These are simple yet effective changes you can make to benefit all students.
Use visual aids
Allow students to use their home language(s)
Give students time
Peer up (home languages and model English peers
Want to find out more?
Try out their ‘Great Ideas’ section for loads of useful resources, strategies and the facts behind the methodologies.
EAL Assessment Tool for EYFS / Secondary and Primary from the Bell Foundation
Interested in the research?
Educational Outcomes of Children with an Additional Language Paper can be found here.
Prefer to watch?
Videos from #LDEduchat
Language for Learning
Like many individuals, visual aids really help to exemplify the learning and make it explicit for every student. Why not add visuals next to key words / topics (use the same ones throughout a scheme) so that students begin to make the connection between the images and words in English.
Where possible, see if there is another student who has the same home language(s) and see if they can have time together -perhaps during form time or some lessons. This way the students can discuss and celebrate their home language(s) whilst also trans-languaging in their conversations. You can also peer up with a fellow student who is a model English speaker and can provide empathic, kind support to new students.
Teacher Talk: EAL
Welcome to our educational blog. Here we explore all things pertinent to education, discuss current topics and provide tips, from research and educational experts, to aid practice.
Over the past two decades, the number of students who use EAL in our schools has doubled to over 1.6 million; creating a rich, diverse and multifaceted culture (The Bell Foundation: 2022). What is EAL and how can we, in the educational sector, support our students? EAL stands for ‘English as an Additional Language’.
National EAL data is gathered via every school’s census which asks if a student is exposed to another language at home, other than English. Those that answer yes, are then classed as EAL throughout the entirety of their education. There are numerous debates and differing figures regarding EAL students and attainment data but what is clear are the following four factors, taken from The Bell Foundation:
1. Attainment is affected by English Language Proficiency’. Some students have no English whereas others are multilingual and fully fluent.
2. Attainment is affected by when they join schools. Those that join later, for example, during their GCSEs are harshly impacted.
3. A student's first language, where they live and their prior education can impact their attainment, irrespective of when they join the educational system.
4. Sadly, England’s support system, specialist roles and expertise is poor compared to other countries.
What are the levels of Proficiency and what might this look like for a student?
As noted before, a student’s proficiency and the speed at which they acquire English will vary depending upon their prior knowledge, home language(s) and exposure. The Bell Foundation has created an EAL Assessment Framework, which is linked below in resources and references in these levels:
Band A - New to English (Generally first 2 Years)
- Basic Oral expression
- Little or no knowledge of written English
Band B - Early Acquisition (First 2 Years)
- Developing some ability to respond and interact
- Beginning to understand written language with scaffolds to support
- Can produce simple sentences / paragraphs with support
Band C - Developing Competence (2-5 Years)
- Developing independence with listening, communication and expression
- Growing knowledge of vocabulary and grammar and the ability to write with a wider level of sophistication
Band D - Competence
- Competence in listening and speaking in a wide range of contexts and purposes
- Engage with the curriculum, texts for reading and writing with a wider range of accuracy and variety of language
Band E - Fluent
- Confidence in reading and writing across all of the curriculum and genres
- Fluent and creative in their use of speaking and listening in any context.
It’s worth noting the research of Cummins here between BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency): 1979, 2013, and more recently, referred to as conversational versus academic language (Cummins: 2000c). A student may present as being fluent in their conversational language ability but lack the academic language necessary to succeed within an academic setting and exams.
As a result of this discrepancy, as practitioners we need to consciously develop strategies for building Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary, especially for our EAL learners. An effective strategy is to get students to manipulate and experiment with language, rather than teach words in isolation e.g. Don't just teach govern but teach: government; governmental; governmentally and place these into context. It's really useful for students to use a vocabulary log which supports this and becomes a vital resource to then return to and utilise within their learning and lessons.
What is Trans-languaging and does it aid students?
Research has found there are benefits to allowing your students to trans-language within lessons (Baker and Wright: 2017); allowing them to use their full repertoire of languages and switch between them in reading, writing and speaking. Translanguage involves trust between all individuals where your student may be using a language you cannot understand and whilst daunting initially, this will empower their learning. It can be used with learners at any stage of the proficiency ladder and foster positive relationships. Why not let a student take notes in their first language or write a piece in their first language and then translate to English?
Top Strategies from an EAL Specialist
We spoke with Michaela Popa, EAL Co-ordinator for Putteridge High School, part of Chiltern Learning Trust and asked for her top tips that make a difference but are simple to implement. Here’s what she said:
Many students benefit from time to process and understand a task - for an EAL student this is key. Give them time to read, begin to comprehend, translate, re-read, discuss etc. Each time they are discussing or looking for a word, it’s aiding their knowledge and understanding. It’s worth noting that some students will be entitled to 10% extra time and potentially a bilingual dictionary for their GCSE exams. If this is the case, ensure that students are efficient in using one or it can become more of a hindrance in an exam.
Dictionaries / Translate / Resources in first languages
Where possible, provide opportunities for students to see words / phrases / texts in their home language(s) and English to aid learning. You could get students to investigate what words are / discuss what they think they might be and make the process a fun, shared experience. Use google translate or the translate option on programmes to turn a worksheet into their home language(s) and whilst we appreciate it might not be a perfect translation, it will aid their understanding. You might even be able to buy textbooks or resources in their home language(s) and then give students one in English so they can see both and make comparisons. On google docs for example you can simply click file - language and select what you want it to be in!
Each of these require very little extra preparation but have a hugely positive impact upon their ease of learning.