Planning activities related to language learning needs

In planning for EAL learners it is important to pre-identify the language demands of any task you are setting in relation to a given learning objective. This is the same for children at any level of English proficiency and might relate to specific vocabulary, to particular concepts or to unfamiliar expression (idiomatic or technical phrases). The difficulties might relate to the need to understand spoken or written language and to the need to use spoken or written language.

The starting place for planning will relate to your pupils’ level of proficiency in English. For further guidance on this see the section ‘Stages of Additional Language Learning’ in this guide.

The following is adapted from a National Strategies (2006) template for identifying language needs:

Curriculum objectives

Key activities

Language functions

Language features

Language structures

Academic vocabulary

Desired outcomes

What will be done by the learners?

Techniques required of learners?

Tone, style, voice, figurative language, grammar

Sentence starters, connectives etc.

Context and curriculum related words

It is not practical for teachers to plan at this level for every activity, but the headings indicate where teachers might usefully target scaffolds within activities to support their EAL learners’ current proficiency in language use and develop their use of English for the curriculum.

Pauline Gibbons (2002, p.130) presents another way of thinking about curriculum-based language needs which uses the following three headings as planning tools:

  • A. Student’s language development needs
  • B. Language inventory (language demands of the topic)
  • C. Activities that develop focus language

DCSF (2006) Teaching bilingual children in the primary years, Nottingham:

DCSF Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinmann