UNESCO’s report “2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Migration, displacement and education - Building Bridges, not Walls”, provides helpful guidelines for countries to introduce policy changes to improve how migrant pupils and refugees are welcomed into national education systems. What can be done at classroom level though? What are the most effective ways to welcome these pupils into their new school environment?
When receiving migrant students into our classes, we do our best to help them feel welcome and integrate as quickly and easily as possible. In our eTwinning Group “Integrating Migrant Students at School”, we have been sharing advice gathered from documents and from personal experiences that might be helpful for your teaching practice.
It is important to bear in mind that these students have experienced significant recent upheaval to their lives and may have experienced trauma. What is more, there will be no familiar faces at school, and few, if any, that speak their language. Each child’s case will be unique.
Accordingly, never force them to talk about their experiences and respect their right to silence. Our main aim is to make them feel comfortable and gain confidence. In time, they will perhaps feel the need to talk about their experiences, on their own terms and in their own time.
The whole school must create a welcoming climate. In regular lessons, it is important to address human rights, refugees, migrants and provide the context of our country’s history. Focusing on empathy, diversity and mutual respect is essential. Emotional education plays an important role in supporting the well-being of the school community.
In order to create a welcoming climate at school, it is a good idea to use multilingual signs around the school to help students learn your language and understand their way around school. These signs can also contain pictures that will make it even easier for them. Display keywords inside the classrooms and focus on teaching basic class/school vocabulary. This simple strategy will help newly arrived migrants remember easily basic terms related to school life.
As the curriculum might not be the biggest priority at the beginning, finding strategies for making the curriculum more accessible are important to help overcome language and cultural barriers, so they will not be left behind. Some of the strategies you can use to facilitate migrant’s integration in learning processes are:
- Using dance and song
- Using puppets, drama and mime
- Providing individual support
- Using strong visual content resources
- Maximizing the use of ICT
- Making goals clear
- Using pictures for labelling, sorting, matching and classifying
- Using cards and board games to encourage interaction
- Using a variety of manipulative materials to teach math
- Emphasizing listening and speaking skills
Finally, recognising children’s strengths and successes. Celebrating their successes, can really make a difference in how migrants feel about school and help them feel more confident in trying harder to improve.
All the tips mentioned in the above can really help you integrate migrant students in your classroom. Remember, always, you are not alone: find local organizations that will offer support to children and families, contact agencies for support and count on your school’s parent’s association help.
Make your students feel welcome!