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Picture of Chris Pim
by Chris Pim - Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 6:54 PM
Anyone in the world
written by Chris Pim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor

Children using iMovie Trailers

How to use computer games to enrich the curriculum and raise standards in reading and writing for all pupils, including more advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL)

Introduction

Most pupils have direct experience of playing computer games, whatever their linguistic or cultural heritage. Minecraft, you may be aware, is one of the most successful games of all time. So how could you capitalise on the interest in digital gaming to engage your learners and develop approaches that can raise standards across the curriculum?

Using computer games for language learning across the curriculum – some considerations

Not all computer games are created equal – to coin a phrase. Games that are specifically designed for education, such as English language learning games, may not be that successful because pupils realise that they are no more than thinly disguised tests and don’t respond positively to them.

In an educational context the best games are immersive; the player inhabits a realistically rendered 3D world influencing a narrative- rich storyline through the actions of their character/avatar. From a learning perspective, especially for EAL pupils, professionally produced computer games contain clear graphics, authentic storylines, audio narration/music and rich texts that provide a clear context and make meaning explicit. Some also provide obvious links to the curriculum such as through historical, geographical and scientific settings and scenarios.

You also need to be aware that all marketed computer games are subject to an age rating to determine their appropriateness for children and young people (Pegi). This is an important factor in determining the type of computer game that you might choose to use with your pupils.

As you read this article you may already have ideas for suitable computer games. However you might like to consider any of the following: The Myst series, Minecraft Storymode, Syberia, The Longest Journey, Tintin - Search for the Unicorn, The Room series and Amerzone.

Curriculum opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for developing thinking, talking and writing around computer games. For example, there is obviously merit in allowing pupils to play the game in pairs/groups as the quality of discussion will benefit EAL learners as they work alongside supportive peers. There is also tremendous potential in playing parts of the game as a whole class, projecting game play onto a large digital display. One pupil plays the game and peers suggest where to look, which objects to interact with and generally help to decide on particular courses of action at major decision points. Pupils can also debate particular courses of action. This all helps to develop more academic types of language that will improve written outcomes.

Playing a computer game from start to finish won’t be possible. But the game can be moved on by playing video game walk-throughs sourced from the internet. Featured texts within the game can be used as the basis for EAL-friendly activities; vocabulary-building games, Directed Activities Related to Texts (DARTs) and collaborative writing tasks like Dictogloss.

When playing computer games it is immediately apparent how fruitful the medium is for developing writing within different text types - for example, encouraging descriptive writing around realistic settings and well-defined characters. The format also encourages learners to produce recounts of game play sessions. Finding solutions to puzzles and making progress through the game provides opportunities for instructional and explanation-based texts. Students can discuss/argue the relative strengths and weaknesses of any particular game or perhaps the appropriateness of its age-rating from the perspective of a player or parent. Pupils could also write computer game reviews.

Why not also challenge your pupils to create persuasive videos to advertise a chosen computer game? Using professionally produced video game adverts sourced from the internet you can demonstrate persuasive techniques, such as rhetorical questions, repetition, lists of three, hyperbole etc. Next, using images and video captured from their chosen game, encourage pupils to collaborate on the production of a promotional video using iMovie’s Trailer feature. You will find this activity is especially beneficial for more advanced EAL learners as it acts as an intermediate scaffold for writing persuasively.

As you can see there are many ideas for integrating computer games into the classroom to improve the reading and writing skills of your more advanced EAL learners alongside their peers. So, what’s stopping you? You won’t be disappointed with the outcomes!

To read a research case study focussed on using immersive games to improve the writing of more advanced EAL learners visit: https://eal.britishcouncil.org/eal-sector/eal-and-immersive-games


[ Modified: Wednesday, 8 November 2017, 2:35 PM ]

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    Picture of Astrid Dinneen
    by Astrid Dinneen - Thursday, 5 October 2017, 2:16 PM
    Anyone in the world
    written by Astrid Dinneen, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor

    Leaf.jpg?itok=IuPE1Jxg

    When it comes to supporting learners who are new to English, it is good practice to pair these learners with articulate peers who can act as good language role-models. And when these able peers are bilingual themselves, they are often ideally placed to engage with new arrivals. But how best to recognise the contribution of 'Kacper' in the classroom?

