EFFECTIVE TEACHING OF EAL LEARNERS
EAL teaching has its own distinctive pedagogy. It aims to teach English using the mainstream curriculum as the context. This involves developing specific resources which make the language of the curriculum accessible through, for example, increased use of visuals and scaffolding, while keeping the cognitive challenge and interest level high.
One of the most important aspects of effective teaching of EAL learners is the need to support and develop the child’s competence in the mother tongue alongside the learning of English. Linguists have concluded that we all have an innate ability to learn language and that the ‘surface features’ of all languages derive from a common underlying proficiency. This means that the knowledge developed in the first language can easily be transferred to the second or third languages. The pedagogical implications of this are that full bilingual education is the ideal and, where this is not possible, learning in the mother tongue needs to be encouraged and supported as much as possible.
Another important aspect of effective teaching of EAL is to pay attention to the links between language acquisition and cognitive and academic development, and understand the importance of providing work that is sufficiently challenging for all learners, both those who are new to English as well as more advanced EAL learners.
KEY EAL TEACHING PRINCIPLES
Five principles of good practice in EAL teaching and learning have been identified through research and endorsed by Ofsted.
Based on these principles, a number of key teaching strategies can be seen to be particularly helpful for EAL learners. Many, if not all, of these strategies are also useful for other groups of learners, e.g. learners with a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, or for all learners.
The 5 principles with some key strategies are:
Activating prior knowledge in the learner
- finding out what learners know about a topic through questioning
- mind-mapping in pairs or small groups
- use of first language
- relevant curriculum taking account of learners’ cultural background
- discovery tasks
- KWL charts (what we Know, what we Want to know, what we have Learned).
Providing a rich context
- tables and grids
- graphs, charts and pictograms
- flow charts
- computer graphics.
Encouraging learners to communicate in speech and writing
- peer tutoring and coaching
- collaborative learning activities
- drama and role-play
- questioning strategies (asking questions where detailed response is required, allowing sufficient waiting time before expecting an answer)
- scaffolded writing activities (using writing frames, modelling, using notes, tables or planning boxes)
- opportunities to rehearse language orally before writing.
Pointing out key features of English explicitly
- drawing attention to specific grammatical forms used in texts or in speech
- providing oral and written models
- modelling and extending their use, providing opportunities to practise them
- scaffolding speaking and writing through the use of speaking and writing frames
- making links between specific features of English and the learners’ first language, or encouraging learners to do this.
Developing learners’ independence
- providing opportunities to model and extend what has been taught
- scanning texts to look at subheadings and diagrams prior to reading
- note taking and note making.
And for advanced EAL learners:
- focusing on key phrases rather than key words
- encouraging learners to develop strategies to decode unfamiliar words, including using dictionaries (English and bilingual) and thesauri, asking a teacher, etc.
- encouraging learners to make adventurous vocabulary choices in speech and writing.
IDEAS FOR SUPPORTING EAL LEARNING
Dictogloss is type of supported dictation that integrates the four skills of language learning. The principle of dictogloss is that the teacher reads a short, prepared topic-based text several times and the learners try to produce their own version as close to the original as possible. It can be used in a subject learning context at all levels. It is easy for the teacher to prepare and set up and is a very effective language learning tool as it requires learners to listen, talk, collaborate, take notes, redraft and present orally.
Barrier games/ Information exchange
These are activities where two or more learners can see/are given different information and they have to communicate it to each other. They are a useful way of providing an opportunity for speaking and listening for a real purpose.
Bilingual dictionaries/translation software
The use of bilingual dictionaries and translation software can support EAL learners in using bilingual strategies to support access to the curriculum and build on their existing knowledge.
Collaborative activities provide an opportunity for exploratory talk as learners work together. They are a useful way of providing an opportunity for speaking and listening for a real purpose.
Directed Activities Related to Text (DARTs) are activities which lead learners to interact with texts in a way which enhances understanding. They can be a valuable way of making the curriculum accessible to beginner EAL learners, and of checking understanding.
Drama and role play
The use of drama and role play creates an opportunity for the EAL learner to hear good models of English in a meaningful context. Role play demonstrates how to use language in real life with a focus on communication.
Flashcards are great for memorising, revising and consolidating vocabulary and concepts, and for stimulating discussion.
Graphic organisers are a key way of encouraging EAL learners to organise their ideas and develop higher-order thinking skills and language functions.
Introducing new vocabulary
How you introduce new vocabulary to an EAL learner requires careful consideration, to ensure that it is taught in context not in isolation. There should be a focus not only on key subject-specific vocabulary but also on the language forms and structures associated with particular curriculum areas.
Jigsaw activities are great for promoting interactive, collaborative group work, and provide an opportunity for purposeful communication with peers who can provide good language models. They encourage EAL learners to develop speaking and listening skills within the context of a curriculum topic.
Drilling is a way of memorising language by repeating it. It is an effective approach for learning new vocabulary or language structures. Through drilling, EAL learners internalise language and are more likely to be able to use it independently.
Modelling appropriate language forms and structures for a particular task is very helpful to EAL learners. This often involves analysing the language demands of the task, providing a written model of the response you are expecting and pointing out key features of the language used in the model answer.
Reading for meaning
Fluent readers use a range of strategies to decode and understand text. Many EAL learners have good literacy skills in their first language that they can build on in order to become fluent readers of English. Different teaching methods will be needed according to the learner’s level of literacy in their first language and how similar or different the written form of that language is to English.
EAL learners need activities to be scaffolded in a range of ways through the provision of linguistic and contextual support. Scaffolding activities can include providing enhanced visual support, graphic organisers, modelling, collaborative learning, speaking and writing frames or grouping EAL learners with supportive peers who can provide good models of English.
Speaking and writing frames
Speaking and writing frames are useful scaffolding to enable EAL learners to structure their speaking and writing, to use new language forms and functions appropriately and consistently and eventually to speak and write independently using appropriate genres.
A substitution table is when a teacher provides a table giving model sentences with a range of choices for learners to select from, using a set pattern.These are a type of scaffolding resource which extend the speaking or writing of EAL learners. They are useful for encouraging learners to develop and extend speaking and listening skills within the context of a curriculum topic and can be used as a reinforcement of newly acquired language.
ICT can be very powerful when used effectively with EAL learners. In particular using ICT with pairs or groups of learners engaged in language-focused collaborative tasks can promote exploratory talk as well as motivating and engaging learners.
Using learners' first language ability
This supports access to the curriculum and the acquisition of additional languages. Bilingual strategies enable EAL learners to build on their existing knowledge and make it possible to increase the cognitive challenge of work undertaken. It is easier to understand concepts in your first language and transfer your knowledge to your second language.
Using resources with a lot of visual content provides context and access for EAL learners who need to make sense of new information and new language in order to learn. Visuals enable the language demands of a task to be reduced without reducing the cognitive demand.
THE FOLLOWING LINK IS AN INTERESTING REVIEW OF RESEARCH IN EAL: