Integrating new pupils with EAL needs into the classroom

In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.

We can certainly apply this to the education world, too. If you aren’t familiar with the above quote, we would recommend having a look through Stephen Krashen’s Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning once you have finished reading this post.

With recent statistics showing that around 1.5 million children across the UK speak, or are learning, English as an Additional Language (EAL), there is a high chance you will welcome new pupils with EAL needs at some point in your teaching career.

Whether this is a collectively new experience for your school or just for you as the teacher, the reality is that educators must take a ‘learn on the job’ approach. With workload, pressure and constraints on curriculum time, we understand this can send alarm bells ringing.

This shouldn’t be a cause for panic. After all, you are the expert in helping children’s development – both academically and personally – and you know how to help them feel comfortable, safe and happy. For pupils with EAL, the dynamics of your teaching practice remains the same, only with a few extra tweaks needed.

Albeit, integration is a long process, but trust what you know! In the meantime, we have a few suggestions to help ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for your new arrival.

Understand their background

Pupils with EAL needs are an extremely diverse group. Be careful not to make general assumptions that new arrivals have had little schooling or experienced traumatic events. Some may well have come from privileged backgrounds with a high standard of education and are therefore “fluent” in their English language development. Hence, it’s important to know and understand their background first. Schools should also conduct baseline assessments to establish a pupil’s proficiency level so support can be tailored accordingly.

Ensure robust induction for the pupils’ family

It is extremely important to communicate with the parents of EAL pupils and to establish whether they themselves speak English and can help their children with their studies. Teachers should also keep the parents updated on their children’s progress.

Allocate buddies

For pupils with low levels of English proficiency, or none, having the courage to introduce themselves to their classmates can almost feel impossible. Thus, it is much easier for these pupils to integrate into a new environment when there is someone to show them around, introduce them to their friends and be an overall support and guide.

It can be very reassuring for EAL learners to meet people who speak their language and who can tell them about their own experiences of learning English and integrating into the school. If there isn’t anyone who speaks the same language as an EAL pupil it can be a good idea to form a network across schools. A buddy might also be a pupil who models strong English skills.

Teach survival language

The most frustrating and scary thing for pupils with EAL is not being understood when they are trying to communicate about something important. Help your newly arrived pupils settle by building up a range of ‘survival language’ materials. These can include things like questions – “May I go to the toilet?” – and expressing emotion – “I am sad”, “I don’t like…” – to safeguard your pupil. Note that this type of language will develop both through resources provided by you the teacher, and naturally through pupil interaction.

Provide visuals to communicate

A new environment where language, and culture, is completely shifted can be very confusing for pupils with EAL. Since images are the easiest form to conveying meaning, visuals should be implemented when trying to communicate with your new pupils. These can be used for a whole raft of teaching, including basic classroom rules, simple phrases and vocabulary. Images are also a great conversation-starter; create opportunities for your EAL pupils so that they feel encouraged to interact with their classmates.

This article was written by the team at FlashAcademy®. If you’re still unsure where to start with prepping for your new arrival, then you might want to check out FlashAcademy®’s EAL Welcome Pack.

This free resource contains booklets to help your new EAL pupils feel welcome and kick-start their English learning.