Spoken English for advanced EAL learners

Pupils with advanced fluency in spoken English are often left without support because their conversational competence masks possible limited vocabulary for curriculum purposes. Pupils with advanced fluency in English still need support with widening their vocabulary and with understanding how to choose the best ways to express themselves (Cummins, 1999).

Teachers supporting advanced EAL learners need to know that:

  • Pupils need continuing support in extending their vocabulary and language of expression for both their spoken language and consequently their capacity to express themselves in written English
  • Pupils may have difficulty retaining multiple instructions for a task
  • Pupils need layered targets relating to developing spoken language for curriculum access
  • Pupils may be better able to respond to teachers’ decontextualized talk, but the use of visual cues and pre-teaching remain valuable support strategies

Advanced EAL learners’ spoken language may have the following characteristics:

  • Expressive language has a wider range of functions e.g able to explain, debate, justify, express inferred meaning
  • Vocabulary is wider and the pupil may exercise choice over vocabulary and register (tone/style)
  • More confident grasp of grammar supports greater cohesion and capacity for greater fluency in using spoken Standard English
  • Use of pronouns, prepositions and verb tenses is increasingly more accurate

Spoken language activities for advanced EAL learners (matched to findings from NfER,2006) :

  • Speaking frames that focus on development of higher level English and the expansion of vocabulary and concepts for curriculum areas
  • Retain use of first language as a language for thinking about new and more complex ideas
  • Retain pre-teaching as a strategy to introduce new and complex vocabulary and concepts
  • Opportunities to work with talk partners to develop ideas and expressive language
  • Role play to support capacity for deduction and inference for reading, and to support understanding in other curriculum areas e.g. history
  • Explicit introduction to the conventions of written English through modelling and discussion by the teacher

An OFSTED report on schools who do well by their advanced EAL learners can be found here: https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5384/1/Couldtheydoevenbetter.pdf

Tags: