This is a reprint of an article from 2008. Musselburgh Burgh Primary still organises bilingual story time for P1 pupils.
Unfortunately this example of best practice should be happening more often in our schools as there are so many benefits for pupils, schools and parents.
Last year when her daughter was in Primary 5 the EAL teacher helped to arrange for a Polish mum to support our Art Specialist on a weekly basis. This was a great help to both the teacher and the pupils and the mum really enjoyed the experience. She is a qualified teacher and although she speaks very little English was able to communicate with the children through their artwork.
This year the same lady asked if she could help out again. She is now attending college so does not have as much time as previously.
I asked if she could come into my Primary 1 class to read stories in Polish once a fortnight. I have a Polish pupil in my class who often finds it difficult to focus during story time. We purchased bilingual story books and the mum read the Polish version and I was able to echo in English. When she heard the story in Polish, my P1 pupil was really excited and the rest of the class were fascinated. Now that they are a regular event the other children also enjoy these sessions and are beginning to predict what I am going to say based on what has been read and they are able to pick out some Polish words if they are repeated a lot within the story.
The bilingual books also go home with my pupil and she reads them with her parents who can both speak English.
We are working on Personal Account writing at the moment and I asked the pupils to draw a day out they had enjoyed. I asked the P6 Polish pupil to pop down to explain this task to her mum and my pupil. The mum then sat and supported her with her drawing and discussed the details of her picture encouraging her to add more detail when appropriate.
This collaboration has been of mutual benefit to everyone involved.
Alison Elgin. Musselburgh Burgh Primary School