User blog: Astrid Dinneen
Mum, I don’t want to go to school today!
By Hampshire EMTAS Bilingual Assistant Eva Molea
This is the 5th chapter of my Diary of an EAL mum, a series of blogs in which I share the ups and downs of my experience of bringing up my daughter Alice in the UK. So far I have spoken about my experience as an EAL child, how we prepared a cosy nest for Alice to feel at home in her new country, how I tried to support her learning, and the sometimes peculiar choices for lunch. This chapter is about attendance.
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Unless I was feeling seriously unwell, for me as a child not going to school was NOT an option. Probably because my parents always told me that going to school was my job and that I had to do it as professionally as possible, which meant being neat and tidy - especially at secondary level, where maintained schools in Italy have no uniforms - and well prepared for my lessons. But mainly because staying at home was DEAD BORING. Not going to school meant being locked up at home, no escape. So why would I ever swap a good 5 hours with my friends for the same amount of time on my own?? Therefore, my approach to the subject had always been simple: we all have to go to school. Until... one morning Alice started crying desperately because she didn't want to go to school and that SHE WANTED TO GO BACK TO ITALY RIGHT THEN.
Oh dear me! She was in such a state that, for the first time, I had to consider not sending her to school. I was very surprised though, as Alice had started going to school everyday at the age of 2 (drop off at 9 am and pick up at 2 pm) and had never told me that she didn't want to go to school. What was I supposed to do? I was worried that, had I allowed her to stay at home that day, she would have asked for it again and again. On the other side, to be fair to the child, we had been in the UK for less than a month and she was still finding going to school very hard and tiring because of the massive effort of processing everything in two languages and because of the linguistic isolation she was still experiencing, which she hated.
So I decided to give her a break and spend the whole day together as a reward for her hard work and intense effort. But I made an agreement with her: this would be the ONE AND ONLY exception in her school life (a bit drastic, I admit, but that's it). In Italy I would have just kept her at home, but here I had to call the school by 9 am to tell them that Alice would not be in school that day and why (schools require all parents to do so, otherwise they call you). I tried and tried but to no avail so I sent an e-mail to the School Office and within minutes I received a reply that it was OK to have Alice at home for that day as homesickness could be a real physical and mental condition. I was very grateful for their understanding. Her school is amazing.
Oh no! I had the hairdresser booked on that day, and a class at the gym I really wanted to go to. AARGH! The wise person that sometimes lives within me told me that instead I needed a plan to make the most of our day together so... We started with the hairdresser (I was not giving this up), next out for lunch, then to the bookshop, played some games at home and cooked a nice dinner for dad who, oblivious of all the things we had done that day, had been only at work (note to self: get a credit card on his bank account).
At the end of Year 1 Alice missed the last day of school too. Our tickets to fly back to Italy for the Summer holidays were a lot cheaper if we flew on the Friday instead of the Saturday, so I went to the School Office and they told me that they understood the issue but the absence was not authorised. I must have had a question mark on my lovely face as the Office, without prompting, explained to me that the Head Teacher had to authorise every absence and holidays were not a good reason to be off school. Obviously I could take my child with me but that would appear as an unauthorised absence on the register. I was very surprised to hear that if Alice made too many unauthorised absences we would have to pay a fine. And being late for school sometimes can count as an unauthorised absence. Aaarghhh! Given my Mediterranean concept of time, I would need to set my watch 10 minutes early to make sure we would be on time!!! The positive news was that Alice would be authorised to be absent during term time for weddings and funerals. So hopefully we will have loads of them. Let’s rephrase this: loads of weddings. Friendly advice: if you wish to know more about attendance policies, please ask the Office at your children’s school or visit the Hampshire EMTAS website.
