Sarah Coles shares the start of her PhD journey with the first two instalments of a journal-style account of her reading for the literature review and methodology chapters of her thesis. She is planning to research the language learning journeys of UK-born EAL learners as they enter Year R but before entering the field, there are books and articles to be read and planning to be done.
Week 2 of Term 1 (2018-19) and the summer has faded in more ways than one, which coincides with an interesting bit of a book I have been reading for my PhD. The book is about Second Language Acquisition and makes the point that most research into this has a focus on learning the new language. While this is of course interesting with many, often competing, views vying for attention in the literature, the authors suggest that language attrition – or ‘forgetting’ – is equally interesting. They say that all our languages form part of a complex, dynamic system in our brains that changes continuously and they put forward a simple rule which states that information we do not regularly retrieve becomes less accessible over time and ultimately sinks beyond our reach. In relation to our languages, these are in a constant state of flux, they argue, depending on the degree of exposure we have to each. Talking to colleagues about this in the EMTAS office, they said they had noticed changes in their own languages over time. Kamaljit talked about how her ability to write in Hindi has decreased due to lack of use, whilst Ulrike and I had both experienced difficulties with word retrieval and with one language affecting the other in different ways. For instance sometimes, because of immersion in Turkish all those years ago, I would respond in Turkish to members of my immediate family who don’t speak the language when I went home for a holiday. They were grateful that this passed fairly rapidly, though I observe my languages have been shuffling around in my mental filing cabinet ever since. Mostly, English sits at the front and comes out first, Turkish is a bit further back but in front of French, pushing French out of the way when I am in France much to the bemusement of the French – the majority of whom don’t speak Turkish either.
Week 3 of term 1
Alongside the day job, I have carried on reading for my PhD studies and my focus this week has been on qualitative research methods. One thing I need to consider carefully is my own impact on the situations I will be researching because even if I am only there to observe, this in itself will influence not only what happens but also how I interpret what I see. Clearly in a classroom situation you cannot see absolutely everything that happens, never mind be able to record it all in handwriting that you can read back afterwards. There will be much that you don’t see at all, and also much that you do see but that you don’t record – which isn’t to say it’s not useful or relevant to the area of research, just that there will be inevitable casualties due to the pragmatic aspects of what you’re able to do as the researcher. Anyway, the long and short of it is that researcher bias is something I will need to be aware of as according to several different authors, you can’t remove it from the equation. Rather, you need to be aware of your point of view, your previous experiences and prior knowledge and how these things colour the way you see and hear and interpret events in order to manage the impact of your own bias on your research. It is interesting to me to consider too how language and cultural differences might impinge on methods like interview, and there is a lot to think about when you are planning to use this as a tool to elicit data from people. You could, for instance, have a set of predetermined questions and you could just ask people those. Or you might find this too interrogative a way of doing an interview which just doesn’t fit with what you are trying to achieve – which in my case is a full, rich picture of people’s lived experiences and views. So I am thinking about a more flexible approach, possibly around doing some mapping of languages, people, communities and the like while people talk, which won’t look much like the sort of interview I mentioned first but will hopefully give me the sorts of data I am looking for. I have yet to read the chapter on coding, so there is a chance I may change my mind about this. Keep tabs on the journey as it unfolds using the tags below.
By Laura Harman-Box, Year 6 teacher with responsibility for the New Arrival Ambassadors (NAA) at Talavera Junior School with an introduction from EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Claire Barker.
Recently I had the pleasure of working in Talavera Junior School in Aldershot. I went to train thirteen young people to be New Arrival Ambassadors (NAA). Talavera Junior School is a very diverse school that welcomes children from many counties, cultures and religions. Many of their children are from Service families and this is one of the groups than New Arrivals Ambassadors works particularly well with. Many Service children are used to transition in their lives and are able to talk confidently about what makes a good transition for them. The children who have experienced transition all say how they wished they had had a New Arrivals Ambassador when they went to their new school. It highlights to the whole cohort that is being trained that everyone - adults and children - experience the same fears and insecurities when faced with a new challenge and setting. Laura Harman-Box, Year 6 teacher at Talavera with responsibility for NAA had this to say after the training:
The New Arrival Ambassador Scheme seemed like a perfect fit for our school, working both as a welcoming system for our high level of new entrants and as a chance to develop leadership qualities in our pupils.
