A Recipe for a Successful Start for New Arrivals in School (Part 1) – Free Empathy Cards Attached!

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A Recipe for a Successful Start for New Arrivals in School (Part 1) – Free Empathy Cards Attached!

It is Friday morning; the Head teacher comes to tell you that on Monday morning you will have a new student arriving who does not speak much English.  How can you give a successful welcome for that student given the time frame?

It almost goes without saying that the more information and communication that a class teacher is given prior to a new student arriving in school, the more successful the start. To have a whole school plan in place for new arrivals, especially for students who do not speak English, is gold dust.  Chapter 3 in ‘Teaching English as an Additional Language 5-11: A Whole School Resource’ by Caroline Scott sets out a framework for a school to set up such a plan and will be referenced in this article. In my experience, the more prepared a school is and the more information that is shared, the smoother the transition for a new arrival into the school.

However, a good induction programme takes time to prepare, in the meanwhile, what are the practical things a teacher can do, with limited time, to prepare for a successful welcome?

Preparing the Classroom
•Find out their name and birth date and add them to any groups – especially if the class is divided for specialist lessons.  Make sure they are accounted for and there is no confusion over where they should go.
•Write their name up on any lists on the wall including birthday charts, library lists, PPA lists etc.
•A visual welcome is extremely important to a new arrival given the fact that they understand very little spoken English.  Getting their tray, peg and books labeled and ready is very welcoming.
•Arrange an adult mentor to help monitor and guide the first few weeks.  This person could be another adult in the classroom such as the TA or the EAL support.  My experience is that this role is key and can’t usually be the class teacher – it is an extra support for the student and teacher.  A mentor provides a ‘go to’ person for the new student and, if resources and staffing allows, someone the student can spend ‘down time’ with.  This is something we will discuss in a later article. The framework (page 16) clarifies this role and provides a structure for the role and possible meetings.

Preparing the Class Students
•Find out how to pronounce the student’s name and which name to use (sometimes their recorded name is not their known name) and share this with the Class.
•Arrange peer buddies (if they can be a 1st language buddy too, so much the better).  It is important that you take the time to explain the role to the students and the time frame – a good summary of the role of ‘buddy’ is set out in the framework on page 14.   Break times can be a very hard time for all new students and particularly if you do not speak the language.  It is excellent practice to arrange buddies to support students during breaks.  Remember that it does not just have to be one buddy, it can be a shared role.  If you have set up an adult mentor, they can play an active role in developing and monitoring the buddy pairings.
•Let the Class know that the student is arriving and brainstorm how they can help him/her settle and feel part of the Class.  Build empathy for the new arrival with your Class; share some history of their language and culture.  I have prepared two lessons you could adapt to provide a forum for discussion with the class in preparation for the new arrival.  The idea behind these lessons is to both build empathy for the new student, but also to think of practical ways the Class can actively help a new arrival settle and learn.

First game – Free Empathy Card Game  (attached)
Empathy cards have been designed with purpose of building a bridge between the known and the unknown and encouraging students to empathize with the experience of a new arrival in the class.

There are 10 cards.

The cards with a yellow heading are designed to encourage students to make connections between their own experiences and that of the new arrival.
The cards with an orange heading are designed to encourage the students to start to think of practical ways to help a new arrival settle in, linked to their own experiences.

The Empathy Game can be played independently or in conjunction with the second game ‘Changing Shoes’. If you are interested in downloading the second game please visit our homepage at: www.axcultures.com. Changing Shoes will be out Monday!

Preparing the School
•Broadcast to the staff that there is a new student who does not speak English arriving and share his/her name, language, class they are in and who their break buddy and adult mentor are. Remember to broadcast this information beyond class teachers to include break and lunchtime staff, specialist teachers and TA’s.

This is a good start to preparing for a new arrival. In the next article we will look at setting up successful communication with parents and how to make sure that there is good communication between home and school from the get go.

About the Author
Jessica Tweedie has experience of working as a manager and setting up systems that work for the EAL learner and has ensured that she continues to be a practicing EAL teacher.  She actively explores new ideas and methods to enable students to access the curriculum – in both pull out and push-in lessons and always working in partnership with mainstream colleagues.

This article links to Teaching English as an Additional Language 5-11: A Whole School Resource, by Caroline Scott. See chapter 3: Strategies to new new arrivals embrace their new cultural experience.

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