The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lizzie Gait

Supporting EAL pupils in the classroom

Classroom teachers face the growing challenge of catering for the needs of an ever more diverse school community. Lizzie Gait, training development lead at Optimus Education, offers tips for teaching pupils with English as an additional language.

It was estimated that in 2014 1.1 million pupils between the ages of 5 and 16 in British schools were classed as having EAL. Yet, there is no specific programme of study produced by the government to outline how this growing group of pupils should be taught. Widespread research suggests that EAL pupils’ needs are best met in mainstream classrooms where they have the opportunity to access a wide range of curriculum areas taught by genuine curriculum experts. In order to ensure that they have access to a high-quality education, teachers should be equipped with a bank of teaching techniques and practical resources. One successful method is to use cooperative learning strategies – teaching strategies which can be used with EAL pupils to help them acquire language through curriculum content. For example, you might want to use the simple but effective Travelling Mind Map!

Travelling Mind Map

  • Get pupils working in small groups or pairs.
  • Give them a theme to be written in the centre of a large piece of paper.
  • Give them one minute to begin to populate the mind map.
  • After one minute, ask them to swap their mind map with another group.
  • Ask them to read the previous group’s entries then continue to discuss and populate it with more ideas.
  • Repeat this until all the mind maps have travelled back to their original owners, who then read them and decide together which additions to their mind map they feel are best.

This is a particularly powerful strategy as it combines all four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

EAL for Classroom Teachers is the latest course from In-House Training at Optimus Education. It offers practical training materials for supporting the learning of EAL pupils. This training will help participants to:

  • understand EAL pupils: recognise the key characteristics of English language learners to best shape your provision
  • understand EAL learner needs: know the fundamentals of effective teaching for EAL pupils in mainstream classes
  • teach EAL pupils: prepare to adapt a lesson across the curriculum area to meet the needs of EAL pupils
  • identify proficiency: successfully assess the English language proficiency of pupils
  • assess EAL pupils effectively: understand how to carry out EAL assessments, and how to use this information to inform planning
  • gauge understanding of content: clarify how to assess pupils’ understanding of curriculum content based on their level of English proficiency.

This course was written by Hamish Chalmers, a former Director of EAL at an international school in Bangkok. Hamish is currently completing a doctorate in English language acquisition at Oxford Brookes University, and can be found on twitter at @hwc001 The upcoming conference Effective Parental Engagement includes practical strategies to overcome language barriers and communicate effectively with EAL families. By Lizzie Gait

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