As a school in a garrison town, our school population can be very turbulent. This is, understandably, difficult for some pupils, particularly when they find it hard to then find their place in their new environment. We believe that we offer great support for pupils who enter at an unusual time of the year but are also aware that some pupils will need additional transitional support. Who better to deliver this than the peers with whom our new arrivals will be learning, playing and growing?
We chose our New Arrival Ambassadors based on the emotional literacy level of the children and children who would themselves benefit from taking on a role of responsibility within our school. The training itself was such a positive experience, in part because of the diverse range of children (ethnically, culturally, age-wise, academically, with regards to interests) who could bring an eye-opening number of experiences to this scheme. Encouraging and providing opportunities for all pupils is a fundamental value of our school, especially leadership roles. The NAA Scheme has provided us the chance to give this opportunity to children who may not otherwise always get it.
Our pupils' well-being is a continued focus for us and the
NAA scheme provides another valuable way of ensuring all pupils feel safe,
comfortable and ready to learn. This is the start of a journey for our New
Arrivals Ambassadors, one that they cannot wait to begin! Here are their comments:
Today we learnt about becoming a New Arrival Ambassador and how we can help new arrivals with settling in their new class without making them panic. We learnt today that new arrivals can choose who they want to be friends with, which surprised some of us. We thought it would be our job to be their friend but our trainer, Claire, helped us to understand that everyone should choose their own friends. We were taught that if a new arrival tells us something and it is serious, we must tell the teacher immediately due to the fact that we can't always help them. We've learnt that a New Arrival Ambassador is a very important job and we must work hard to continue to represent our school and make every new pupil feel comfortable and safe here. We look forward to being New Arrival Ambassadors!
Visit the Hampshire EMTAS website to find out more about the NAA and come back soon to read a blog comparing the NAA with the Young Interpreter Scheme.
Astrid Dinneen shares the exciting news
Left to right: Astrid Dinneen, Chris Pim, Michelle Nye & Sarah Coles
The Young Interpreter Scheme® has featured in several articles since the inception of the Hampshire EMTAS blog and this was mostly with a view to share best practice when using children and young people as buddies in school. In this article we are blowing our own trumpet and telling you about the latest award received by Hampshire EMTAS for the scheme.
On Wednesday 14 November, The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) held their annual award ceremony which celebrates "the importance of language and cultural understanding, the value of languages to business and industry and excellence in language learning". Awards were given to individuals, teams, organisations, schools and language centres who all demonstrate excellence in language learning, translation and interpreting. The Threlford Memorial Cup, CIOL's most prestigious award was given to the Young Interpreter Scheme®.
The cup was first presented in 1935 by Sir Lacon Threlford, Founder of the Institute of Linguists. In the archives of the time the cup was described as "the world's greatest trophy for fostering the study of languages" – so a huge achievement and a massive honour for Hampshire EMTAS which I was proud to represent alongside my colleagues Michelle Nye, Sarah Coles and Chris Pim seen on the photo above.
This historical cup stays with the CIOL however we are keeping an engraved medal and a certificate which I look forward to showing everyone involved in the scheme. I particularly want to dedicate this award to everyone who has contributed to the success of the scheme over the years: the children and young people, the schools, the Young Interpreter co-ordinators, the practitioners who shaped the scheme right from the beginning, the whole Hampshire EMTAS team and all our supporters in the field of EAL.
I know that Young Interpreters and practitioners in schools across the UK - and beyond - will be so excited at the news. And who knows, perhaps one day the CIOL will be giving accolades to linguists who started off as Young Interpreters… So watch this space!
In the meantime why not log into your Young Interpreter Moodle account, sign up to the scheme, follow us on Twitter or Facebook or read the December issue of the Young Interpreters Newsletter?
Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Chris Pim busts popular EAL myths
Anyone who works with EAL learners, particularly those at an early stage of learning English, knows how challenging this can be. The only common factor besides varied exposure to English is that these pupils have another influencing language in their background. In all other respects they vary as much from each other as non EAL pupils. Not only do we, as practitioners, need to consider the overall aptitude of a learner but also complex issues such as proficiency in first language, cultural factors, previous learning experiences and family circumstances. This makes effective support for EAL learners particularly difficult and raises some important questions. How do we know whether our current provision is working? How do we know that an alternative intervention or set of support strategies might not produce more effective results?
As a specialist teacher adviser, working for an established ethnic minority achievement team, I have come to an understanding about what I believe works best with EAL learners at different stages of acquiring English. My assumptions have been informed by looking at findings from more than 40 years of research, as well as observation and personal experience over many years working in this sector. Yet sometimes there would appear to be a mismatch between what happens on a practical level in schools and my understanding of best practice. So why would this be the case?
On one level it is my belief that effective provision for EAL learners can, at times, seem counter- intuitive. Take the issue of whether new arrivals should have acquired a basic level of English before entering mainstream provision. This is still a perpetuating myth, as it seems pretty clear that pupils would have a better chance of engaging with the curriculum if they had a good grasp of colloquial English, than if they didn’t. Whilst at face value that is undoubtedly true, the alternatives on offer in terms of offering a bespoke curriculum outside of the mainstream do most pupils no favours, either in terms of accelerating their development of academic English or enabling them to acquire curriculum-specific skills and knowledge. In addition, it has been shown to knock self- esteem and is a very expensive form of intervention. Except in rare circumstances most pupils simply do not need this level of intervention so long as they are being taught well in the mainstream.
It may be that an English first approach persists as an idea and a practice because it makes us as practitioners feel more comfortable; we project our feelings of inadequacy as we see new to English learners struggling with the undoubtedly challenging demands of learning new knowledge in an unfamiliar language. It is the same fear as restricting pupils’ use of their own first language as a tool for learning. We don’t understand what children might be saying, don’t know what bilingual sources to use and can’t mark their work if they write in an unfamiliar language. Therefore, some believe these types of approaches are to be avoided, despite unequivocal evidence that this benefits most learners who are orally fluent and literate in one or more other languages.
One widely held belief goes like this: Our early stage learners of English would do better if we reduce the cognitive challenge in the work, perhaps grouping them with ‘less able’ pupils where there is often an additional adult available to offer support to the whole group. In some cases, this belief extends to withdrawing pupils for an intervention session, either 1:1 with an adult or in a small group guided session. To be clear, grouping EAL learners with less able pupils and significant amounts of withdrawal intervention are not effective approaches for all sorts of reasons. Guided sessions also tend to limit the quality of peer-to-peer dialogue which is generally unhelpful for very early stage learners of EAL.
What I find interesting is that pupils often say they like this approach, possibly because they are receiving more attention from an adult than normal and therefore feel they must be learning something. But is it enough to implement a strategy simply because children enjoy it? Withdrawal intervention for early stage EAL learners is also popular with some practitioners who believe that their pupils make good progress in this setting. Yet it is my belief that this is a pedagogical placebo. By this I mean that any reasonable intervention from an adult is likely to help a pupil make progress. But will this be more successful than what the pupil would have received if they had remained in a well-taught mainstream lesson with the class teacher?
My advice is to keep early beginner EAL learners in the classroom as much as possible. Provide these pupils with the same curriculum and experiences as their peers, support access with sound EAL pedagogy and offer them alternative ways of demonstrating their learning.
Explore the following links for guidance around good practice teaching and learning for early stage learners of EAL:
A review by Jamie Earnshaw, Hampshire EMTAS Teacher Adviser.
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
As a monolingual teacher of English as an additional language, I often find myself working with students I do not share a first language with. I tend to work with students in the secondary phase of their education, the majority of whom are working on GCSEs. This often involves having to read and use texts full of more complex, academic language, usually based on more abstract concepts. I work with students from a variety of backgrounds; some fully literate in their first language, others not able to read or write but are fully competent in speaking and listening. Therefore, the way I help students to access unfamiliar texts very much depends on the individual student. The C-Pen was quite the breakthrough for me in supporting in my role.
The C-Pen is simple to use for those who are not tech savvy. Just plug it in to charge and before long, it’s ready to use. The simple menu screen makes it easy to select the target language. Then, as easy as it sounds, the tool is ready to be used. The tool works by the user highlighting the target text using the pen, either in print or on screen, and then it provides a translation of the word in the selected other language, along with a definition of the word. So, the C-Pen can be used by students working in English who want to know what particular words are, and their meaning, in their first language. Alternatively, students using first language texts to support their understanding of key concepts can use the pen to check the definition of any words in their first language they are not familiar with, keeping in mind that higher level texts may well have advanced language students have not even learnt in first language.
