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by Jamie Earnshaw - Monday, 17 May 2021, 3:29 PM
Anyone in the world

In this blog, Chris Pim, Hampshire EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor, explores how technology can be used to support learners of EAL.

Talking album

Technology, when used appropriately, can enhance any pupil’s learning experience. However, technological solutions have been shown to have relatively small effect sizes in many circumstances (Hattie 2017); when used in the wrong situation, technology may even interfere with learning. It is apparent that effective use of technology is dependent on context and predicated on the notion that what works in one context may not be entirely replicable in another” (Pim, 2013). This is especially true where practitioners have the additional consideration of matching provision to the proficiency in English of their target EAL pupils.


From the perspective of learning EAL, since acquisition of English should not be the totality of a pupils learning journey, technology just used to teach English, particularly where it supplants quality mainstream provision, is best avoided. Instead, the power of technology lies in the potential for enhancing pupilswider learning; enhancing curriculum access, utilising proficiency in heritage languages, providing flexible opportunities for demonstrating learning and supporting the development of English across the curriculum.


Using technology to provide pupils with greater access to the curriculum is an obvious starting point. In order to make learning more explicit for EAL learners, to make the messages more abundant (Gibbons 2008), practitioners need to infuse their lessons with multimedia. Images, infographics, videos, podcasts, animations all enhance meaning and are essential to overcome the additional linguistic and cultural challenges EAL learners experience, whether UK born or recently arrived from abroad.


Using translation tools, either for ad-hoc communication or more academic purposes, is another useful strategy. These tools have become extremely powerful, although they still have their limitations (Pim, 2018). There are many solutions available – these range between dedicated digital devices like ECTACO products, through text-based online translation tools, to apps like SayHi that use voice recognition and the power of neural networking to provide instant translations, read aloud in authentic, synthesised speech. The camera on a portable device can be used through Google Translate to render real-time on-screen translation as well. Whilst not good enough for formal translation, these tools are genuinely useful for two-way conversations, mediated by both parties. With care, they can be used by practitioners to prepare dual-language glossaries and to communicate simple ideas in text. Pupils literate in first language, with guidance, will find them immensely useful to facilitate access to the curriculum and even as a means of providing support with translating their writing from first language into English.


There are many digital resources available to support pupilsmaintenance and development of heritage languages. Companies like Mantra Lingua have had a long association with the EAL field through their audio-enabled, multilanguage books and learning charts. Many schools will already be aware of Mantras TalkingPEN technology which provides a natural link between touch, print and sound to bring interactive learning to the user. Their Kitabu library is also an efficient delivery platform for their bilingual e-books. There are plenty of free e-books available in different languages on the web, but as always with online materials, their provenance will need to be checked. The International Childrens Digital Library is an excellent source of free texts that can be filtered in several different ways e.g. by age category and language.


pen

The importance of developing listening and speaking skills should not be underestimated, whether children are at an early stage of learning EAL or more advanced learners. EAL learners will benefit from structured approaches to develop such skills in English, building on practitioners’ understanding that children are not blank slates and carry relevant skills from their own heritage languages (Coles, Flynn & Pim n.d.).


Storytelling is a perfect opportunity for all children, whether learning EAL or not, to practise their oral skills for authentic purposes; technology can both facilitate the process as well as enable recording and playback. Children can use first language, or a combination of languages alongside English. Using tablet devices and an app like Puppet Pals HD, pupils can work independently - or collaboratively - to create digital stories from backgrounds, moving characters and a recorded narration that is eventually bound up into a movie clip. Software like Crazy Talk, Morfo and Voki allow shy children to develop oral confidence by enabling them to make a private recording and then attach it to an animated ‘avatar’ such as their face, an animal or even an inanimate object.


Technology can also help pupils to create and self-publish stories with digital elements. Book Creator, available on most platforms, enables a user to produce e-books from text, drawings, images, audio and video. Pupils can be encouraged to write independently or collaboratively, using Storybird. This free online tool, accessible from school or home, provides glorious imagery to stimulate creative writing in any language. Mantra Lingua offers another solution in the form of recordable sticky labels, TalkingPENs and a range of software for producing audio-enabled stories.


The ability to record and playback speech allows children to practise pronunciation, rehearse vocabulary and play around with chunks of language in preparation for further tasks. There are numerous portable solutions around (Talking Products and TTS-Group) such as talking tins, pegs, cards and photo albums. The latter devices are especially useful for combining text, imagery and artefacts with recorded speech as a talk-for-writing approach.


The link between understanding text and wider educational attainment has resonance for learning EAL, since pupilsreading skills are reportedly on average a year behind monolingual peers (Smith 2016). Whatever approaches schools take to address this discrepancy, practitioners need to bear in mind that learning to read is just one element woven into a rich tapestry that results in a pupils lifelong passion for reading. It is important that teaching builds upon pupilsexisting reading proficiencies in other languages, that practitioners use age-appropriate texts and capitalise on pupils’ interests through presentation of a diverse mix of texts.


There are some genuinely useful resources and technologies for enabling pupils to access texts which might ordinarily be beyond them. It is worth looking online for translated and abridged versions of typical class and course readers. Many book schemes provide texts with an audio CD such as Oxford and Cambridge graded readers. Providing an audio accompaniment for an associated text like this is a particularly useful technique. E-books offer another option, although practitioners should bear in mind that some pupils may not particularly like them, rather preferring to read an actual book. However, along with high quality audio, e-books do provide additional features such as contextualised glossaries. Print can be read aloud from paper-based sources through OCR scanning technology using a device like C-Pen; different versions of C-Pen offer additional functionality such as in-built dictionaries and translation capability. Digital text can easily be read aloud from the screen on computers and mobile devices using integrated text-to-speech software. Its also possible to look up word meanings and translation equivalents directly using online resources that interface with a users digital reader of choice. Finally, it is worth considering how to ensure that online texts are as accessible as possible to emergent readers; for example, finding appropriate sources that present information simply. There are websites like Kidrex, which assist web-safe refined searching, that do exactly that. Also consider use of Simple English Wikipedia for older learners.


dictionary pen

It is well established that children learning EAL need opportunities for explicit teaching and learning of new vocabulary across the curriculum (DfES 2006). Typically, pupils learning EAL have smaller vocabularies in English compared with non-EAL peers, a factor that has been shown, for example, to be an important predictor of reading comprehension Murphy (2015). There are numerous ICT-based tools available for reinforcing knowledge of vocabulary (in all its forms). Dual-language glossaries, supported visually, are easy to create using Widgit, something that may be useful to L1 literate pupils, as well as their parents. Quiz-based vocabularies can be created and/or sourced online from pre-built versions, via Quizlet. Plickers is a free polling tool suitable for whole class vocabulary building activities. Other games can be made using tools like Osrics Bingo Card Generator as well as a wide variety of word-definition matching activities using Formulator Tarsia software. Word clustering tools like WordArt.com help learners focus on topic words, as well as encouraging inference around the text-type and genre the words have been drawn from.

One of the biggest challenges for EAL learners is to convert their thinking and talking into writing. Some children will be ready for sustained free writing, whilst others may be limited to composing smaller chunks of text within digital scaffolds. They may choose to write in English, first language or a combination. It is worth mentioning that computers and mobile devices need to be set up specifically to enable children to interface voice and keyboard input to search, translate and write digitally in a preferred language other than English.
 
Emergent writers benefit from technologies that enable them to convey their ideas through multimedia elements and snippets of text, rather than full prose. Cartoon makers like Comic Life provide a framework in which to drop imagery, either from a device’s camera or an external file, alongside the use of text holding areas like speech bubbles and legends. An app like iMovie can be used across the curriculum to help pupils demonstrate learning in creative ways. Within iMovie, the Trailer feature offers different storyboard templates across a range of genres, encouraging pupils to edit default text with their own short, snappy version to accompany the visuals. Adobe Spark Video is another tool for producing annotated movies. This app allows a user to record an audio narration and build up a storyboard using copyright-free imagery, but interestingly, once again, deliberately constrains writing to short sentences.
 
There are many digital writing tools available for more cohesive writers. These take the form of dedicated supportive word processors such as Book Creator and Clicker Docs as well as plugin software keyboards like Texthelp’s read&write and Grammarly. Traditional supports in digital writing tools like spelling and grammar checks will of course be useful, but only when children are explicitly taught the conventions of red and green underlining. Integrated thesauri will also help those pupils with a strong enough lexical knowledge to make sensible choices between synonyms. Newer features like predictive text assist pupils with word choice, both within and between words. They can also hear back what they have written via text-to-speech synthesis, a feature which can help some users spot their errors more easily. A user can also shortcut typing via the speech-to-text listening capability of the operating system; an easy way for pupils who are not confident in their use of keyboards to render digital text through natural speech. Clicker Docs has an additional feature where topic word banks can be imported from online repositories, enabling easy access to context-related subject glossaries.
 
To conclude, it is worth considering what networking tools are available for busy practitioners to keep up to date and access additional guidance from the wider community of EAL professionals. One idea is to register for the EAL-Bilingual Google group. Following organisations and professionals on Twitter and tweeting around the #EAL hashtag is another great idea. Curating apps like Pinterest and Pearltrees offer a cornucopia of relevant content when searched for relevant terms such as a ‘EAL’ and ‘ELL’. Finally, subscribing to relevant blogs is a useful way to keep up to date with current thinking.
 
This blog first appeared in the EAL Journal, Spring 2020.


References:

Coles S., Flynn, N. & Pim, C. EAL MESHGuide. Accessed 2.1.20
http://www.meshguides.org/guides/node/112?n=119

Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2006) Excellence and Enjoyment: learning and teaching for bilingual children in the primary years. Unit 2 Creating the learning culture: making it work in the classroom. London DfES.

Gibbons, P. (2008). Challenging pedagogies: More than just good practice? NALDIC Quarterly, 6(2), 4-14.

Hattie, J. (2017). Backup of Hatties Ranking list of 256 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement
https://visible-learning.org/backup-hattie-ranking-256-effects-2017

Murphy, V. (2015) Assessing vocabulary knowledge in learners with EAL: Whats in a word? NALDIC Conference.

Pim, C. (2013) Emerging technologies, emerging minds: digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technologies for English language learning (pp. 17-42). London. British Council.
 
Pim, C. (2018, June 12). Arent digital translation tools only useful for keywords? [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://emtas.hias.hants.gov.uk/blog/index.php?entryid=18


Smith, N. (2016, September 26). Reading comprehension is the key to accessing the curriculum. [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://naldic.org.uk/httpsealjournal-org20160927reading-comprehension-is-the-key-to-accessing-the-curriculum

Useful websites:

EAL-Bilingual Google group - https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/eal-bilingual

EMA/EAL related Blogs: https://naldic.org.uk/professional-learning-cpd/links/blogs-news-resources

Mantra Lingua - https://uk.mantralingua.com

Talking Products - https://www.talkingproducts.com/educational-resources.html

TTS-Group - https://www.tts-group.co.uk/primary/computing-ict/speaking-listening

Scanning Pens - http://www.dictionarypen.com

The International Childrens Digital Library - http://en.childrenslibrary.org

Widgit - https://www.widgit.com/products/widgit-online/dual-language.htm

Formulator Tarsia - http://www.mmlsoft.com/index.php/products/tarsia

Osric’s Bingo card Generator - https://osric.com/bingo-card-generator

Plickers - https://get.plickers.com

WordArt.com - https://wordart.com/

Crazy Talk - https://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk

Voki - https://www.voki.com

Comic Life - https://plasq.com

Storybird - https://storybird.com

Grammarly - https://www.grammarly.com

Book Creator - https://bookcreator.com

Read&Write - https://www.texthelp.com/en-gb/products/read-write 


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[ Modified: Wednesday, 19 May 2021, 3:22 PM ]

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    Anyone in the world

    By Hampshire EMTAS Polish-speaking Bilingual Assistants Magdalena Raeburn and Katarzyna Tokarska.


    Have you ever felt frustrated or out of your comfort zone because of communication barrier? Have you been on holiday abroad and found it tricky to explain what you need to your local shops, hotels or restaurants?

    Imagine now, how much more complex and difficult a situation of an EAL child in a UK school might be. Try to put yourself in their shoes for a while… They come to the UK not for a holiday and not out of their own choice. They have to challenge themselves against a new language, new culture and a local community as well as the unknown school set of rules and regulations.

    EMTAS Empathy Training will help you understand the complexity of the challenge that the EAL child faces every day.  The aims of the session are:

    - To increase awareness of the challenges that EAL learners face in the UK schools

    - To give an insight into Polish learners’ cultural school differences

    - To share ideas of how to approach the most common challenges experienced by the EAL learners. 

    During the training you will have a chance to become an EAL learner in a Polish classroom by taking part in a practical group activity on the geography of Poland. You will be expected to understand the teacher’s presentation, participate in a variety of activities, including group work, match the pictures, read and follow instructions as well as answer questions. 

    Would it be ‘only’ a language barrier…?

    The training participants concluded that acquiring the language is only a part of the bigger picture. Cultural traits, local history, geography and customs are also a part of learning when they are trying to integrate into the new reality.

    Our ‘students’ admitted that it ‘really made (them) consider other barriers than language’. 

    They also discovered that the manifested child’s behaviour in the classroom might have different roots rather than the ‘obvious’ ones… One of the participants said: ‘Very useful to understand how they would/could come across as ‘naughty’ or ‘distracted’’. It was an eye-opening experience.  

    Our workshop attendees revealed that their ‘survival’ strategy during the session was to answer ‘yes’ to any teacher’s attempt of communication. Have you got such EAL children in your classroom? Our workshop ‘students’ said it was their technique to use to be left alone rather than having to participate in the activity they do not feel competent or confident with. Our participants also felt ‘frustrated’, ‘confused’, ‘not very clever’ and ‘wanted to avoid being asked’.  They were ‘easily disengaged’, ‘embarrassed when put on the spot’, ‘wanted to give up’ and ‘finally turned off’.

    The session was an opportunity to face your own emotions as well as share the strategies, resources and ideas. Some strategies could involve researching information on the EAL child’s culture, educational system as well as taking your pupil’s personal experience into account.

    When the EAL children join the UK classrooms, they need more than technicality of the language and pedagogical strategies.  They need our empathy at every step of their challenging, new journey. 

    Take part in our empathy exercise at the Basingstoke EAL network meeting on January 28th. Limited spaces available and free to Hampshire maintained schools. For enquiries, please contact Lizzie Jenner, lizzie.jenner@hants.gov.uk.


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    [ Modified: Wednesday, 22 January 2020, 4:41 PM ]

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      Anyone in the world

      At a recent EMTAS teachers’ meeting we had an interesting conversation about how often we find ourselves repeating the same messages to practitioners about what good practice looks like for schools working with new arrival learners of EAL. We wondered what methods beyond face to face training and written guidance might be effective at communicating those core principles.
      Of course we already have various ways of communicating good practice principles to schools in our local authority and the wider educational community, including via School Electronic Communications, Young Interpreter newsletters, our Twitter account @HampshireEMTAS, online EAL training materials and even posting on national outlets such as the EAL-Bilingual Google group.
      In thinking about new ways to communicate our messages, we were inspired by Rochdale Local Authority’s brilliant video ‘Our Story’, which explores the feelings of new arrivals on their first few days at their new school. We decided to produce our own video that focused on how to settle, induct, assess and teach new arrivals to ensure they have the best possible start in the UK education system.
      To produce our video, we decided on a software tool called Videoscribe (from Sparkol). For those of you unfamiliar with this technology, Videoscribe produces those videos where a hand draws images on a white canvas to the accompaniment of a narration and possibly a musical score.
      The first task was to write a script to cover the key messages:
      • baseline assessment, with the avoidance of standardised testing
      • valuing linguistic and cultural diversity
      • building upon the skills and aptitudes of each child
      • effective buddying
      • mainstreaming teaching and learning
      Having written a script, we pooled our ideas around choosing a strong metaphor through which we could visualise the main ideas (sports day theme) and any potential images that would need to be drawn. Working with a local artist we then incorporated those drawings with the narration into the Videoscribe software. The resulting video can be viewed below:

