English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Naomi Flynn, Chris Pim and Sarah Coles| View as single page| Comment/Feedback
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

Integrated literacy activities

Certain activities will enable multilingual learners to be more productively involved with their peers, ensuring curriculum–related language is made comprehensible (Krashen, 1981) and providing meaningful contexts for language and literacy development (Gibbons, 2002; Schmidt, 2008). See also the section on Interactive Activities for additional resources that support integrated literacy activities.

Integrated activities help language and literacy development for multilingual learners in a variety of different ways:

  • activating pupils' prior knowledge by relating learning to pupils' background or experience
  • utilising pupils' unique bilingual skills
  • naturally uniting speaking, listening, reading and writing
  • taking multi-modal approaches to teaching and learning
  • facilitating collaborative learning
  • making learning across the curriculum more explicit
  • providing different modes of output for learners at different stages in their acquisition of English. 

A wide range of EAL-related language and literacy activities can be found here. Here are a few examples:


Pupils hear formal language used repeatedly in context and work collaboratively to construct a similar text. This enables the pupils to adopt the “voice” of the writer. Dictogloss integrates speaking, listening, reading and writing. However, this activity relies upon the learners never seeing the original text (except perhaps at the end of the activity). This activity can be used with texts in any curriculum area.

The 5 stages of Dictogloss

  1. The teacher reads a short piece of text aloud at normal speed and the pupils listen without taking notes.
  2. The teacher reads the text aloud a second time and the pupils make notes in a grid provided. At this point you might direct pupils to listen for particular types of words or phrases depending on the grammar/ vocabulary you are looking to introduce/reinforce.
  3. The teacher reads the text aloud for the third time and the pupils add to their notes.
  4. The children spend 10-15 minutes in small groups constructing a meaningful, cohesive text that might contain a number of features of the original.
  5. The teacher leads a discussion based on the text written by one or more of the groups. This discussion might focus on concepts, meaning, cohesion, text type, register, key phrases, technical vocabulary or any combination of those.

Bilingual storytelling

Storytelling is relatively cross-cultural and provides numerous opportunities for pupils to develop colloquial and more academic forms of oracy alongside reading and writing (Gregory, 2008). Bilingual pupils can utilise proficiency in first and other languages and there is also the opportunity to draw upon pupils' background experience through the use of stories from other cultures (Flynn and Stainthorp, 2006). This is also an effective way to involve parents.

Traditional stories, which often have equivalents in many cultures, offer a good starting point for storytelling. They can be retold in English and/or other languages, providing numerous opportunities for adapting them for different purposes and audiences. Narratives that explore the notion of dual or multiple identities (Cummins, 2001) have also been shown to be particularly motivating for EAL learners. Finally, pupils can produce their own stories ready for performance to peers or other audiences.

Whilst writing and telling stories can be a private and individual experience, EAL learners will benefit particularly from communities of learning where pupils think and talk together in exploratory ways. Storytelling inevitably requires pupils to think and talk more formally in terms of story boarding and developing purposeful use of language to suit different audiences. Pupils must prepare a script, rehearse it and then formally deliver it, integrating speaking, reading and writing.

Digital Games-based Learning (DGbL)

Games, in general, are an effective way to develop oral language as playing them requires collaboration and the repetitive use of vocabulary and phrases. They often require users to interact with texts as well, which can support the development of reading. When rooted in the curriculum they also support the acquisition of subject knowledge.

Digital games have a particular resonance for 21st century learners, even those recently arrived from abroad, as most learners will have had some experience of them. Well-designed computer games are multi-modal, engaging and offer numerous opportunities for developing skills alongside language learning. As the plot proceeds, pupils need to watch, listen and often read text, making decisions that affect the gameplay.

Some publishers have attempted to create digital games that specifically teach English, but it has been argued that these may not be the most useful as, in the worst cases, they tend to be no more than thinly disguised tests (Mawer & Stanley, 2011). Instead, engaging, immersive games with strong narratives, interesting settings and memorable characters tend to be more effective. Games that require pupils to collaborate together to move the game forwards are particularly appropriate. With the right choice of digital game, there is the potential for creating language learning opportunities around speaking, listening, reading and writing e.g.

  • using text-based game walk-throughs to help pupils learn to follow instructions
  • writing game walk-throughs to teach instructions and explanations
  • descriptive writing around settings and characters and developing new plot lines
  • analysing persuasive devices used in game advertising and learning the conventions for producing game trailers or written adverts

Links to research report and video.

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