In this blog and accompanying videoscribe, Chris Pim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor, provides an overview of the needs of more advanced learners of English as an additional language (EAL) and identifies some ways in which schools can support this group of learners in their journey to full proficiency in their use of English across the curriculum.
Most schools have a range of children working at different stages in their learning of English as an additional language. Those schools which actively track progress using a specific EAL assessment framework will be aware that rates of progress vary enormously depending on the context of the child, their age and the specific curriculum area within which they are working at any given time.
Broadly speaking, pupils who are new to English or at an early stage of learning EAL make rapid progress with inclusive teaching and learning practices. However, research shows that more advanced learners, those who have been studying English for around two or more years, can plateau in their learning at various points in their school career. More advanced EAL learners often require specific types of literacy-based support for many years after acquiring oral proficiency.
So, who are our more advanced EAL learners? These learners, who are often but not exclusively British born, appear to speak and understand English at an age appropriate level, yet still require specific support to overcome the cognitive and academic challenges of the curriculum. Some, but by no means all, will also be literate in one or more other languages.
These pupils sometimes slip under the radar of schools, whose focus is often more on beginners; in some cases, they may not even be flagged up on the school’s data systems as EAL at all. There are obvious indicators to look out for, such as reading miscomprehension of key texts and evidence in writing of typical grammatical errors or where writing has obviously been copied from peers or indiscriminately drawn from online sources. However, a more rigorous focus on diagnostic assessment is the only sure way of identifying the specific areas that need attention for each pupil.
Practitioners need to consider the language demands of the curriculum in order to ensure that they plan to teach the specific language and literacy elements presented by each subject area. And practitioners shouldn’t underestimate the significance of the cultural context of the curriculum either. EAL learners, whether UK born or not, sometimes grow up lacking a degree of cultural capital that means they miss important nuances that inhibit understanding. That’s why the best practitioners make meaning explicit for all their learners through well-planned sequences of lessons using a range of multimodal sources; this helps to make messages abundantly clear.
Abridged texts, simple English versions of key information and translated sources, where appropriate, will aid reading comprehension. Digital texts can be made more accessible via text to speech synthesis. Pupils will also benefit from specific guidance on how to make the most of dictionaries and thesauri.
Schools which cater well for more advanced learners of EAL often have a whole school focus on developing academic oracy and talk for writing approaches; strategies which benefit all pupils. Well planned collaborative activities, drama and role-play, presentations, Dictogloss and Socratic talk activities will convert thinking and talking into better academic writing across the curriculum. Recording thoughts and conversations and replaying them prior to writing has also been shown to improve the cohesion of pupils’ writing.
Another beneficial strategy is a specific focus on pre-teaching and rehearsing the use of key vocabulary, both technical and academic, including exam terminology. A specific focus on Greek and Latin stem and root words can be helpful. Call-out games like follow-me, Bingo and vocabulary Jenga are fun ways to consolidate vocabulary knowledge. Card-based matching games are also very useful. Word clouds drawn from key texts are a great way to get children thinking about subject content, text-type and genre.
Converting thinking and talking into great writing is a perennial problem for some more advanced EAL learners. Technology has a role here - supportive word processors and in-built soft keyboards can help pupils compose digital texts – for example through speech to text, word prediction and integrated spellcheckers and thesauri. The process need scaffolding using knowledge organisers, writing frames and key word banks. And text-types like recount, persuasion and argumentation need modelling to help pupils understand the conventions most frequently required for each specific subject area.
Above all, more advanced EAL learners want approachable teachers who understand their needs, make explicit the next steps in their learning and maintain high expectations at all times.
Hampshire EMTAS Guidance Library - Advanced EAL Learners
Aide-memoire of best practice
Ensuring the attainment of more advanced learners of English as an additional language
Bell Foundation EAL Resources (search by language level)
By the Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisors
We hope you had a wonderful, relaxing summer break and are now refreshed and ready for the new academic year. In this first blog of 2020-21, we are taking the opportunity to share with you some of the exciting projects we have been working on and to signpost some things to look out for in the year ahead.
EAL Excellence Award film debut
A few months ago, before the lockdown, five EAL coordinators from local primary and secondary schools in Hampshire LA came together to talk about their experiences around entering for the Hampshire EMTAS EAL Excellence Award. It was a highly successful morning with lots of sharing of practical ideas. We thank Anne Marklew (Harestock Primary School), Dawn Tagima (Cherrywood Community Primary School), Stacey Barnes (Ranvilles Infant School), Eileen Rawlins (Cove Secondary School) and Sophie Durbajlo (Merton Infant School) for kindly allowing us to video this session for the purpose of disseminating best practice more widely within the local authority and beyond.
The themes explored in the video include:
- the benefits of entering for the award
- preparing for the award
- submitting data and evidence
- next steps and working towards the next level
Watch the video here.
Training and resourcing
We are really pleased to welcome to the EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Team Lynne Chinnery and Helen Smith. Lynne will be supporting schools in Havant & Waterlooville, and Helen will be covering Basingstoke & Deane whilst Astrid is on maternity leave.
Our training activities for 2020-21 include a series of network meetings. We have added to our offer network meetings aimed at an NQT and RQT audience to get people started in the right direction when it comes to practice and provision for EAL and GRT learners. Other network meetings are also available so if you’re interested, see our website for more information and for details on how to book. The first of our network meetings this year will be held online. If your school would be willing to host a network meeting towards the end of this term or later in the year, we'd love to hear from you. If you can’t attend one of our network meetings, don’t forget our EAL e-learning is an on-tap way of accessing training and it’s free to staff in Hampshire-maintained schools.
Two new services we offer schools in 2020-21 are EAL and GRT clinics. During an EAL Clinic, a Specialist Teacher Advisor visits the school on a pre-arranged date and meets individually with members of staff to discuss 1:1 the EAL children in their class. Please see here for more information. For schools with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils on roll, the GRT clinic model may be more relevant. This is aimed at supporting the GRT Co-ordinator on staff to develop and embed best practice for GRT pupils, including Showmen. For more information, see the EMTAS website. We are launching for 2020-21 a Kushti Careers page showing the achievements of members of the GRT community and how education has influenced their life choices
The very successful 6-module Supporting English as an Additional Language (SEAL) course is due to run again from October 2020 to July 2022. The advantage of sending a member of staff on this course is that you will have an EAL expert on staff who can advise colleagues about EAL best practice and cultural aspects that may affect a child’s learning and/or ability to settle into their new school environment. For further information see here.
Date for your diary: Friday 9th July 2021 is the next EMTAS Conference. It promises to be an exciting and informative day with EAL and GRT speakers and workshops that will impact on your practice in the classroom. Look out for communications on the conference throughout this term.
In case you missed it before the summer holidays, we released our guidance on entering EAL learners for the autumn GCSE exam series. The guidance includes information about the autumn 2020 GCSE exams, factors to consider when deciding which EAL learners to enter and suggestions as to how to support EAL learners who are entered for the exams. Keep in mind that the exam boards’ deadline for entering learners is fast approaching: 4th October for English and Maths and 18th September for all other subjects.
In light of the changes to the Heritage Language GCSEs in the autumn, particularly the removal of the speaking tests, we have adapted our packages of support to focus on preparing students for the Reading, Writing and Listening exams. Full details can be found here. Please complete the request form on our website and return to the EMTAS inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot off the press, we have just released our guidance on the placement of EAL learners in sets, groups and streams. A copy of the full guidance can be found on our moodle, alongside our other Position Statements. We hope that this document will help to inform decisions made by all school staff about the best sets, groups or streams in which to place learners for whom English is an additional language.
Another useful resource which has just been updated and is available to use on our website here is the audio version of ‘Welcome to Hampshire’ in English, our information guide written specifically for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people. This is aimed at those who can understand English but who are not yet able to read it sufficiently well to access the booklet independently. Our website also hosts translated version in Arabic, Farsi and Pashto, aimed at children and young people who are literate in these languages.
Young Interpreter Scheme research update
In other news, Debra Page’s PhD research evaluating the Young Interpreter Scheme’s impact on children’s language use, empathy, and cultural awareness continues. Debra is now recruiting schools for her data collection phase. Since Debra’s last blog in May, her teacher questionnaire has closed and findings from this will be released in a few months’ time. If your school is interested in taking part in this exciting research project, do email email@example.com; she will be very happy to discuss her project and what it involves with you.
Developing the writing of more advanced EAL learners (AEL) project
This year EMTAS is planning an all new cross-phase project aimed at improving the writing of more advanced EAL learners (and non-EAL peers) using authentic reading and writing experiences. The project aims to use cutting edge technologies (two types of Google tools) to engage learners in creative experiences that link with existing Programmes of Study and project-based learning already happening across the curriculum.
There are two elements to the project:
a. Providing online sources of rich multimedia experiences around topics and themes that support work already going on in the curriculum. These experiences contain authentic high-quality texts that act as a model for children prior to designing their own versions.
b. Enabling children to create their own multimedia versions using the Google tools within Google Earth and Google Poly (3D/Virtual Reality).
The main text-type is likely to be information-based although the experiences may also feature elements of explanation and persuasion or discussion depending on the subject and topic.
Any schools wanting more information or who are interested in taking part should contact Chris Pim - firstname.lastname@example.org
Like schools, we have been working on a comprehensive Risk
Assessment to support our staff to begin safely visiting schools again after
the lockdown. We recognise that the
Covid-19 scene is subject to frequent change and our aim is that our Risk
Assessment will keep pace with the situation as it continues to develop. Schools can be reassured that we take the
safety of pupils, families and all school-based colleagues as seriously as we
do that of our own staff and we are working hard to come up with creative ideas
for ways we can continue to offer support where it’s needed. If you have any suggestions to make to that
end, do get in touch.
More news coming soon
written by Chris Pim, Hampshire
EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor
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)
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.
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