The learning environment

‘The physical environment plays an important role in how valued children from diverse backgrounds feel in school. Children are more likely to feel valued and develop a sense of belonging when their ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic background is reflected positively in the displays in their classroom and around the school.’ DfES (2006) Excellence and Enjoyment: learning and teaching for bilingual children in the primary years.

Ideas for making the school and classroom environment more inclusive:

  • Welcome posters with greetings in a multitude of languages
  • Orientation signs in select languages - defined by the school context
  • A map/display showing heritage countries and languages represented in the school community
  • Positive displays of people from minority ethnic backgrounds
  • A good selection of bilingual texts (books, magazines/newspapers) in the library and other reading areas around the school
  • A fair representation of EAL learners’ work on display in and out of classrooms
  • Imaginative role-play areas with culturally diverse imagery, clothing and props

It is also important for schools to try to infuse the curriculum with culturally relevant points of reference, avoiding negative stereotypes and tokenistic approaches - for example:

  • stories from other cultures
  • examining how languages borrow words from each other and how English has been particularly influenced by certain languages such as Latin and Greek
  • drawing examples of famous scientists, artists etc. from a wide range of cultural backgrounds
  • balanced and non-judgemental comparisons between cultures, such as traditional vs. alternative technologies

Within the classroom, EAL learners will benefit from:

  • dual-language displays and keywords
  • bilingual dictionaries - printed and/or electronic
  • modelled texts large and clearly displayed on classroom walls
  • working walls and role-play/enrichment areas that provide additional context and meaning for current curricula
  • seating that allows for collaborative group work and positioning where learners have a clear view of the IWB and easy access to the class teacher
  • access to ICTs such as oral recording devices, translation tools and supportive word processors with keyboards set up for different language input

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