Teaching pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) can bring new perspectives and approaches to problem solving, but it can also pose many challenges. Educators often feel that EAL provision is a ‘learn on the job’ experience and will express a lack of confidence in ensuring learners are getting the best out of their education.
Schools are preparing to fully reopen in September, but there is the concern that EAL pupils will not only need extra catch-up time but may also have a ‘culture shock’ with returning to the classroom. So, here are five ways you can transform the experience and help your EAL pupils feel as comfortable as possible.
1. Body Language
Having open and friendly body language, such as smiling, is key. Consider your ‘teacher voice’ and how you can make this gentler. Teacher voice can come across as harsh to newly arrived pupils, as they may not have the knowledge of the words you are saying and will therefore go by your expression and/or tone of voice.
EAL pupils have more of a chance of understanding what you are explaining or asking if you support your language use with gesture. Pointing to objects, physically indicating directions and miming activities are all beneficial ways to support understanding.
2. Visual Resources
Visuals are a great way to make the curriculum accessible for EAL learners. By presenting pictures, posters, and videos, new to English learners will better understand the context of the lesson and can start to make the fullest possible use of their prior knowledge and their language skills. Our free EAL Welcome Pack offers some great visual aids and other materials to help newly arrived pupils feel settled.
It’s important to involve and make your EAL pupils feel part of the lesson. It’s useful to prep your learners with the questions you are going to ask, so that they are then prepared for taking part in class discussions. If they have the opportunity to put their hand up and say something in front of the class, then this will be a great confidence booster. Activities that require their involvement without relying on language skills, such as asking to hand out worksheets to the rest of the class, are good approaches to integrating new to English learners.
Getting to know your EAL pupils will be the best thing to transform their classroom experience, but training can also be advantageous. It is useful to focus on proficiency bands as initial guidance, then experiment with different materials and activities to see what works best for each pupil. By sharing what you have found out with other teaching staff, this can help to create a whole school approach to managing EAL needs.
Make sure everyone has the same attitude to transforming the EAL experience. If you do not have EAL training at your school, it’s worth suggesting to someone that training is put into place. This can be done during an inset day or as more of a drip method. For example, 5 minutes during a briefing, CPD newsletter, or making sure there is a ‘top tip for EAL’ mention in any teaching and learning email circulated to staff.