    Pairing up new arrivals with pupils who speak the same language is a good way of alleviating the anxiety of the first few weeks when everything is new, different and sometimes overwhelming. Coping in an unknown language for academic as well as social purposes over long periods of time is extremely tiring.

    Newly-arrived pupils need appropriate support as they adjust to their new surroundings and routines and it makes complete sense to allow pupils to learn school routines, meet new friends and settle in at school through a language that is familiar to them. It also makes sense for pupils to engage with their learning through first-language, as anything that is cognitively challenging can then be discussed more easily and in greater depth. In short, first-language is an asset and a useful tool for learning as well as for settling in – so much so that for some, it might appear reasonable to ask bilingual pupils to interpret in all sorts of situations.

    The use of children and young people as interpreters

    There is limited guidance on the use of children and young people as interpreters at school and limited research around this theme, especially in the UK. What we do know is that ‘child interpreting’ is an underestimated role. Somehow, children and young people rarely have any concept of what a fantastic skill they have. What we also know is that whilst some feel extremely proud of being able to support their family through interpreting, others may perceive this to be a burden.

    This is the case particularly when children and young people are requested to interpret in situations where the language and concepts involved are too difficult or unfamiliar for them to understand and relay accurately. Research also suggests that in the context of lessons, child interpreters are comfortable interpreting for routine tasks that require everyday language but struggle to interpret for new concepts where the language is more demanding due to its academic nature.

    So, is it fair to ask Kacper to translate photosynthesis into Polish for us?

    Some pupils who have been to school in their home country and studied this subject already may be quite confident to do so. However, more often than not learners will rely on English keywords when discussing their work in first language. Therefore, we should be careful not to assume that children and young people can cope with the language demands of the classroom to such a degree than they can replace bilingual assistants, professional interpreters and good quality, EAL-friendly teaching and learning. This is not to say that Kacper can’t help. In fact, he would benefit from his school setting up a peer-buddying programme such as the award-winning Young Interpreter Scheme®.

    Young Interpreter Scheme

    The Young Interpreter Scheme® is a successful, low-cost, self-sufficient framework consisting of training for learners aged 5-16, designed to skill them up to help new arrivals with English as an Additional Language feel welcome and settled in their new school environment. It supports pupils by giving them the tools to use their qualities and language skills effectively to help other pupils. The scheme also upskills school practitioners in charge of delivering the scheme thanks to guidance informed by research, self-explanatory resources and interactive e-learning material. These resources enable Young Interpreter Coordinators to train pupils and guide them in their role whilst preventing them from being used in inappropriate scenarios. The Young Interpreter Scheme® provides very clear guidance on the situations where pupils should be operating. For example, showing non-English speaking visitors around the school, buddying with new arrivals during breaks and lunchtimes and demonstrating routines, not interpreting for concepts in the classroom.

    The Young Interpreter Scheme® gives children and young people who, like Kacper, interpret on an ad hoc basis, real recognition of their skills through a high-profile role defined, by clear parameters which ensure their safeguarding. Through this, the scheme also sends positive messages about multilingualism. This impacts pupils’ sense of identity and belonging at school, their relationships with pupils from other language groups as well as their leadership skills. The Young Interpreter Scheme® also provides a stepping stone to pupils who may like to consider interpreting as a career in the future.

    To find out about how your school can set up the Young Interpreter Scheme®, visit the Hampshire EMTAS website and Moodle or head to Twitter and Facebook.

    Astrid Dinneen is co-ordinator of the Young Interpreter Scheme.

