom strategies for begin learning through the child’s first language. During the workshop presentation of this paper there will be presentation on methods followed by short demonstrations.

Categories and Subject Descriptors

[Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Eduation]: Beginning education through the use of their first language allows the cognitive skills developed at home to continue being developed in school. Oral language development strengthens use of language for thinking and enables stronger literacy skills when reading and writing are introduced.

General Terms

Education, Instruction, Learning, Teaching, Learning Outcomes, Achievement, teaching strategies.


Cognitive development, Language Development, First and Second Language Acquistion and Development, Comprehension.

1.Explaining MTBMLE

1.1What is MTBMLE?

MLE is a structured program of language learning and cognitive development providing a strong educational foundation in the first language, with successful bridging to one or more additional languages, and enabling the use of both/all languages for life-long learning.

The purpose of a multilingual education program is to develop appropriate cognitive and reasoning skills enabling children to operate equally in their community language, the national language and English. Effective multilingual education begins in the mother tongue of the learner with transition to the second (Filipino) and third languages (English).

MTBMLE is a curriculum and teaching methodology that:

  • Begins with the learners’ first language as a medium of instruction and builds good bridges to other languages, while maintaining the use of L1 for as long as possible.

  • Builds on what we know about how children learn best. It begins with the known and moves to the unknown by building on the child’s prior knowledge, using his/her world or real knowledge and moving to new knowledge.

  • Allows the child to construct knowledge rather than the teacher being the only way to knowledge and rather than the teacher designing only one learning experience.

  • Uses cultural concepts to teach basic concepts or the prescribed curriculum.

  • Uses the language the child knows best to teach reading and writing skills.

  • Builds on the vocabulary that the child possesses and then adds the L2 vocabulary equivalents for what the child has learned.

  • Allows the child to continue building cognitive skills in a language the child already is using for meta-cognitive processes.

  • Emphasizes understanding, meaning and communication as well as emphasizing skill development (accuracy and correctness).

1.2Why is MTBMLE important?

MLE is necessary because children whose mother tongue, local culture and known environment are not used in schooling face many problems. The language barrier that exists when learners first language is not used in the classroom:

  • Results in low intake and high drop out rates

  • Makes learning content difficult and thus lowers achievement levels,

  • Lacks relevance and interest to learners real world experiences and situations.

  • Limits learners’ ability in developing their second and third languages because the first language is not well developed in the classroom.

  • Delays understanding by avoiding use of the language they think in.

  • Many think that children who are immersed in a second language from the beginning learn the second language better. They do not.

Educational theory suggests that children learn best from a familiar starting point. Learning should begin with what a child knows and understands. Thus, children learn best when using a language they speak and understand well. Learning to read and write is easier in a familiar language and academic concepts are best learned and understood through their first langauge. Using the Mother Tongue first builds a strong foundation in both language learning and concept learning and provides a good bridge to the second and third languages.

1.3Sequence of Learning

  • First, continued development of oral L1 so that the language for thinking continues and is not silenced. If the langauge of thinking is silenced, their thinking is silenced as well.

  • Second, learners begin to develop literacy skills in their L1 while continuing development of their oral L1
  • While continued development of oral and literate L1 is on-going, development of oral L2 is begun.

  • While oral L1 and L2 are on-going and literacy in L1 is continues, literacy in L2 is introduced.

  • While continued oral and literate growth of L1 and L2 are strengthened, oral L3 is introduced.

  • While oral L1, L2 and L3 continue to progress and literacy skills in L1 and L2 continue to increase with comprehension being in focus, literacy in L3 is added.

  • For the remainder of the school progress, all three languages are focused on to develop strong thinking skills, comprehension and academic skills in all three languages.

2.Learning languages and using languages to learn

2.1First Language Acquisition

In the home babies listen to language for around a year before they begin to attempt responding in sensible syllables and words (speaking). Babies are allowed to try, to make mistakes and to try again without blame. This same safe environment should exist in the classroom, allowing continued development of the first language in order to continue developing cognitive skills.

Continuing the developing of the learners first language enables them to use that language for thinking. When the mother tongue is bypassed we postpone learning until adequate proficiency is developed in the second language. Thus mastery of content is postponed while second and third language acquisition is taking place. First those foreign languages must be understood before learning of content can take place.