       


      Do signpost this to colleagues, and let us know what you think.
      [ Modified: Monday, 25 March 2019, 9:26 AM ]

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      Anyone in the world

      By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Luba Ashton

      It can be very challenging for many school practitioners to start working with new EAL arrivals who have either very limited or no English language skills. In this situation, the school staff may have a lot questions and many of them can be about the pupil’s native, or first language skills:  

      • Is the child speaking at an age appropriate level?

      • How proficient is this pupil in reading and writing?

      • Is the pupil working above or below age related expectations?

      It is very important to find the answers to these basic questions sooner rather than later to start developing the pupil’s English skills with support of their first language prior knowledge and skills.

      The best solution is always to invite an EMTAS bilingual assistant to carry out an assessment and get important insight in pupil's educational and cultural background. But when EMTAS are not immediately available, is there anything the school practitioners can do in the meantime, even when they do not share the pupil’s language?

      It may sound surprising - but the answer is yes.  

      This is made possible with the help of the First Language Assessment E Learning resource, created by EMTAS. Using this E Learning tool, practitioners are given advice about how to carry out an assessment of pupil’s skills even in an unfamiliar language.

      This resource will explain how to make judgement about reading proficiency; clarify comprehension, notice various features such as accent, intonation, expressing punctuation. It will also help to identify specific strengths and weaknesses in writing; handwriting, quantity, punctuation, self-correction etc.

      The E Learning resource provides a practical step by step guide. It is structured into a few parts and gives very detailed instructions on how to assess listening, speaking skills and also reading and writing skills for pupils who are literate in their first language.

      Other important steps explained are:

      • how to prepare for the first language assessment

      • how to guide and encourage the pupil

      • best practice to conduct the assessment

      • how to interpret the outcome of the assessment

      • how to use the results to further support the development of the pupil’s English skills.

      The E Learning resource uses a real life case study of a new arrival Year 6 pupil, Maria. She is a native Russian speaker. The videos provide very useful guidance and enjoyable viewing. It is amazing how much you will be able to say about Maria’s Russian skills without being able to speak Russian!

      The materials also provide users with a variety of interactive tools, a check list and links to other resources to support the assessment together with explanations of how to use and where to find them. It is set out to enable the practitioner to make an informed decision as to whether the pupil works at an age appropriate level and help highlight any potential issues.

      Feedback from practitioners using this resource has been very positive and I am sure it will be a valuable support for the early assessment of EAL pupils. Visit Moodle for more information.


      [ Modified: Thursday, 24 October 2019, 9:43 AM ]

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        Anyone in the world

        Several articles about the Young Interpreter (YI) Scheme and New Arrivals Ambassador (NAA) Scheme have already featured in the Hampshire EMTAS blog and many schools in Hampshire and across the UK are running either peer mentoring scheme - sometimes both - to support their new arrivals. Other schools have questions. Which scheme should we go for? Do they overlap? What difference is there? Our scheme managers Astrid Dinneen (YI) and Claire Barker (NAA) shed some light.


        © Copyright Hampshire EMTAS 2019


        Q: How did the schemes come about? Why did EMTAS decide to develop two separate schemes?