We navigated swiftly through the rest of Year 1, 2 and 3 with Alice being true to her word up to Year 4 when, all of a sudden after the Christmas break, she started saying that she did not want to go to school. Obviously, I stuck to my principle that she had to go to school every day, until she started to get ill. At the beginning, she was complaining of a constant tummy ache and initially I thought it might have been a bug she had caught in Italy over Christmas. But that went on for a long time and we explored all the possible health conditions, but nothing came out. So, my husband and I started to worry about other issues at school we might not be aware of. So, just to test the waters, I offered her to change school and, much to my surprise, she accepted straight away. She then had to give me reasons for leaving the school she had always been so fond of. And here she opened Pandora's box: friendship issues of two different types, unkind friends and much-too-sticky friends; feeling limited in the choice of children she could play with; feeling the competition on academic grounds; a bit of tiredness because of her busy routines outside school; but the worse thing was the anxiety of not knowing who to talk to for the fear of not being taken seriously. As soon as she had told me all that, she felt immediately relieved, such a big weight having been lifted off her chest. As soon as she told me that, I felt like the worst mother ever. Why hadn't she trusted me enough? Was I being too superficial? Was I too busy to give her the attention she needed? Could have I spotted the sign of her uneasiness by myself? All this called for a large bottle of whisky to drain my sadness into (straight translation of the Italian saying “affogare I dispiaceri nell’alcool”). Sadly, I don't drink...
I addressed the issue with the school the following morning and, at pick up time, Alice and I had a meeting with the teachers who had promptly and delicately discussed this in class with all the children and everything was back to normal. I think I might be repeating myself but her school is amazing.
If I had a lesson to take home from my experience this was to pay attention to everything Alice tells me (which is hard work as she is a chatterbox, I wonder who she takes after...). It is in the little things that we can spot any difficulties our children are facing and an early detection can help us set things right before they become worrying.
Anyway, since then, I have never heard her saying "Mum, I don't want to go to school today". But, they say, never say never…
Sarah Coles shares the second instalment of a journal-style account of her reading for the literature review and methodology chapters of her PhD thesis.
Week 3, Autumn 2018
Week three of the PhD experience and this time I dwell on second language acquisition in early childhood and whether or not there is a difference in one’s eventual proficiency in a language due to acquiring it simultaneously or successively in early childhood. Simultaneous bilingualism is where 2 (or more) languages are learned from birth, ie in a home situation where both languages are more or less equal in terms of input and exposure, a child would develop 2 first languages. I am not volunteering to try and explain this to the DfE, who seem thus far only able to comprehend home situations in which children are exposed to just the one language, but maybe some followers of this blog don’t find it such a strange notion. If so, then perhaps they are in the company of researchers who suggest children growing up in this sort of situation proceed through the same developmental phases as would a monolingual child, and they are able to attain native competence in each of their languages. I personally think there are many variables at play in any teaching and learning situation, things like motivation, confidence, opportunity, resilience and the like, and they all play a part in our lifelong learning journeys. I also think the concept of “native competence” is problematic. What do we mean by that term? How are we measuring it? Do we mean just listening and speaking or reading and writing as well? What about the different registers – does – or should - fluency in the language of the streets count for as much as academic English delivered with Received Pronunciation? Who says so? Then I consider the many monolingual speakers of English I have known; they are not all comparable in their competence in English, despite experiencing a similar sort of education as me, many of them over a similar period of time. Thus ‘native competence’ is not a fixed, immutable thing – in an ideal world, you don’t stop developing your first language skills when you meet the ARE for English at the end of Year 5, do you? ‘No’, I hear you chorus, clearly agreeing with me that it’s a moveable feast. So now even the yardstick implied by the term “native competence” is starting to look a bit flimsy and unfit for purpose. Funnily enough, it wasn’t nearly so problematic until I started all this reading.
Moving swiftly on: if, however, two or more languages are acquired successively, a very different picture emerges from the literature. It has been argued that in successive bilingualism, learners exhibit a much larger range of variation over time with respect to the rate of acquisition as well as in terms of the level of grammatical competence which they ultimately attain. In fact it is doubtful, asserts a guy called Meisel writing in 2009, that second language learners are at all capable of reaching native competence and he says the overwhelming majority of successive bilingual learners certainly does not. Controversial or what? And Meisel is not on his own here; there are many people who agree with the “critical period hypothesis” which essentially boils down to the idea that there is an optimal starting age for learning languages beyond which, and no matter how hard you try, you will never become fully proficient (whatever that means). Johnson and Newport (amongst others) say this age is between 4 and 6 years - which makes me feel a bit downhearted, like I have completely missed the bilingual boat here. Curses.
