First published on the Reach Free CPD blog on 25 September 2016 and adapted for the Herts & Bucks TSA blog on 4 September 2017.
Before you read this, please consider today’s learning objectives:
- 1: ต้องการเรียนรู้ บทกวี เกี่ยวกับ รถไฟ
- 2: เติมคำในช่องว่าง
We will be learning about the nursery rhyme รถไฟปู๊นปู๊น. Please complete the missing words.
See if you got it right!
If you found this difficult or bemusing, please spare a thought for our EAL learners!
As a new academic year approaches, it is worth considering how we will respond to the needs of all our pupils in our new classes, including our EAL (English as an additional language) pupils. Although the demographic profiles and contexts of the schools across the TSA differ, we will all encounter EAL learners at some stage. Moreover, their needs will differ and could be complex. Some EAL pupils may be fluent in English whereas others may be completely new to the language. However, we should always check our data and ensure we are planning, engaging and including these pupils in our lessons.
Perhaps the biggest initial challenge we face as teachers is dealing with those EAL pupils who are completely new to the English language. Importantly, current research has suggested that there are clear stages in learning a new language. These can include:
- listening and absorbing (a silent period)
- responding to instructions
- imitating and copying
- trying out short word phrases
- naming words
- action words
- putting names and actions together
- trying out whole sentences with mistakes
- correcting mistakes themselves
However, it is incumbent upon us to recognise these stages and offer scaffolding to students as they progress through each stage. It is also important to understand that children who are ‘EAL’ take time to develop their English language skills. It is estimated to take 1-2 years for them to develop basic interpersonal communication skills and 5-7 years for cognitive academic language proficiency. Obviously, this means that they will have specific needs that we must identify if we are to close the gap with native English speakers who have always spoken English. Whatever their diverse backgrounds, they share a common and ‘distinctive task’, which is to ‘catch up’ with a moving target by learning an additional language whilst simultaneously learning National Curriculum content, skills and concepts.
Therefore, when learning new words, EAL pupils need to:
- see them
- hear them
- read them
- write them
- put them in a sentence
- revise them
- use them in another context
Moreover, it is worth considering our ‘fluent’ EAL pupils here. Although many may be fluent in their ‘day-to-day’ use of English, they may struggle with more conceptual and complex uses of the language. This clearly relates to the stages of cognitive academic language proficiency discussed above.
Therefore, the linguist Stephen Krashen has identified three conditions that are necessary to promote language acquisition at all stages:
- Comprehensible input: where meaning is made clear through the use of context clues (body language, models, visual support).
- A stress-free environment where the learner is able to take risks and learn from mistakes as well as successes.
- The right to be silent: where the learner is allowed time to listen and tune in to the language before attempting to speak.
For more information read this advice from the British Council:
There is also a project on EAL pupils being sponsored by Challenge Partners, which often works in conjunction with the TSA. For more information, see:
Krashen, S. D. (1988) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Prentice-Hall International.