Key principles and teaching strategies

Consideration of the following key principles needed for successful EAL learning will support teachers in making informed choices in their teaching strategies. More detail about all of the principles can be found in other sections of this guide. The following lists are supported by a range of research with EAL learners which can be found summarised by Lucas, Villegas and Freedson-Gonzalez (2008).

Key Principles for EAL Learners

  • A safe and welcoming language environment with minimal anxiety about performing in the new language is essential.
  • Conversational fluency is fundamentally different from academic proficiency and it takes many more years to become confident in the latter.
  • Additional language learners need access to activities that are just beyond their current language proficiency and opportunities to use language for meaningful purposes.
  • Spoken interaction in which EAL learners participate can support both social and academic language.
  • Maintenance of the first language is essential because strong native language skills are associated with greater success in acquiring a new language.
  • Explicit instruction in the form and function of language (e.g. grammar) supports additional language learning, when pupils have sufficient fluency in English and literate in first language.
  • As with all learners, teachers need to know as much as possible about the first language and previous experiences of learning that their pupils have had.
  • Learning should activate prior knowledge.
  • Learning should be collaborative and situated in a clear and meaningful context.

Key Teaching Strategies for EAL Learners

  • Promoting social well-being for EAL learners through detailed induction documentation which supports teachers’ understanding of individual need, and through peer support using systematic approaches such as the Young Interpreters’ Scheme https://www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/emtas/supportinglanguages/young-interpreters-guide
  • Providing opportunities for talk-based activities and interaction wherever possible.
  • Providing opportunities for non-verbal and non-written responses.
  • Providing visual cues that support understanding of new vocabulary and concepts.
  • Pre-teaching: the process of identifying the language demands of an area of new learning before it is taught and then pre-teaching vocabulary and concepts before the main classroom input.
  • Providing opportunities for EAL learners to mix with good language role models.
  • Allowing use of first language as a language for thinking, note taking and talk-based talks: pairing pupils who share the same first language may support this if their academic outcomes are similar and they are socially compatible.
  • Making aspects of written and spoken English explicit: e.g. exploring the features of different written genres and focussing on grammar.
  • Use of ICT (see sections on Interactive Activities  and  Hardware).

Lucas, T., Villegas, A. M. & Freedson-Gonzalez, M (2008) “Linguistically Responsive Teacher Education: Preparing Classroom Teachers to Teach English Language Learners”, Journal of Teacher Education, 59 (4), 361 - 373.

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