Spoken English for new to English learners

Before you read this section you will find it useful to read the sections Theories of Additional Language Learning and Stages of Additional Language Learning.  New to English learners are not a ‘blank slate’. They already hold understanding about language and how it works from the development of their first language (Cummins 1979; Baker, 2011).

Pupils who are new to English need the following:

  • Opportunities to talk with peers who model good spoken English
  • Opportunities to be silent and to listen (some learners may be silent for as long as 6 months)
  • Opportunities to show their understanding in non-verbal ways
  • Opportunities to use their first language as a language for thinking (Lucas, Vilegas & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008); where possible this happens through the use of talk pairs of pupils using the same first language
  • Understanding that if they are not yet fluent in their first language (under 7 years old approx.) then acquisition of their new language may take longer (Cummins, 1999)
  • Explicit teaching of the sounds in the English language
  • Visual aids that scaffold understanding of new language (Gibbons, 2002; Long, 2002)
  • Use of closed questions may better support understanding and capacity to respond (Purdy,2008)

Where pupils arrive in school in year groups later than the normal school starting age they are subjected to a curriculum that requires them to read and write in English. Research identifies that where pupils have limited vocabulary in English they cannot make good progress in developing literacy in English (see Schmidt, 2008 for a review of research on the crucial place of vocabulary acquisition in learning a second language).

Spoken language activities for new to English learners

  • Speaking frames that focus on developing language for interaction through sentence starters, or which develop language for the curriculum through guided speaking and listening activity. Speaking frames can be used to pre-teach vocabulary for new concepts.
  • Talk-based activities with a very specific focus/ question. Comprehensible input from the teacher is more likely to support comprehensible output by the EAL learner (Lucas, Vilegas & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008)
  • Working with talk-partners who model good spoken English (Kotler, Wegerif and Le Voi, 2001)
  • Drawing/ mind-mapping responses to tasks
  • Role play to explore character, plot and settings in narrative
  • Problem solving
  • Oral story-telling and storytelling using apps for tablet (see section on Interactive Activities)
  • Phonics games
  • Using talking pens and talking books (see section on Hardware)
  • Playing board games

The ESOL (EAL) site related to the New Zealand National Curriculum lists spoken language development activities at http://esolonline.tki.org.nz/ESOL-Online/Planning-for-my-students-needs/Resources-for-planning/ESOL-teaching-strategies/Oral-Language

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