        Astrid Dinneen: Back in 2004 we saw an increase of new EAL arrivals in schools after the accession of several countries to the EU. To support the well-being of these children, Hampshire EMTAS worked with school-based practitioners in four Hampshire schools to develop the Young Interpreter Scheme. The aim was to create a special role and train children/young people to become buddies and help new-to-English arrivals to feel welcome and settled. We are very proud to have won several awards since piloting the YI Scheme. Can you believe that the scheme is running in over 900 schools now?

        Claire Barker: The New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme was borne out of a need by Children in Care, Traveller Children and Service Children to gain extra support when they arrived in schools at irregular times of the school year. Like the Young Interpreter Scheme, the aim was to support the well-being of these groups of children and to ensure they had a smooth transition into their new setting. The idea was to provide a short, sharp, peer mentoring programme lasting about half a term or in line with the needs of the newly arrived child. The scheme evolved after a successful piloting period that involved six schools covering all three phases.

        Q: So each scheme is designed to support different groups of children, is it?

        Astrid Dinneen: Yes. If your aim is to support EAL pupils whilst promoting the linguistic diversity of your school community then you may like to consider the Young Interpreter Scheme.

        Claire Barker: And if your aim is to support all children joining your school at irregular times of the school year, including Children in Care, Traveller children and Service children, then you may like to consider the New Arrivals Ambassadors Scheme.

        Astrid Dinneen: Of course some Service children and Children in Care (and particularly Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) will also have English as an Additional Language so it's worth considering your school's needs carefully. Some schools are successfully running both schemes.

        Q: How would running both schemes look?

        Astrid Dinneen: An important feature of the YI and NAA schemes is that each is delivered by a designated member of school staff. In schools where both schemes are running it’s a good idea for each to be led by different people who can cater for their own scheme’s specificities and also collaborate on joint work. For example, the Young Interpreter Co-ordinator will buddy up Young Interpreters with new EAL arrivals. When a new EAL arrival also happens to be a Service child, then Young Interpreters can work alongside New Arrival Ambassadors to show them the ropes.

        Another important aspect of running the Young Interpreter Scheme is that the Co-ordinator regularly meets with the Young Interpreters to guide them and keep them motivated in their role. This follow up phase could be another opportunity for joint work and there are suggested activities on the YI’s Moodle. For example, why not work together to promote both NAA and YI roles by creating a movie trailer?

        In terms of pupil selection I think the qualities you would look for in Young Interpreters are similar to those you would expect from a New Arrival Ambassador. Pupils should be friendly, empathetic, welcoming and good communicators. Young Interpreters can be speakers of English only and they can be speakers of other languages too. The same could be said of the NAA, couldn’t it?

        Claire Barker: It certainly could and the schemes complement each other when both are running in the same school setting. It is worth remembering that the NAA Scheme is a timed transitional intervention whereas the YI Scheme is ongoing with its support. The aim of the NAA is to develop the self-esteem and self-confidence of the newly arrived child so they are able to function independently after half a term.

        I agree with Astrid that the two schemes work better when managed by different people in the school so the lines of what each scheme has to offer do not become blurred. Whilst the skills and qualities of a Young Interpreter and an Ambassador are virtually the same, the job description is very different and each has its own demands and specialist areas for the trained pupils. NAA pupils have to learn to build relationships and trust quickly as their support is delivered over a short period of time. Schools do utilise the trained Ambassadors in different ways throughout the year. Some schools use the Ambassadors to support the new intake in September and to work with classes and tutor groups throughout the academic year. Many schools use the Ambassadors alongside their School Council to represent the school on Open events like Parents’ Evenings. Some schools use their Ambassadors to support existing pupils who are struggling with their well-being and life at school. The scheme has flexibility to be adapted to the setting it is being used in.

        Both schemes complement each other and pupils who are Young Interpreters and Ambassadors are highly skilled and proficient peer mentors who can offer linguistic support, well-being support and transition support. Both schemes develop self-esteem and confidence in the Young Interpreters and Ambassadors as well as in the pupils they are supporting and provide opportunities for personal growth.

        Q: Where can our readers find out more?