People say that 95 % of all Filipinos speak Filipino, but that is not true at the time young children begin their schooling. At age 5, 6 and 7 only 30% speak Filipino. How we teach Filipino and English are of key importance for adequate mastery and useage of those languages. Building on the first language of the learners provides a strong foundation and a good bridge toward learning Filipino and English.

Listening, speaking, reading and writing

The four modes of language, talking (speaking), listening, writing and reading, are all interdependent. As learning is very much dependent on language, a classroom should be a place where language flows confidently with the four modes constantly interweaving.

Children come to school with a good foundation of oral language development in their mother tongue which requires expanding through experience and practice. It is the teacher's responsibility to provide children with those experiences which will increase their language capacity and practices, expanding their competence and confidence in the four language modes.

Conversation is an important tool for developing oral L1.

Conversation provides ways to

  • Explor new topics

  • Share tentative ideas

  • Consider possibilities

There is strong positive correlation between early oral language skills and the later development of reading and writing. However, in the focus on literacy, the importance of getting children to listen and to talk is often overlooked. The teacher who encourages the children to listen and to talk and to use language in all its forms, first in the childs mother tongue, will have the greatest success in promoting the cognitive development of the children. This must first occur in a language the learner knows best and uses most, the learners first language. Then, as oral or communicative competence is built in the second and third languages, the cognitive abilities will transfer from the L1 to subsequent languages learned.

Cummins (2000), an educational researcher and writer suggests:

  • Children…with a solid foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy abilities in the school language.

  • The level of development of children's mother tongue is a strong predictor of their second language development…

  • Children's knowledge and skills transfer across languages from the mother tongue…to the school language

A good bridge allows learning of a new language before learning in a new language.

Reading and writing skills only have to be learned once and these skills, as well as understanding concepts can be transferred from one language to another.

2.2Second Language Acquisition

Second language learning is more successful with a good L1 foundation. Learning a language should come before learning through a language.

General Principles of 2LA:

  • Comprehensible input is crucial – learners need to understand what the teacher is saying in order to learn. Language learning is a result of meaningful interaction in the L2.

  • Low anxiety situations enable the comprehensible input to be processed by the learner. When high anxiety situations occur in the classroom even comprehensible input does not get past the learners’ emotional filter.

  • Social factors include societal support and opportunity to practice and use the L2 in a (emotionally) safe environment affect language learning.

  • Relationship between the learner, their cultural group and the dominant cultural group (language status) can impact language learning.
  • Beginning learning by developing BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills) for meaningful conversation should come before cultivating CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency).

  • Basic L2 literacy helps develop cognitive process if L2 oracy – BICS is already developed. Often development of BICS and literacy occur at the same time rather than sequentially.

  • A child’s second language competence is partly dependent on the level of competence already achieved in the first language. The more developed the first language, the easier it will be to develop the second language.

  • Use events and activities that the pupils are familiar with when using language and learning new languages. Familiarity increases comprehension.

  • Learning a language before learning in a language is crucial for educational achievement.

Five goals of language learning:

  • Communication goals – using language for negotiating & sharing meaning with others.

  • Language and cultural awareness goals – understanding one’s own language and culture better.

  • Socio-cultural goals – understanding the target language and culture better.

  • Learning how to learn goals – understanding how to learn in and through language.

  • General knowledge goals – learning about the world.

3.Classroom Strategies

3.1First language development


Focus on meaning and communication

Focus on accuracy and correction


Listening to understand, enjoy, appreciate

Recognizing & distinguishing sounds; recognizing parts of words; following directions


Speaking to communicate thoughts, ideas, needs, experiences

Using language correctly (pronunciation, grammar)


Reading for meaning & understanding

Decoding words by recognizing their parts


Writing to communicate thoughts & feelings

Forming letters properly, neatly, and spelling words correctly

Speaking and listening

Talk is basic to children's self-expression – that is, to personality growth. It is also, obviously, basic to children's language growth:

  • their talk and their thinking-in-language are inseparable – to silence their talk is to inhibit their thinking;

  • their early writing grows out of their 'speech written down' – so that confident talkers tend to become confident writers;

  • their early reading is largely listening with the inner ear to a writer's 'voice' – so that confident talking also helps reading.

Talking is more than 'communication'; talking encourages learning. It is in finding words to express ideas and feelings through talk that the child's thinking becomes clear, and confidence grows. Talk fixes ideas in the mind better than silent thinking can do – even tentative, hesitating talk produces more effective learning than when the child only listens. The speaker gains more than the listeners thus the main purpose turns out to be 'talking to learn', 'not talking to communicate'.