The pen will read out the target word and provide a definition of the word, in the two languages selected, on the screen of the pen. For those students not secure in reading, the fact that the pen reads out the target language overcomes this possible barrier. Nevertheless, this audio functionality is of course beneficial for all EAL learners; the importance of students hearing target language modelled is a fundamental principle of good practice for supporting students who are learning English as an additional language.
Often lessons are so fast paced, it can be difficult for students to use a traditional bilingual dictionary to look up individual words. With the C-Pen, it is much easier for students to look up words in fast succession as the tool works instantaneously. And, another real benefit of the pen, is it allows students to store texts and words they have looked up in files on the pen, so students can easily go back and look at any text they have looked up during their day and they can then download the files to their computer. They can therefore easily go over any texts or words, to recap their learning. They can even use the pen to audio record any ideas or thoughts they have.
The C-Pen very much encourages students to develop their independence in accessing and understanding unfamiliar texts. Students are easily able to use the pen without support from others. Nevertheless, it is of course a great tool for students to use collaboratively with others students too. Students who speak different languages, working on the same text, can use the pen to easily switch between definitions in different languages when focused on particular words/text.
Whilst it is important for students to be able to understand language at word level, it is also essential that students are able to use the language in context. The C-Pen supports with this. As well as giving a definition of the text, it also provides a sentence, in both English and the other language selected, in which the target word is used.
The C-Pen functions in English, Italian, German, Russian, Spanish and French. It really is a must have for all learners of English as additional language.
More strategies for KS3 and KS4 can be found on the Hampshire EMTAS website.
WHAT IS FOR LUNCH TODAY, MUM?
By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea
Being a parent is never easy, being an EAL one sometimes can be even worse… In the first chapters of my diary I wrote about my experience as an EAL child, how I made my daughter feel comfortable in her new environment and what strategies I used at home to support learning. In this new chapter, I will try to tell you how I found my way though the labyrinth of school meals.
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
4/9/2018 - Ok guys, back to school, yahoo! After six weeks with the children in full swing, the sense of relief at the idea that we don’t have to entertain them anymore is tangible. In every house, uniforms are all set at the end of the bed, schoolbags already by the front door. Everything seems to be in the right place when the most dreaded question arrives from our lovely little ones: “MUM, WHAT AM I HAVING FOR LUNCH TODAY?” And the nightmare begins. At least for me, because I hate thinking about lunch before I have even had breakfast! And also because Alice is a bit fussy when it comes to eating, and going through all the possible choices with her can take hours.
For some of us EAL parents, school dinners (they are called dinner even if it is lunch…) are an unknown territory. In Italy, usually school ends at 1 pm and children come home for lunch. Some families choose to leave their children at school for a longer time, in which case they eat at school, but it is not mandatory. And even if they eat at school, they have no choices. The menu is one, and often families have to provide part of it.
Imagine Alice’s surprise on her first day at school in the UK when she was offered several choices: meat menu and vegetarian menu which she had to order by colour (red and green). Never mind colour blindness… Alice could also choose from a sandwich and jacket potato menu. To guarantee variety and choice – and to add a little spice to my organisational skills – school menus work on a three week cycle, whereas the jacket potatoes and sandwich menus stay the same throughout the terms. I could never be thankful enough with Alice’s school for providing me with a lovely colourful copy of the menu, as big as a bedsheet, that we stuck on a magnetic white board – so we can always have it at hand and discuss the choices in advance. Thankfully, Alice’s teacher thought of also giving us a translation of the menu into Italian (see HC3S for translations). These are a great support for EAL parents, thank you, while we try to get our head around what foods such as Yorkshire puddings might possibly be.
