Multilingual learners thrive with Tools!

What does it look like to support multilingual learners in Tools classrooms? Tools is designed to support language development for all learners. See how that looks in one Tools classroom.

The challenge


What we heard from teachers and administration at after implementing Tools at

Multilingual learners thrive with Tools!


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The process

Committee search to choose the right curriculum

Selection of Tools of the Mind curriculum & professional development

Tools training and implementation for all relevant staff

Teaching and learning review and outcomes

Imagine walking into a classroom of your peers. You want to join in on the action but struggle to understand what the others are saying. Now imagine you’re three or four years old and it’s your first time in school. It’s overwhelming! This is a familiar feeling for many of our young, multilingual learners.

What is a multilingual learner?

Many Tools children are multilingual learners. They speak one or more languages at home and are also learning English at home or at school. Over the years, different terms have been used to identify these students, such as limited English proficient, English language learner, and English learner.

Researchers and educators continue to debate how best to describe these students. Some terms characterize children as inadequate or at a disadvantage if they don’t speak English. Others make it seem like they will always be English language learners, a label permanently attached to their identity. The language we use to describe children can impact how we think about them and can affect their school experiences, so our choice of words is important.

At Tools, we believe that the term multilingual learner best describes our children because it emphasizes that they are learning more than one language at once. At three and four years old, all children are developing and growing their language skills in at least one language and Tools activities and materials are designed to support language acquisition for all of our learners.

Multilingual learners in the classroom

At Children’s Corner in Piscataway, New Jersey, Tools preschool teacher Andrea Hernandez teaches children who speak a variety of languages, including Gujarati, Hindi, Chinese, and Spanish. To help her students thrive, Ms. Hernandez focuses on creating a comfortable learning environment, implementing the Tools curriculum, and including children’s families in learning activities throughout the year.

“I love Tools. I feel the structure and self-regulation [activities] benefit students because they know what's going to happen." 
-Tools Preschool Teacher Andrea Hernandez

Relying on Routines

Tools curriculum content is designed to increase in challenge throughout the year, but the language and “how-to” of Tools activities stays the same. This removes the stress of trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, which is especially helpful for multilingual learners, who, along with their monolingual classmates, can then use that brain space to focus their attention on content. Knowing they can rely on the predictable structure of their routines, Tools children are free to learn.

Ms. Hernandez credits the Tools curriculum for much of her children’s success. Through Tools, she is able to connect activities throughout the day, helping her children build their vocabularies and grow their background knowledge.

Getting it all from Play Planning

Ms. Hernandez loves Play Planning with her multilingual learners because that one activity has a little bit of everything - practicing writing sounds and words, peer scaffolding from fluent speakers, and one-on-one time that helps her figure out the best scaffolds to use to support each child’s learning. Some children in Ms. Hernandez’s class love Play Planning so much that they practice at home with their siblings! 

Families can help, too!

An inclusive classroom is another key to ensuring multilingual learners succeed. One unique feature of Ms. Hernandez’s Tools classroom is that her children’s parents help to make props for activities like Share and Tell and Make-Believe Play. Parent-made props (some on display in the picture below from the Community play theme) allow for family involvement while giving students language and ideas they can use to plan their play. 

Talking to learn

Some children in Ms. Hernandez’s class started the year speaking no English - and some hardly spoke at all while in their classroom. Now, Ms. Hernandez’s children chat proudly and easily with their teacher and peers each day, sharing and developing ideas during Make Believe Play and as they work together with buddies and in small groups. Ms. Hernandez is quick to point out that the oral language skills they’ve been practicing throughout their Tools days are evident in their Play Plans as well. Children who started the year drawing only shapes are now adding in lines, letters, and even words. Ms. Hernandez’s multilingual learners are thriving in her Tools classroom!

“Anywhere I go to work I want to have Tools.”
-Tools Preschool Teacher Andrea Hernandez