Every subject area offers scope for real-purpose talking and listening … real problems to solve, real situations to explore:

  • thinking up questions

  • suggesting possible answers

  • reflecting on experience

  • sorting ideas into order.

In every subject and every lesson there may be:

  • whole class discussion

  • small group discussion

  • one to one discussion

  • pupil reports to the class

  • tape-recorded interviews

  • use of radio and TV talks

  • use of audio/video tapes, films.

Listening is also a means of learning, particularly when the listener adopts an interested, expectant, critical attitude; but children, (even more than adults) find lecture-style listening unendurable and so they lapse defensively into day dreaming or illicit talk. Talking and listening should not be regarded as 'skills' to be 'practiced' but as language forms to be used – as adults use them – to explore and solve problems. In this way, talking and listening, with writing and reading, are indispensable tools of learning.

The main objective of classroom oral work is not fluency, or skill, or correctness, but to build confidence. Fluency and other good qualities will follow. So a supportive and encouraging classroom climate is essential and thus listening and speaking must occur first in the child’s first language.

Kinds of Classroom Talk:

  • Conversation. This is by far the most important form of talk – relatively spontaneous, and undirected through the discussions that arise as children and teacher go about their affairs. It does not need to be taught; but it does need to be given the opportunity to flourish. For example use small groups and the provision of subjects within the range of children's interests.
  • Talk in 'Situations'. The teacher prescribes 'situations' such as those that are close to real life (eg. telephone calls, greetings, real life problem solving such as “If you had ).

  • Talk in Drama. The simple real-life 'situations' merge into somewhat more structured dramas of human conflict, from the role play of an improvised family squabble or the 'imaginative creations' of scenes from traditional stories.

  • Reading Aloud. Whether thought of as 'reading' or 'speaking', the act of reading aloud is of prime educational importance. Many suggest that teachers should read aloud to their class every day (in both primary and secondary schools). The children too, when able, should get the opportunities to read aloud, and that both these forms of reading will greatly encourage the child's reading, writing, talking and listening abilities. Children can read aloud in pairs or small groups, including reading their own written work, with discussion following. (But no boring whole-class 'round robin' reading!).

  • Choral Speaking. Speech-making. A group, or the whole class can prepare a poem or rhyme, or the individual can make a speech before a group or whole class. The latter is relatively stressful and advanced form needs a gentle approach. (Attentive listening is cultivated by having pupils write one or two questions during the speech for asking at the end.)

Developing Oral language for meaning and communication

Listen and respond to different kinds of questions.

  • “Have you ever…?” questions.. Ask the child a question. Theme is rice. “Have you ever planted rice?” Children talk about experience...

  • Imagination questions. “If you were walking by the river and saw a tiger, what would you do?”

    • “If your small brother/sister fell into a deep hole, what would you do?”

    • “If you found P100, what would you do?”

    • “If you saw a friend steal someone’s money, what would you do?”
    • “If you went to [name a place], what would you see?”

    • Once the C understand the purpose of the game, they can make up questions for each other.

  • How & Why questions. Tell or read a story then ask “open-ended” questions about the story.

  • Prediction questions.

  • Describing character questions.

Children develop their own oral stories focusing on meaning.

  • Life Stories.

  • Life Stories Relay.

  • Guess our story

  • Making stories with exaggeration

  • Exaggeration relay story.

  • Class story

  • Students’ Skits

  • Students’ report #1...

  • From a picture...

Sharing ideas and information with partners or in small groups.

Focus on meaning using familiar songs, poems, riddles, wise sayings, creating new songs, creating and activing out songs, action songs.

Focus on meaning through listening and responding to stories.

  • Listening stories

  • Predict what comes next.

  • Re-tell stories

  • Change the ending of the story

  • Act out the story.

  • Listening for special words

Developing Reading and Writing in L1

Prereading and writing

  • Sequencing – focus on meaning

  • Sorting and matching – focus on meaning

  • Talk about pictures – focus on meaning

  • Making patterns – focus on accuracy

Theme pictures to develop children’s oral language skills and observation. The teacher asks appropriate questions related to personal experiences associated with the picture.

Shared reading to encourage prediction in reading, helping learners understand the relationship between print and speech, informally introduce print conventions provide and enjoyable learning experience and teach sight vocabulary. Procedure:

  • talk preparing for the reading, building suspense, setting the stage.