It all makes for a rather depressing prognosis for older EAL learners, those late arrivals for instance, yet we know from other research that those of our EAL learners who’ve had long enough in school in the UK can achieve outcomes at GCSE that are comparable with their English-only peers, and this can only be a Good Thing, opening doors for them as they go through their teens and into adulthood. For next time, I will try to read something more uplifting, though I expect whatever that turns out to be it will raise more questions than it answers. Keep tabs on the journey as it unfolds using the tags below.
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.
by Smita Neupane and Sudhir Lama, Nepali Bilingual Assistants with Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service
Have you ever used a Persona doll? Do you know how and why to use a Persona Doll? Persona Dolls are an ELSA resource and emotional literacy support tool used to initiate talk and to share experiences within the classroom. EMTAS were awarded an amount of money in an MOD bid to work with Infant and Early Years settings to introduce Personal Dolls to help all children cope with the demands of moving school, house, and even country with a particular focus on Service children. The Persona Doll project is also designed to involve the family and community and to share experiences with peers. It has an intergenerational element with the involvement of secondary pupils supporting the creation of some of the resources.
In the beginning…
Hampshire is an area rich with Service children across the length and breadth of the county and spanning all the educational phases. The project is designed to support Early Years children but to make it relevant, the experiences of older children was needed and had to be included in the package.
Initially, before the Persona Dolls had joined us, the work started at The Wavell School, with two Nepali Bilingual Assistants from Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) interviewing students with backgrounds from Fiji, Nepal, Malawi and Jamaica. They shared their stories and were open and honest about their experiences including the difficulties faced during transition and the worries about having a parent in the forces. They spoke of homesickness and missing friends and family, the foods they missed and aspects of their lives that had changed. Some of the students were UK born so had not lived in their parents’ country of origin so they took time to find out as much about their culture and history as they could through their families and community. The students created talking books from this information that included pictures and speech both in English and first language. Some of the books included nursery rhymes from their culture and how to count in their first language. The books are proactive and help bring the Persona Dolls alive. The Wavell children chose the dolls and named them ready for their journey into their schools.
When the Talking books were all prepared and each Persona Doll had its name and a passport produced, they were packed up ready to travel with their big note book to record their experiences. The dolls have been taken to infant and primary schools all over the county and the idea is that they stay in that school for roughly half a term and then they are off on their travels again. The doll is taken into the school and introduced into the class where it will be staying and the children get to ask it questions and to find out what it likes and dislikes.
Some ground rules were set:
- doesn’t matter how dirty the doll gets
- no face painting, hands or feet painting of the doll!
- it is not to be used as a reward
- it has to be included on the register
- it has to have its own seat, peg etc.
- it has to have lots of different experiences
- everything has to be recorded in the Persona Doll’s book and shared.
The first doll to leave EMTAS was Himal, a Nepali boy, and he went off to Talavera Infant school and Becky the class teacher. Becky and the class totally embraced this project and the work was amazing. Himal attended an Eid festival where he was gifted new shoes. He went to a Christening. He went to a hot tub party (but just watched). He also shared his feelings about moving to a new school and how this made him feel.
The Persona Dolls generate lots of discussion with the children. It encourages them to think about how they feel when they experience trying something for the first time. It makes them think about what a good friend is and how a good friend can support a new arrival. It allows the children to talk about things that may worry them about transition and about what is happening in their lives at home and at school.
Desired outcomes …
It is hoped that the eight dolls will continue to transition from setting to setting and may even revisit schools they have been to already as can happen with Service children.
One of the aims of the project was to help build up pupil self esteem and confidence. It is hoped that through exposure to the stories children will want to talk and share their own feelings and experiences. Through listening to each other’s experiences it helps children realise that they are not alone in what they are feeling and it is okay to feel that way.
While the project has a fun element of taking the doll to different celebrations and events it is also teaching social and emotional skills through communication and responsibility.
The feedback so far from two schools has been very positive and the children have loved having their guest to stay and were really sad when they left. This too helped teach pupils resilience as many children feel unhappy and lost when their best friend moves on and this helps them build up coping strategies to deal with this and invites discussion within the classroom to look at feelings.
Do you want to be part of this?
If you are a Hampshire school and would like to be part of this ongoing project please email Claire Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be delighted to have you come on board and training is available this term.
Please see our website for further information on the use of Persona Dolls.
If you are a school outside Hampshire and would like a chat about how to set this up in your area, please contact Claire Barker, email@example.com.
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.
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.