    Article first published in April 2017 by ATL https://www.atl.org.uk/latest/kacper-what%E2%80%99s-photosynthesis-polish

    [ Modified: Tuesday, 26 June 2018, 12:07 PM ]

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      Picture of Sarah Coles
      by Sarah Coles - Tuesday, 3 October 2017, 9:33 PM
      Anyone in the world

      written by Sarah Coles, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor

      Happy young school children sitting on a wall

      It is usually clear to staff in schools that there is a support need they should address when a newly-arrived pupil from overseas experiences a language barrier on joining their first UK school.  This may be the child’s first experience of being in an English-speaking environment, and there is much to learn in terms of the new language.  What are less discernible – and perhaps less well-supported - are the other barriers such a child may face – barriers that relate to differences in pedagogy, social and cultural differences and of course the sense of dislocation and loss the newly-arrived child may feel when they first start, having left behind all their friends and possibly family members too.  Being placed in a situation far outside of their comfort zone, there is a lot for a new arrival to manage in addition to the demands of having to cope in a new language.  

      In the UK, pedagogical approaches focus on children learning through experience, learning from each other, learning through trial and error, learning through talk.  From an early stage, our indigenous, monolingual children learn how to learn in these ways and teachers, many themselves a product of this same system, teach from an often deeply-rooted belief that these ways are the best.  We are so immersed in the UK classroom culture that as practitioners we may forget it’s not like this everywhere in the world. 

      In Poland, for example, children do not come to sit on the carpet to learn as the carpet is perceived to be a dirty surface that’s walked on by everyone, so a Polish child – and possibly also their parents - may look askance when the class is directed to come to sit there for story time.

      In some countries, children’s behaviour is managed for them,often with a stick should they step out of line.  This means they do not learn to regulate their own behaviours right from the start of their educational journeys as UK-born children do.  New arrivals coming from countries where corporal punishment is still the norm may therefore struggle and fall foul of UK classroom behaviour management approaches which they do not comprehend, getting themselves into endless trouble as they struggle to acquire self-regulation skills with little or no support.  One teacher, dealing with an incident involving a student from overseas who had hit another child, asked the former “Would it be OK if I hit you?”  To her surprise, the reply came “Well yes, of course it would.”  It was the matter-of-factness of the response that caused her to realise this child really meant what he had said and that this was not as straightforward an issue as she had at first assumed.  

      In other parts of the world, pedagogical approaches may rest on the premise that children are empty buckets, waiting to be filled with the knowledge possessed by their teachers.  While the teacher teaches from the front, the children sit at their desks in rows, their success measured by how much they are able to repeat back in the end of year test.  There is little scope for learning through dialogue or for experimenting with ideas and hypotheses to see which ones hold true under close examination and which do not.  A child coming from that sort of school experience may struggle to comprehend what is going on in their lessons in their new, UK classroom.  How should they engage with their education when it looks like this?  How should they now behave and function as learners?

      Parents may experience their own difficulties as they grapple with the apparent vagaries of the UK education system.  They may have found applying online for a school place challenging enough but that was just the start.  If they were used to a system wherein their child was taught from a textbook that came home every night so they could see what had been covered during the day’s lesson, then how difficult must it be for them to keep abreast of their child’s learning when there is no text book to look at? How then should they recap at home the key points covered in class each day? How might they help prepare their child for the school day ahead?   If they were familiar with knowing where in the class ranking their child sat, what sense can they make of our system where we don’t publish information about each child’s attainment in comparison to their peers?  And if in their country of origin promotion to the next class depended on their child passing the end-of-year tests, what must it mean to them in our system where promotion from Year 4 to Year 5 is automatic, regardless of whether or not the child has met the end-of-year expectations?

      An awareness of the far-reaching impact of living in a new culture that goes beyond a nod and accepts that mere survival isn’t really good enough will help practitioners reflect on how they currently support their international new arrivals and what they might be able to put in place to improve current practice.  It is of course still good practice to support children to access the curriculum in English through the planned, purposeful use of first language but if we are to look at the bigger picture, then there is more that can be done to help a newly-arrived child to integrate into their new UK school – not least giving thought to what might be the barriers their parents are facing, and what they can do to reduce or remove them.

      Sarah Coles

      Consultant (EAL) at Hampshire EMTAS

      First published on the ATL blog, July 2017

      Further reading and resources

      http://www3.hants.gov.uk/education/emtas/culturalguidance.htm EMTAS cultural guidance sheets

      http://www3.hants.gov.uk/education/emtas/forparents/parentsandcarersguide.htm behaviour management guides for parents 

      [ Modified: Wednesday, 8 November 2017, 2:36 PM ]

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