Being the fussy little eater that she is, Alice approached the school menu with some resistance, so at the beginning she was allowed to pick and choose what she wanted to eat. She was eager to be like all the other children, so she wanted to take part in this process of lining up/getting a tray/having all her food put in there in one go/sit down/clear your plate/go to play. She enjoyed it, and also eating with other children was a chance for her to talk freely to them. But this new system had also some downsides: one day she came home very mortified because her tights and skirt were completely covered in gravy. She told me that her hands got dirty and there were no napkins available, so she had to clean them on her tights. YAK! My first thought was that it was not possible that there were no napkins. She must have made it up, mustn’t she? So the next morning I went to her school and asked about napkins and I was told that the child had been truthful: THERE WERE NO NAPKINS. ARGHHHHHH! Anyway, she enjoyed the flavours of school food, loved the roasts, avoided all the ‘exotic’ ones (such as curry dishes), stayed far away from garlic bread (I will take the chance here to tell you a secret: Italian cuisine is NOT based on garlic). She found it a bit strange to have all the food in one tray, since in Italy she would have been served each course in a different plate. She missed Anita’s – the school chef in Italy – dishes though: pasta with pumpkin, pasta with beans or chickpeas, meatballs, meatloaf…
Since, on some specific days, our lovely little one did not like any of the food offered at school, we had to choose the packed lunch option. In Italy, Alice would normally have in her lunchbox a “panino” with prosciutto cotto (ham), prosciutto crudo (cured ham) or similar with mozzarella or local cheese, or a Caprese salad (mozzarella with tomatoes, oil and basil), or a pasta or rice salad, or her all-time favourite frittata di pasta and then some fruit and a nice thing. Water as a drink. We were advised by Alice’s teacher that ideally, her lunchbox should be balanced and contain: carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes), wholemeal if possible; proteins (meat, fish, eggs, low-fat cheese); vegetables and fruit. It was a bit of a challenge to make such a brilliant lunchbox when I was still half asleep, but that’s life! The school was giving out flyers on how to create a balanced lunchbox and they referred to the NHS Change 4 Life website which has easy to follow guidelines and lots of suggestions on how to make healthy and appealing packed lunches. Mind you, there are a lot of possible variations for sandwiches: bread, wraps (Alice’s favourite), pita, flatbread… so it is easier to make them look different and less boring for her.
In addition to this, Alice’s school provided information about morning snacks which have to be low in sugar and fat meaning that crisps, chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks are banned from school bags and lunchboxes (on which I agree, mainly because personally I don’t like them, exception made for chocolate). The top suggestion on NHS Change 4 Life is fruit and veg followed by lower-fat, lower-sugar fromage frais, plain rice cakes or crackers with lower-fat cheese, one crumpet (cold and without jam???), one scotch pancake (I had to look it up on Internet…), one slice of malt loaf (Alice would throw it back at me…). I may be old fashioned and used to food cooked from scratch, but probably a slice of homemade cake would keep our children healthy and happy…
The school office staff was an incomparable source of information. They were so very patient with me when Alice started. They answered my many many questions and took the time to explain that children in years R, 1 and 2 were entitled to free school meals. I learnt we would start paying for school dinners when Alice would move up to year 3 unless our circumstances allowed us to have free school meals until she’s 16 years old. To check entitlement to free school meals I was signposted to the Hantsweb pages by the school office. They also told me about the EMTAS website, which has a brilliant section for parents where I found very useful information about many different aspects of my child’s life in her new school, like support, good parenting, behaviour management, English classes for EAL parents, the Young Interpreter Scheme (other children helping newly arrived EAL pupils to settle in) or the phone lines in different languages where a bilingual assistant can answer parents’ questions when they feel a bit lost.
So, now that you have reached the bottom of this very lengthy piece, how about a well deserved piece of cake??
Hampshire EMTAS Consultant Sarah Coles discusses how you can make sure you’re heading in the right direction.
EAL is a broad topic that touches on many different aspects of school life. Because of this, staff in schools, EAL Co-ordinators in particular, are given to wonder how they might know whether or not practice and provision in their setting makes the grade. Others want to identify not just areas for improvement but also ideas as to how they might achieve these improvements. This is where the EAL Excellence Award comes in.
The EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor team devised the EAL Excellence Award as a way of enabling schools to evaluate both strategic and operational aspects of their EAL practice and provision. It is an online, interactive tool that covers 5 core strands:
- Leadership and Management
- Data, Assessment & Progress
- Pedagogy and Practice
- Teaching & Learning
Parental and Community Engagement.
On screen, it looks like this:
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
Within each strand is a series of statements at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. Progression is clarified as the statements are linear and there is help with the supporting evidence element in the form of a list of possible examples. Practitioners click on the statement they feel most closely reflects current practice in their school and type into a text box the evidence they have to support their judgement.
