Considering EAL needs in home learning

How are children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) adjusting to home learning?

For most, education has transitioned from the traditional classroom setting to the dining room table, from face-to-face teaching to Zoom calls. Remote learning has well and truly become the ‘new normal’.

EAL pupils make up 21% of primary school children in the UK, with some pupil populations speaking as many as 40 different home languages. As this statistic continues to rise, teacher recruitment and retention is falling, resulting in fewer teachers per pupil and in turn, a shortage of EAL expertise in schools.

As home-learning will continue for the majority of pupils after half-term, it is still prevalent that both teachers who are used to being in multilingual classrooms and those who prior to lockdown had little experience with EAL pupils, are struggling to cater for the needs of these learners. These are the learners who are increasingly at risk of being left behind in their education.

Of course, every pupil is different; some may be more advanced in their English proficiency whereas others may be at the very beginning of their English language learning journey. So, here are a few EAL needs to consider as we continue the process of home learning.

Supporting home language

Many bilingual families practise what is called ‘code-switching’, where people switch between the different languages they know according to different situations. It is very common that EAL learners will therefore use school as a setting to practise their English and use the home to speak in their native language.

Developing skills in their home language is just as valuable as developing English skills. We should absolutely encourage home learning in native languages, especially where learners have little to no English proficiency. Additionally, supporting EAL pupils’ ability to express themselves in their home language where possible but also ensuring we teach them the English vocabulary they need to express feelings is one step we can take to support their emotional and mental health.

Supporting English

Inevitably, home learning creates fewer opportunities for learners to engage both academically and socially in English. Without face-to-face interactions, whether this is with the teacher, TA or even their school ‘buddy’, it can be difficult to practise and improve English language skills. Hence, it is important for these learners to have tools that meets their individual learning needs.

EdTech platforms such as FlashAcademy®, an NAHT partner, offers independent learning with curriculum aligned content and free resources to help minimise disruption to English language learning at home.

Supporting parents

It is also important to think about the English proficiency of parents. Some may well be fluent and can teach and support their children at home. Others may be able to communicate in English but are not in a position to assess their child’s reading and writing comprehensions.

Encouraging home language activities such as reading books, discussing what their child is learning and asking for a response in English, using their hobbies and interests as a basis for learning are all examples of how parents can support English at home. You can find more ideas in this free Home Learning Guide for Parents, designed for parents of EAL and non-EAL pupils.

Well-being activities

Usually, we celebrate multilingualism in the classroom through display boards, language corners etc. We can continue that celebration at home by encouraging learners respond to questions like these and more – ‘teach us a word or phrase in your home language’, ‘describe your definition of ‘culture’’ and ‘what do you wish your teachers knew about you?’.

These questions come from the free EAL Pupil Podcast resource, where learners can practise their reading, writing, and listening skills at home as well as reflection skills. It is also a great way to focus our attention on EAL learners and to show them that their voice is still being heard, regardless of their current learning environment.

Visit FlashAcademy® to find out how they can help support your EAL learners, both at home and in-class learning.