English as an Additional Language (EAL)

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Teaching and Learning for pupils with English as an additional language
Identifying the teaching context for EAL learners
Developing language and literacy for EAL learners
Resourcing the teaching of EAL learners

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. Take a look also at the Talk Rich Teaching Project which describes a project where teachers highlighted oracy to promote their EAL learners language and literacy development successfully.

There is substantial UK-based research indicating the fact that pupils’ English proficiency level is the key indicator relevant to their success in school. See, for example, studies from Feyisa Demie and Steve Strand listed in the section called References to research used in this guide. 

In keeping with the advice throughout this guide, teachers are exhorted to view multilingualism as an asset. Thus, New to English learners are not a ‘blank slate’, nor should they be assessed only as lacking in English. They already hold understanding about language and how it works from the development of their heritage language (Cummins 1979; Baker, 2011). 

Pupils who are new to English need the following:

  • Opportunities to work and interact socially 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 proficient 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 (phonemes)in the English language and their match with letters(graphemes)
  • 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 academic 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 (for example those by Sue Palmer) 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)
  • 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 https://esolonline.tki.org.nz

Original guide sponsored by the University of Winchester, this revision sponsored by The University of Reading and Hampshire EMTAS.