Making heritage language accessible through “a trip to the enchanted wood”

Mila Schwartz*, Miriam Minkov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite increasing popularity of early heritage language (HL) education, the HL education system faces challenges, such as engaging young children and tailoring teachers’ pedagogical approaches. The aim of the study was to explore a particular pedagogical activity (“a trip to the enchanted wood”) that provides accessibility to HL, and to analyze children’s behavior while engaging in learning during this activity. We conducted the study in a bilingual preschool in Israel, where Russian was the heritage language and Hebrew the societally dominant language. We collected and documented the data using qualitative tools (ethnographic observations and interviews). A complex analysis of eight HL classroom observations focused on the application of a language-conducive strategy – teacher-led pretend play of “a trip to the enchanted wood.” We performed two types of coding: (1) coding information about elements of script structure and characteristics of props used; (2) coding children’s responsive behavior to the teacher’s suggestions during play. Drawing on an ecological approach to language productive use, we concluded that a complex two-way relationship exists between language accessibility and engagement in learning. Practical applications to support young language learners are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-239
Number of pages25
JournalLanguage Teaching for Young Learners
Issue number2
StatePublished - 4 Nov 2022


  • accessibility
  • engagement
  • heritage language
  • preschool
  • teacher-led pretend play


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