TEACHER’S/LSA’s NAMES: PAUL LEGGATT AND RUTH ECKETT, Henry Beaufort School (11 – 16), Winchester                

YEAR GROUP OF PUPILS:   7 & 9 ( 11-12 & 13 -1 4 years)


Exploring reading activities to support  beginner English learners

TARGETING (what specifically are you seeking as outcomes?)

Improved reading in terms of both word recognition and comprehension for pupils. Also looking to influence motivation to read in one pupil. This may involve working with enhancing spelling and with spoken English activities as well as reading-based activities.

ANALYSING BEST PRACTICE (summary of research supporting your practice in this area)

Droop and Verhoeven (1998) identify that EAL learners’ spoken English fluency affects their capacity to read in English. Hutchinson, Whitely, Smith and Connors (2003) explain that EAL learners’ capacity for reading comprehension is affected by their vocabulary knowledge, their knowledge of different text types and their interest in the subject matter of the texts.

Sections of the MESHGuide that may be useful: Reading at secondary level plus the other sections on reading; the sections on spoken English for new to English and beginner EAL learners; interactive literacy activities; sections on challenges and on key teaching principles for EAL learners.

CLARIFYING (What is the context for your research? How many pupils? Related class and school targets? Your own existing strengths?)

3 pupils who are all identified as requiring support on the school register of EAL learners. 1 x female from Thailand (y9) and 2 x male (brothers) from Poland (y7 &9).

All pupils currently receive support from the LSA with specialist knowledge of EAL and from the EAL co-ordinator.

The boy in Y7 is reluctant to read with adults and anxious not to appear less able/ receiving support; this causes some problems with motivation to read, in addition to limitations on his word recognition skills.

TRANSLATING BEST PRACTICE (what will you do? How many times? How long?)

Working for the 6 week period between half term and Easter 2015.

We will trial some of the suggested activities and advice in the MESH EAL guide related to the teaching of reading.

We may work with activities that support phonic knowledge for spelling and also vocabulary for spoken English in order to support word recognition and comprehension in reading.

We may work with audio books and graphic novels.

INTERPRETING RESULTS (what happened ?– outcomes may be numerical or described in words)

We worked with the three identified pupils using MESHGuide advice mostly from the section on Reading for Secondary Age Pupils.

Thai female pupil (Y9) – mother tongue literacy was age appropriate whereas English literacy was at a beginner level. As advised by MESHGuide we started with something that was age appropriate and which was similar to the Cambridge Readers scheme suggested in MESHGuide. This worked well with her – she chose one herself – and this was more accessible than a text she might have picked that would have matched her Thai reading fluency. We tried graphic novels but she was not inspired to read these. We had the Cambridge Readers in the library already as a resource so it was useful that the MESHGuide confirmed our choice of resources. We would have liked to use a graphic novel such as a play by Shakespeare but this resource was currently in use by teachers in the English department.

Polish male pupil (Y9) – came to England in upper primary school years. Spoken English has some fluency. Aimed for an age-appropriate novel and chose Charlie Higson’s Young Bond book Silver Fin. We used an audio CD while reading the book in line with MESHGuide advice. This worked well because this pupil has some difficulty translating written in to spoken word. It made a significant difference in terms of his understanding of a paragraph and allowed him to move at a faster pace through the narrative. He might re-read paragraphs that he had heard in order to consolidate his understanding and he found this very helpful. He also liked the ‘gadget’ nature of what he was doing – sitting in the library with a pair of headphones in his ears was fun because pupils are not allowed headphones in school.  We did this activity at lunchtime with him in allocated tutor time set aside for literacy skills once a week. It was useful that we had an existing timetabled structure that accommodated the activity which is a focussed 20 minute session. MESHGuide advice on text to speech synthesis was very much in evidence in this pupil; he enjoyed listening to sections before reading them and this very much improved his ability to read and understand compared to sections read ‘straight off’.

Polish male pupil (Y7) – this pupil was a very reluctant reader, and appeared very self-conscious about not being able to access the same texts as his peers. We tried graphic novels but, although these were accessible to him, he did not enjoy reading them. This was probably because he felt too old to be reading anything with pictures in it even if the subject matter was age appropriate. More successful was one to one reading with David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy because this was age appropriate but had some subtle illustration. This demonstrated for us that the MESHGuide advice to use illustrations worked well for this boy, although it was important that they didn’t appear child-like. Repetition of vocab in this book was also useful for comprehension and to support progression.

We also tried some reading aloud with all three pupils in order to give us some insight in to where the pupils needed help with letter-sound correspondence. The MESHGuide indicates that some discrete phonics teaching might be useful and so we were exploring the practicality of this in a secondary environment. This activity has been particularly useful with the Polish boy in Y7 who lacks motivation.

We also looked at spelling support alongside their reading sessions and sampled using Simple English Wikipedia

COMMENTING ON TRANSFORMATIONS (what might this mean for your practice and for the pupils as learners?)

We were able to identify for the Thai pupil that comprehension problems were based mainly in vocabulary and occasionally with mistakes in pronunciation. Some sections were read aloud to her to maintain pace and to assist with comprehension through accurate pronunciation. With both Polish boys we were able to identify the types of texts that motivated each to read. The interventions were personalised to each pupil and each intervention worked for each pupil once we had worked out which text-types would suit them. EAL learners are as individual in their needs as our monolingual pupils.

SELECTING NEXT STEPS ( what might you do next? More of the same? Try a different approach?)

Some discussion needed around sharing resources between departments in a secondary school (e.g. graphic novels).

We see this EAL MESHGuide as a useful support for CPD with staff and will share our experiences with the wider team.