This is an example of statements at Bronze, Silver and Gold from the first focus within Leadership and Management, together with examples of where the evidence might be found to support the school’s judgement:
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
Once all the statements within one strand have been completed, practitioners can see the overall awarding level for that area, Bronze, Silver or Gold. Once all 5 areas have been completed, they can see the complete picture for their school with the overall awarding level being the lowest of the 5 strands.
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
For example the school above is asserting they are at Gold level for Leadership & Management, Data, Assessment & Progress and Parental & Community Engagement, Silver for Teaching & Learning and Bronze for Pedagogy and Practice. For this school, the overall awarding level would be Bronze. The outcome, presented pictorially, means the EAL lead can readily identify areas of strength and places where some developmental work might not go amiss. In the example above, they might choose to focus on Pedagogy and Practice through their EAL Development Plan for the year, using the Excellence Award tool to support them to develop this area. Thus the tool enables EAL Leads in schools to work in a focused way, achieving a balance of strategic and operational tasks within their role, thereby ensuring they make best use of the time they have available for their EAL work.
When the EAL Lead has completed all statements in all strands of the EAL Excellence Award, they can submit their work to EMTAS. A validation visit will be arranged and if successful, a Bronze, Silver or Gold certificate, valid for 2 years, will be awarded to the school to acknowledge the work they do for their EAL learners.
The EAL Excellence Award includes access to resources such as model EAL Policies, suggestions on where evidence might be found and links to sources of further information and guidance. It links with the EMTAS suite of e-learning modules too, which practitioners can dip into to improve their knowledge of EAL Pedagogy or to find out more about the role of the EAL Co-Ordinator.
To find out more about how to get hold of the EAL Excellence Award to use in your school, or to talk about how you can be trained as a Validator to use the tool in schools outside of Hampshire, please contact Sarah Coles, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this blog I reflect on the team’s first year of blog writing and reveal what’s in store for readers in the Autumn term 2018.
It’s been an exciting first year of blog writing at Hampshire EMTAS with articles relating to a wide range of subjects: EAL, GRT, pedagogy, peer mentoring and much more. Did you notice our blogs are tagged using meaningful keywords? This makes our articles incredibly easy to navigate. You can simply explore our word cloud and click on any tag to see a list of related articles. Why not have a go and see what articles we have in store for you on the theme of Parents, ICT or Communication? For those of you who prefer a table of content, links to the latest 10 articles can be found just below our word cloud.
If you’re already a fan of our blog you will have noticed that our articles have been written by different members of the Hampshire EMTAS team in a variety of roles: Bilingual Assistants, Teacher Advisors, Education Advisors, Team Leaders, etc. Giving the wider team a voice has resulted in rich content which taps into the diverse experience and expertise of our writers. The nature of blog-writing has also given us flexibility in terms of style, tone and formality meaning that every writer’s personality shines through. For example, one of our authors shared the humorous side of her experience as an EAL parent by writing several instalments of a diary. Other writers chose a more academic tone to present research findings (use tags ABAN, WOTH, UASC, etc. for some examples).
We will continue providing a wide range of articles in the new academic year from more wonderful writers in the Bilingual Assistant, Traveller, Admin and Teacher teams at Hampshire EMTAS. We also look forward to publishing work from practitioners and pupils in schools and invite readers to get in touch with a proposal. Readers can also request a blog on a particular topic by using the comment box below (developing a dialogue between you and our writers is another advantage of blogging).
We wish all our readers and writers a well-deserved summer – the perfect time to look back at the 18 fantastic articles published here and to reflect on practice!
By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
I never trusted my mum when she told me that being an EAL parent was not easy. I regret to admit that it has more challenges that I expected. In the first chapter of my diary I went down memory lane, writing about my experience as an EAL child. The second chapter was about how I made my daughter feel comfortable in her new environment. This chapter focuses on strategies I used at home to support learning.
If helping Alice to settle in could be achieved following one’s own gut feeling, supporting her learning in English needed to be done in a less instinctive way. Before leaving Italy, I had taken Alice to the GP for a check-up and asked if he had any advice about how to support her acquisition of the second language. He told me that he assumed that she would pick it up in school without me doing anything special, but told me that we HAD to speak Italian at home because all the emotional life of a person flows through their first language. So we did, and still do, stick to this rule strictly. It would always be Italian at home or when it is just the three of us, and English when we are with other people.
