A beginner EAL learner is learning a foreign language and requires basic vocabulary and language structures to make progress. Initially, they translate what they hear or read into their home language. Their home language is dominant and English is an alien language, gradually the transition to a second language occurs. As the learners increase their understanding of classroom language, they are able to converse more easily with their friends and teachers, and take on the same range of class activities as their peers. In some cases, English can become the dominant language and the learner may start to lose home language. For this reason it is important that the learners are encouraged to continue to develop their home languages. In some cases this may take place in school, in others, after school and at weekends. This extra pressure on the EAL learners, as well as the additional need for constant studying of English, should be taken into account when assigning homework to ensure that they have a balanced life out of school.
Jim Cummins, who has researched EAL learning extensively, points out the difference between BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, that takes up to two years to develop and the CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency that can take from five to seven years to develop. This is the academic language that needs to be developed. In some schools, regular daily interventions exist to support learners in acquiring BICS. On exiting this support, some schools follow this with Language Enrichment classes, which are focussed purely on the academic language skills of the learners. As the group sizes are generally small, it is possible to provide a more individualised program adapted to the needs of each individual learner. Regular collaboration between the class teacher and the EAL teacher is important at this stage to support the work done in class. When available, teaching assistants can be used to further support the EAL program for the individual learners in class. Developing an editing checklist with the learner is a great way of motivating them to edit their work. The learners often memorise the checklist and are able to identify frequent errors initially with prompting, then independently.
Modelling texts and providing key vocabulary is central to a writing task. A useful book covering a variety of text types is the Oxford Discover Series by Oxford University Press. Spider graphs and graphic organisers like the one attached are helpful tools for organising their writing (inspired by Read, Write, Think, International Reading Association). Attend our EAL ‘Train the Trainer’ course and receive training in using the Across Cultures graphic organisers to support EAL learners.
Subject verb agreements, punctuation, breaking up longer sentences, expanding shorter sentences using adverbs and adjectives, spelling and spelling patterns, grammatical structures are all common areas in need of developing. Providing the learners with a useful adjective and adverb list from www.sparklebox.co.uk is a useful way of expanding their vocabulary. The lists need to be reviewed with the learners who need to practice the new words in context. Expanding their vocabulary to develop their writing is key at the intermediate stage.
To help learners understand English syntax, a comparative study of English and their home language can enable learners to understand the differences and similarities. As Goethe, the German writer said, “The best way of understanding one’s language is to learn another one.”
In the example in the picture below, completed by a year 6 learner, a basic framework for categorising parts of language was given. By completing it, you can see he was able to understand the ways in which the syntax in English and Dutch were formed and identify cross-linguistic similarities and differences.
Reading is a great way of expanding and developing language and vocabulary and we will be providing some useful tips on this in the next newsletter.