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 beginner EAL learners

In keeping with the advice throughout this guide, teachers are exhorted to view multilingualism as an asset. Thus, Beginner English learners should not be assessed only in term of limited English. They already hold understanding about language and how it works from the development of their heritage language (Cummins 1979; Baker, 2011). They are potentially gifted linguists whose skills are cause for celebration. 

Pupils with a developing fluency in spoken English are likely to be beginning to read and write in English, but a continuing focus on the development of spoken language remains crucial in order that explicit knowledge about the way that English works is introduced (Krashen, 1986; Swain 2000).

Teachers supporting beginner EAL learners need to know:

  • How the structures and sounds in the pupil’s first language are different from those in English
  • Continued teaching of phonics may be necessary to build up pupils’ sensitivity to the English sound system which will support correct articulation of phonemes (and therefore support later spelling for writing)
  • Pupils may need explicit grammar-related targets to accelerate proficiency 

Beginner EAL learners’ spoken language use may have the following characteristics:

  • Able to communicate in their new language with some confidence with peers and adults but makes grammatical errors and has some problems with word order
  • Has limited control over tenses and often uses present tense
  • Makes errors in using pronouns (he/she/they)
  • May leave out determiners if these are not present in first language (the/a/an)
  • Has limited vocabulary and may substitute known words/phrases in order to communicate meaning when vocabulary is unknown
  • Able to retell a simple story using a structure and visual aids

Spoken language activities for beginner EAL learners:

  • Speaking frames (see those by Sure Palmer) which focus on individual language needs e.g. development of correct use of past tense; understanding use of determiners
  • Opportunities for meaningful interaction and collaborative dialogue with peers and adults within a clear learning context (Swain, 2000; Lucas, Villegas and Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008)
  • Opportunities to speak about aspects of home and school that particularly interest them
  • Use of picture books for oral story re-telling
  • Word games that focus on specific aspects of language and literacy development (Cameron and Besser, 2004)
  • Using talking pens and talking books (see section on Hardware)
  • Pre-teaching of vocabulary to support new concept learning
  • Role play 
  • Playing board games
  • See The Bell Foundation’s Great Ideas Page for activities to promote spoken English with EAL learners

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