Since I knew that I would be moving to the UK anytime soon, in September 2014 I enrolled Alice in Year 1 in a private school, so when she started school in the UK she could already read, write and count and she could transfer these abilities to English. I have to say that Alice’s school in the UK was amazing. They made her feel welcome from the very first minute. All the grown-ups would be very nice to her and make sure that she had company and was buddied up with some sensible children. Her teacher in Year 1, Mrs Barton, was just amazing. She was always smiling and positive, and kept her under her wing. Mrs Barton would spot immediately if there was something wrong going on and tell me about it when I went to pick up Alice from school, or call me during school hours if she had some concerns. She knew a tiny little bit of Italian, which she used in the first days to welcome Alice to the class and which gave her the chance to guess what Alice was saying in Italian. She would look up specific words on Google translate to explain tasks or instructions to Alice; she would team Alice up with children who were strong models of language and behaviour and make sure she always had a buddy at playtime and lunchtime. She made all tasks accessible for Alice and would provide her with pictures and visuals, so she could participate in the activities just like any other child. Before reading a new story to the class, Mrs Barton would ask me to go to school at pick-up time to read in advance and translate the book for Alice so that she could follow the story in class the day after.
In Italy, Alice was used to having a literacy and a numeracy task plus reading
every day as homework, so she was very relieved when she found out that, in her
new school, homework was given only once a week and was due the week after. In
fact, she felt so relieved that at the end of the first week she did not even
tell me she had homework to do!! Reading, instead, had to be done every day and
recorded on the reading diary. Alice would come everyday with a book from the
Oxford Reading Tree and we would read it at home. In the first weeks, I would
do a first reading and translation of the book and then she would read it. I
also had to negotiate how many pages I would read to her in Italian and how
many pages she would read to me in English. So once I ended up reading 10 (ten)
Italian books in a row, in order to have her read a tiny little English book
with a line in each page. Life can be tough!
One day Alice came home with a sandwich bag full of pieces of paper with just one word on each. At the beginning I thought it was a puzzle and she had to build sentences with them. But, after a more careful look, I realised there were no verbs, so no sentences could be built. I decided to investigate with Alice, but she had no clue about what they were and why she had been given them. I felt too stupid to ask Mrs Barton about them so, not knowing precisely what to do, I stuck them on the fridge with magnets. A few times she played with them, rearranging them as she preferred, or making shapes on the fridge. After a long time, I found out that she was meant to read them every day. That episode persuaded me to ask a teacher every time I was not sure about what I needed to do. No question is too small.
When it came to writing tasks, they mainly consisted of spelling lists. Every week Alice was given a sheet which had the list of words in a column and then two columns for every day of the week. The task was to read the word, copy it in the first column of the day, cover the word and then write it independently in the second column. I cheated. I made her read it and write it independently both times. A bit of a challenge, but it worked because she used to get all the words right in the weekly spelling tests. This exercise also helped her reinforce her first language and acquire new words because we would translate each word in Italian and explain their meaning.
Maths was my nightmare. I know you would think “Year 1 maths a nightmare?? Really??” And the answer is “Yes”. Not because of the difficulty of the tasks themselves, but for the worry of not using the right method to explain things. In the olden days, when I went to school in Italy, we were taught only one method for each operation. To me these are the only options, the easiest ones and the ones that never fail. Can you imagine my face when Alice told me about the “bubble strategy”?? I could only think about a good bubbly drink… Anyway, I resolved to address the maths issues using pegs. Being the “Queen of the Washing Machine”, I had loads of pegs, so I could master additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions and, ta da, fractions. It was easier for me to explain maths using real objects, things that we could count, move around and “bend” to our needs.
No matter which subject the homework was about, since the beginning we have always done them together and with a dictionary at hand. We have taught Alice how to use the old school dictionary (i.e., the paper copy), but we have also downloaded on all our devices Word Reference, an online dictionary that provides also idiomatic forms and common uses (very useful for verbs whose meaning changes depending on the preposition associated). We still do the daily reading and, luckily, since the end of Year 2 Alice is an independent reader and has access to library books, so no more one-line pages for me. In Years 3 and 4, most homework has been project works or topic works which is really nice because we use literacy and numeracy in different contexts. Alice is a very creative child, so we use lots of colours and ICT, which make the tasks funnier.