  • Read to the learners while they listen or follow along.

  • Talk – look at pictures, talk about the story, predict what might come next..

  • Read

  • Do and talk – retell, sequence, silent reading, paired reading, creative writing, keyword lesson.

Big books to develop listening and talking, predicting, learning that print has meaning, learning the conventions of the written word. Big books should have predictable text so that learners can easily participate in reading with the teacher.

Listening Stories to develop hearing and communication skills and comprehension and interest in listening and reading. Teacher reads a one page story – not more than five minute – then asks conprehension questions about the story and leads in dialogue. As you are reading:

  • ask what they think will happen next’

  • ask learners to tell you something that has already happened

  • ask when, where, who, how and why questions after reading.

Series Pictures for developing knowledge, vocabulary, observation and communication skills. Teacher uses good questions to develop conversation around the pictures.

Experience stories for understanding that writing is merely our thoughts written down, that print it intended for meaning, and to encourage creative writing and self expression. Procedure:

  1. Do a group activity related to the weekly theme or talk about an activity they all know about that related to the weekly theme.

  2. Learners make up a story about that experience
  3. Write the story on the board or chart paper as the learners dictate it to you. Encourage all students to participate in creating the story. Write just what they say. Ask them “Is this what you want to say?” and then adjust as they suggest (teaches editing).

  4. Read the story back to the learners

  5. Learners give their story a title

  6. Read the entire story with the reading plan (below):

  7. Later, copy the story onto manila paper and put it on the wall for display free reading

Reading Plan:

  1. Read the entire story to all the learners

  2. Read the entire story with all the learners

  3. Read one part of the story (page or sentence) with one or two of the learners

  4. Let one or two learners read the story by themselves

  5. Read the entire story again with all the learners

Asking the right kinds of questions. Closed questions are those requiring only one word answers or answers that are directly found in the text. These do not encourage deeper thinking, analyzing, expressing opinion or strong learning. Open questions require complex thinking and articulation of one’s thoughts in response. Open questions build thinking skills and language skills while giving control of the conversation to the learner.

3.2Second language acquisition – strengthening learning Filipino and English through TPR

3.2.1TPR principles

The success of TPR is built upon these foundational principles of second language acquisition theory: Languages are best learned when the learner receives lots of comprehensible (understandable) input in a low anxiety situation. For young learners, listening to a teacher give instructions in a still foreign language or listening to a radio broadcast in the L2 is not understandable; listening to short chunks of the L2 followed by physical response is much more understandable.

Beginning language learners can benefit greatly from a "silent period" in which they learn to understand and respond to parts of the language without attempting to speak it. This is also referred to as "delayed production," and reflects the way that children learn their first language. The basic idea behind Total Physical Response is that a language learner learns to hear something in the language and then physically respond to it. Often at first the segments uttered in the L2 are commands such as "stand up," "sit down," "walk," "touch your nose," and so on. However, as discussed in a section below, TPR is easily extended to other verb tenses and more complicated sentence patterns. By using gestures and props, the teacher is able to add enough context to his speech to help convey meaning to the learner. The teacher needs to control the number of new items to be learned each day, limiting them to 2 -3 and reviewing all items learned each day to ensure strong learning and building on previous lessons.

During this learning time, the students only listen and respond. Trying to speak too soon 1) may distract them from rapid vocabulary development, 2) will likely cause their anxiety level to rise which could decrease their ability to remember what they have learned aurally, and 3) could harm long-term pronunciation if they develop bad habits before having heard lots of language.


TPR-B for "TPR with body", includes everything that can be done with general body movement: stand up, sit down, turn around, turn right, turn left, lift up your arm, touch your nose, etc. This is best done in a room with some space to move around.

3.2.3TPR Object

TPR-O stands for "TPR with objects.” This is best done sitting at a table that has some objects on it. For example, one day the teacher could bring produce from the market. That day the students could not only learn the words for "apple," "banana," "orange," and so on, but also, "give me," "take," "put," "smell," "bite," "roll," "peel," and "show me." For this activity, the teacher could start off with: "This is an apple. This is an orange. This is an apple. This is an orange. Where is the apple? (The students point.) Where is the orange?" Once again new words can be fairly quickly built up one at a time. (Remember, only add two or three new items a day. Once the new words are learned they can be combined with forms learned previously, building on the language. For example, phrases previously learned such as put on top of, put underneath can be used when learning the above names of fruit. The following day add the other verbs such as give me, take, smell etc. 2 or 3 a day only.)

