That can be a tough one to answer. Teachers can sometimes be unprepared when it comes to EAL learners, and recently-qualified teacher Stacie admits that her knowledge of English as an Additional Language was somewhat lacking.
To support an EAL learner a teacher must be aware of the difficulties they face. Not only can they face social difficulties like feelings of isolation or exclusion, but learning can be tricky for some pupils with EAL even when they have the academic know-how; for example, the use of language in Maths can be confusing, as certain words like parallel, divide and equal all mean something different in Maths to everyday life. Some EAL students may find themselves placed in a lower set than their academic ability due to their language proficiency, while others may be disinclined or unable to engage in class discussion. This can demotivate students and leave them feeling isolated.
Ways to support EAL students
Teachers, pupils and parents/carers can do a lot to ease these challenges and ensure EAL learners can reach their highest potential. The list below suggests some ways teachers can adapt their teaching methods to ensure EAL learners feel confident and included in the classroom.
- Establish ‘Buddies’: Assigning EAL learners buddies can help them integrate. This can extend to ‘lesson buddies’, whereby specific seating plans ensure EAL learners are sat next to either a more able learner or one who is willing to help them when necessary.
- Explain key terms: New terms should be explained when they are introduced and teachers should encourage pupils to keep a bank of key terms somewhere easily accessible. Every time a new term is introduced, ask students to write an example sentence using the term to ensure they have understood it.
- Use visual learning: Visual hooks can be a great way for EAL learners to cement new ideas and phrases. This may involve a cartoon strip to explain a concept or to summarise the key points of a text. Likewise the use of mind maps is helpful in letting EAL learners make visual connections between ideas.
- Try flipped learning: Asking pupils to research a question or idea in preparation for a lesson can help EAL learners feel confident before a lesson begins, and allow them to engage more as they can prepare questions and answers. Flipped learning also allows you differentiate tasks based on the individuals; for example, it may be more appropriate to ask an EAL learner to discuss the cultural context of a Dickens novel than to explain the meaning of the archaic terms used.
Our new mobile learning course Supporting EAL Learners offers insight into all aspects of EAL learners, helping teachers, pupils and parents/carers understand what EAL actually means and take positive supportive actions.
For teachers, it breaks down the five stages of EAL and gives detailed information about how to recognise learners in each stage, and subsequently provide the appropriate support. This can help staff feel more confident that they are correctly judging and helping young people with EAL.
Recently-qualified teacher Stacie commented:
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