A great support in acquisition and development of Alice’s social language came from her school, which offered many after-school clubs at a very accessible price. In Years 1 and 2 she took part in many of them: dance, basket ball, cricket, gymnastic. This was a way for her to be exposed to the use of English in a friendlier context and in an environment she knew. She made lots of new friends in school, and had a bit of fun-time with other children, developing new skills at the same time.
Truth is that, not being a professional, I had no precise recipe on how to support Alice’s acquisition of a second language. It was a trial and error process, a bit like Pavlov’s dogs. All I had to do was to be always positive (which comes easy to me) and patient (much harder, I have learnt many breathing techniques), and when the situation was super-dramatic (which, to tell the truth, happened very rarely) HAND OUT A DELICIOUS PIECE OF CHOCOLATE!!!!! (I know this solution is not the most politically correct one but, trust me, it works!!).
By Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Claire Barker
© Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2018
‘I really need the toilet but I don’t know where it is!’
‘Will anyone like me?'
On speaking to many children their biggest fears when joining a school are the toilets and making friends. Many worry that they won’t know where the toilet is; some worry that they will be too scared to ask to go and some worry that there are certain toilets for certain year groups. Many children worry that they won’t make new friends and that no one will like them. They are missing their friends from their old school and lack the confidence to break into established groups to find friends.
Starting a new school at an irregular time of the academic year can be a daunting and frightening experience for some children and cause them great anxiety.
The New Arrivals Ambassadors Scheme
This programme is a hybrid peer mentoring course specially designed to train pupils to support the needs of new entrants into your school community with a focus on vulnerable pupils like Service children, Looked After children and Travellers. Its aim is to ensure that no pupil joining a school at an irregular entry point in the year is left to feel alone and confused.
The New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme trains a cohort of established pupils to guide a new entrant through their school day and to explain how it all works.
This programme is designed to be low key and informal within a limited time. The Ambassadors will learn skills in listening and communicating and they will help the new entrant to grow in confidence and independence in their new setting.
How does the Scheme work?
Each school chooses a member of staff who will have responsibility for choosing the children who are to become Ambassadors. This can be done in a variety of ways: cherry picking the most suitable children, asking for applications for the new role, using the existing school council. It is entirely up to the school how they pick their children – it has to be what works best for you and your setting.
The designated member of staff informs parents of the children that their child is going to be trained for this specialised role and how this role will impact on the whole school community.
The chosen pupils then undergo around four hours of training and this too is delivered in a way that suits your school best.
However, the good news is, you are given all the resources and lesson planning and the letters home in the New Arrivals Ambassadors pack so there is no additional work for you to do if you are the designated adult. You only have to photocopy and deliver!
When the children are all trained they are then ready to be let loose on any new children arriving in the school. It is your job as the designated adult to choose the best Ambassador for the new child to help them settle down quickly and happily.
What are the benefits for the school?
This programme is very effective when planned within the whole school context and is designed to form part of the school’s response to improving outcomes for children and young people particularly from vulnerable groups. It is well placed in Citizenship and PSHE, Healthy Schools, FBV and SMSC. It is valuable in promoting good attendance and behaviour and the development of social skills by pupils. It promotes pupil voice and pupil leadership. The main benefit for the school is new children arriving and feeling safe and secure with a known peer to support them.
How does the NAA scheme differ from the Young Interpreters Scheme (YI)?
Both schemes are mentoring and buddying schemes but the focus is different. The NAA scheme is a short sharp peer mentoring scheme that aims to support all children within your school who arrive at irregular times of the academic year,with the main focus on Service children, Looked After children and Gypsy, Roma, Traveller children. The Young Interpreters Scheme is aimed at supporting children with English as an Additional Language (EAL); like the NAA, the scheme encourages schools to enrol children from all types of backgrounds and not only those that are the main focus of the schemes. Both schemes look at issues like safeguarding, being friendly though not necessarily a best friend, negotiation skills and ways to build up self-esteem and confidence through the training of the Interpreters and the Ambassadors. Both schemes can run concurrently in a school as Young Interpreters and New Arrival Ambassadors target different pupils.
Where do I go from here?
The resource pack costs £45 including the resources CD and film DVD as well as an information DVD. To find out more visit our website.
If you would like a chat about NAA please contact me: email@example.com
If you would like a chat about YI please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or alternatively, if you are raring to go, visit the EMTAS shop for an order form.