When doing TPR-O, always remember to learn verbs that are associated with the objects they are learning. For example, if the students are learning about a radio, they can learn the parts of the instrument as well as words associated with its use, such as turn it on, turn it off, turn up the volume, turn down the volume, change the station, open up the battery case, take out the batteries, and so on.

3.2.4TPR with Pictures

TPR-P stands for "TPR with pictures." Pictures are extremely effective language learning tools. The teacher may have large photographs or could use cut out pictures from a newspaper or magazine. If the pictures are from the community, it will be even more effective. The teacher could go through and say "This is a man. This is a boy. This is a man. This is a boy. Where is the man? Where is the boy?" Gradually both background and foreground objects in the pictures could be learned, as well as verbs: "The carpenter is hitting the nail with a hammer," leading to requests such as "Show me the man who is hitting something." Even verb tenses can be incorporated by the teacher talking about all of the pictures as if they happened last week, or now, or next week. The actual physical response with pictures is fairly basic--pointing at something--but the opportunity for vocabulary acquisition is as broad as the types of pictures one can use. In addition to taking one’s own pictures, children's picture or story books can also be used for this kind of learning.

3.2.5TPR Storying

TPR-S was developed by Blaine Ray and is being used in classrooms throughout the United States. It involves the teacher (and eventually the students) acting out simple stories as a means of understanding the story and internalizing vocabulary.

3.2.6What about Speaking?

At some point students will feel the urge to start speaking. Don't push it, but at some point they can begin saying things for the teacher or their peers to do, from "stand up" to "turn the volume down" to "show me the man who ate fish yesterday." They can also speak about a table of objects: "This is a ball. This is a key. This is a book. The pen is on the book." And finally, they can describe pictures in any tense: "The man ate fish. The boy read a book."

Things to Remember when Teaching with TPR

The most common mistake that teachers who are new to TPR make is to introduce new words too quickly or to introduce them two or more at a time. Students will feel overwhelmed if they don’t receive enough repetition. The teacher should learn to continually monitor and evaluate the students’ progress and make minor adjustments as needed. The secret of TPR is to make it a regular, ongoing part of the language study program, with great emphasis at the beginning but continued use throughout the school years.


As with pre reading and prewriting skills, children also need to become “number ready”. Activities should be interesting and enjoyable and children require direct manipulation of concrete objects to understand the mathematical concepts. Learning should therefore be planned sequentially from real-life/concrete objects to abstract

  • real-life objects

  • pictures of objects
  • pictures of shapes and figures

Concepts can be developed through matching, identification, naming objects and naming pictures of objects.

3.3.1Math skills in everyday life

Skills development focuses on training. The teacher will:

  • teach by introducing drilling, and by demonstrating

  • correct mistakes

  • encourage mastery of skills

  • stress accuracy

  • help learners become competent

  • aim to develop methodical behaviors, accurate thinking and problem solving.

Math is taught in the classroom in the context of the day-to-day lives of the children and by focusing on understanding their uses in local culture and environment. The primary tool for teaching is the theme and the five streams listed below will guide the activities, plus games and number stories.

The teacher:

  • teaches by doing

  • builds confidence

  • encourages creativity

  • stresses understanding

  • surrounds learners with meaningful materials

  • aims to develop original and creative thinking and problem solving

These areas can be taught through activities related to the theme. The following provides some ideas.
Classifying objects (sorting):


  • sorting objects on a certain set of criteria -

  • sorting pictures of fruit, animals, color

  • sorting fruit we peel and fruit we don't peel

  • sorting leaves on basis of color, shape and texture

  • sorting seeds, stones, etc

Making sets of numbers:

  • sets of 3 stones

  • sets of 5 leaves

Materials for sorting and counting: Stones, seeds, wooden shapes, counters


  • Stringing colored beads in sequence: 2 red, 1 blue, 2 yellow, 2 red, 1 blue, 2 yellow......