        Astrid Dinneen: You can learn more about the Young Interpreters on our website, follow us on Twitter or Facebook or read the December issue of the Young Interpreters Newsletter.

        Claire Barker: There is information about the NAA on our website. You can also use the tabs below to read other blogs relating to both schemes.

        [ Modified: Thursday, 10 January 2019, 12:01 PM ]

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          Picture of Astrid Dinneen
          by Astrid Dinneen - Thursday, 11 January 2018, 3:11 PM
          Anyone in the world

          Written by Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea, this is the first instalment in a series of blog posts focussing on the experience of parents of pupils with EAL.

             

          March 1980

          Many moons ago, when I was nearly 5, my dad decided to apply for a temporary position as plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, in East Grinstead, and was luckily appointed. So, we packed our entire house, the useful and useless (silver cutlery included because one could never ever think of dining without one's own silver fork!), loaded our blue Alfetta and embarked on the three day trip that would change our lives.

          It was early 80s, and a very exciting time to be at Queen Victoria Hospital with many other people from all over the world: Australians, French, Israeli, Egyptians, Irish, Italians, just to name a few. And, obviously, some Brits as well! It was also very exciting for us children, all attending the same primary school.

          This is the background of my personal experience as an EAL child. I will not say that it was easy at the very beginning - name it the first month. The sense of deep isolation for not having a child to talk to and who understood me was overwhelming and my mum, who did not speak a single word of English, had to do everything in her powers to keep me entertained.

          Then I started going to school in Year 1 and it was a blessing. My mum felt relieved (and we all know that a happy mum has happy children) as I picked up the language very quickly and made many friends, making her juggling skills no longer needed.

          Besides taking me out of my linguistic isolation, the school gave me much more: thanks to the empiric approach of the British scholastic system, I developed strong observational skills and a genuine curiosity towards what I was being taught, which have been my main features through all my years at school and university. It taught me to challenge what I was learning to prove it right. It helped me develop a very rational approach to everything and the ability to analyse. Should it not be clear enough, I am still very grateful to the system. Also, the environment was amazing: massive playground with forts and a field at the back which had no boundaries. My classroom was big enough to host 30 children, plus a play-pretend corner, a big carpet, loads of toys and walls covered with pictures and resources to support our learning.

          Unfortunately, my EAL experience came abruptly to its end after just one year because my dad's contract expired and we repacked all our house plus some other souvenirs, loaded again our Alfetta and headed south. Back to Naples, Southern Italy. I could have never imagined, at the time, that my own daughter would follow my steps.


          February 2015

          We packed our house, with all its useful and useless clutter, shipped it to the UK - how smart! - and moved in February 2015, my daughter being nearly 6 and halfway through Year 1. Strong from my personal experience, I moved quite light-heartedly. At the end of the day, how hard could it be?? This is when I learnt that every child is different, despite genetics. It also made me understand that I had always seen the whole issue of moving from a happy child's perspective, not from a sensible adult's one. I was not prepared. Not at all.

          Fortunately, school started one week after we arrived, and with a school trip to the HMS Victory on day 1. What a great start! A. was very impressed and this put her in a good disposition towards her new school. As soon as her teacher introduced her to the class, a girl came and took her to line up. An unexpected act of kindness that changed one of my most dreaded days into a lovely and very informative school trip - did you know that when Admiral Nelson died he was put in a barrel of rum to be preserved for his funeral?

          But the linguistic isolation struck her quite soon, so we had the before-going-to-school tantrum and the after-school one. The "I want to go back to Italy right now" desperate cry and the unintelligible sobs that showed all her frustration at not being able to function as well as she was used to in Italy.

          But I was not prepared to give up. Nor to let her do so.


          To be continued… Come back soon to read the next chapter of this unique parent diary, using the tags to help you.

          Visit the Hampshire EMTAS website for information and guidance on how to help settle a newly arrived pupil into school.


          [ Modified: Monday, 23 April 2018, 10:37 AM ]

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