  • Stories based on sequence (e.g. butterfly story)

  • daily routines

  • rhymes based on sequence

  • pattern making

  • Sorting from biggest to smallest

  • Have pictures on cards – different sizes. Ask child to point to the smallest/largest, biggest

Problem solving:

  • Maze: prepare a maze on a sheet or on the floor. Find the way through

  • Puzzles: join the pieces together – start simple


Number in sequence – start with concrete objects, then pictures of objects, then you can go on to dots before using number symbols

  • Use fingers and toes

  • Concrete objects, stones, seeds etc... demonstrate the ability to count by touching each stone

  • Counting rhyme

  • Count different things in the classroom

  • Play counting games

  • Count trees, houses etc...

  • Clapping – how many times

  • Sitting in a circle – each child says the next number starting at 1..... 10

  • One to one correspondence: place 5 objects in a row. Ask child to put one seed/stone under each object. (each glass with a spoon/straw). E.g. Ten hens with ten eggs. Five nests, five birds. Laying a table with places – enough for each person.

  • Set up rows of same number of things (stones, leaves, seeds, sweets....
  • Teacher calls a number: children get into groups of that number. E.g. three.... children get into groups of three.

  • Clap when counting – e.g. count to 10, with 10 claps

  • Cards with dots on: how many dots one each card.

  • When children know the number symbols, play dominoes – one part number and one part dots.

  • Place number cards in order. Child should put the same number of beads on or beside the card.

  • Draw a number of objects on a sheet of paper. Ask child to color in a number of objects – e.g. one tree, three birds....


  • Big, small

  • tall, short

  • heavy, light

  • long, short

  • high, low

  • more, less

  • first, last

  • left, right


  • Give each child a stick with leaves – ask them to sort the big from the small

  • Through stories (big lion, small mouse)

  • Observation when going out... big house, tall tree

  • Use cards with long short objects etc...

  • compare heights of children -make marks on wall

  • Using objects to measure (toothpicks along a ruler; hands to measure each other)

  • Heavy and light objects – put in order

  • Stand in a circle – reach up high. Now bend down low

  • Meal times – who has more rice? Who has less dhal?

  • Playing with water – containers of different sizes and shapes. Which holds more/less water? How many cups does it take to fill the jug?

  • How many boys, how many girls in the class?

3.3.2cultural math calendar activity

Develops language related to math. Procedure:
  • Put the date on the calendar

  • Count the days to any special event – birthdays, celebrations, holidays...

  • Say the date together: Yesterday was Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Today is Thursday, February 18, 2010. Tomorrow will be Friday, February 19, 2010.

  • Together say the days of the week and the months of the year.

  • Odd and even count – keep tally of dots in groups of two to show if the number of the day is odd or even. Then count by twos.

  • Fact family chart – call on a students to state a fact family of today’s date. On even days ask them to think of doubles: 7+7=14...

  • Tally chart – use tally marks to indicate the number of the current day. Count tallys by fives and tens.

  • Days of school number line – From the beginning of school keep a number line relating to how many school days have gone by. Count the days by ones, twos, fives, tens, and backward from 20. Use sticks or straws to indicate the number of days of school past. Bundle the sticks by ten and eventually by 100s. Together count the tens and ones: 10, 20, 21, 22, 23... Write the number with the tens and ones in the correct place value. Write the expanded notation of the number: 20+3=23.

  • Money chart: draw circles representing different denominations of coins. Sort and count the proper coins representing the number of school days.


Our thanks to many who taught us learning strategies in a Multilingual Classroom: SIL colleagues Kris Roth, Catherine Young, Susan and Dennis Malone, and other MTBMLE specialists Pamela Mackenzie.


  1. Errington, Ellen, 2006. TPR Resources, Teaching Children A Second Language. CANSIL.

  2. Malone, Susan, 2007. Mother Tongue Based MLE Programs that Build on Chidren’s Own Language and Culture, Knowledge and Experience: Ideas for Learning Activities for Early Grades with no L1 Textbooks. SIL International.

  3. Malone, Susan and Dennis Malone, 2007. Two-Track Approach to Teaching Children to Read and Write Their First Language. Adapted from Working Together for Literacy, Second Edition by Mary Stringer and Nicholas Faraclas, Kangaroo Ground, Australia, SIL Australia.

  4. Malone, Susan. 2006. Activities for Language Education. SIL International.

  5. Malone, Susan. 2008. Ideas for Planning and Building Fluency in Oral L2.

  6. Roth, Kris. 2002. Multilingual Calendar Activity. Adapted from Math Their Way Publishers.

  7. Young, Catherine. 2009. Personal Notes on MTBMLE.

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