Author: Gemma Fanning, EAL Co-ordinator
An additional adult can be very effective in supporting teachers with EAL learners in the classroom. Such an adult may be a teaching assistant, learning support assistant or a regular volunteer. They can significantly enhance learner motivation, confidence and self-esteem (Wilson et al, 2003). If you are a classroom teacher, you may be observed on how you deploy your additional adults, with this measured against your school standards. UK teacher standards state that “Teachers must deploy staff effectively” (DfE Teachers’ Standards). How do you ensure that additional adults are not only deployed effectively, but that their full potential is maximised within the context?
There are a few key things you can do to maximise the effectiveness of additional adults within the classroom:
Below, we discuss some supporting goals for additional adults working in the classroom.
McGill (2012) suggests that an additional adult may need to be encouraged to take a step back, to allow students to develop resilience and independence. This can be achieved by asking the additional adult to let students think about the answers to questions and by offering ‘reflection time’ for learners, rather than requiring them to answer straight away. As Williams and Burden (1997) explain, the teacher is a mediator: both the mediator and the learner are active participants, allowing the learner to acquire knowledge, skills and strategies they’ll need in order to progress.
It is also important that the additional adult complements what the learners are being taught in the classroom. Both the teacher and the additional adult should make an effort to consider how they frame their questions. They should try to avoid using closed questions, but instead ask open-ended questions that lead to a cognitive challenge, as well as embedding the context (Scott, 2012). In addition, ask the additional adult to avoid simply repeating your instructions and to listen carefully to you.
Questionnaire for supporting adults
Prior to the lesson:
In the lesson:
You may need to support any additional adults in responding to student requirements. This can happen during shared planning, or by providing notes or a plan with a list of important and less important things they can do within that lesson. If there is no time to meet, you can make sure that the planning and documents are ready prior to the lesson, and give them a copy or send it via email. The use of a teacher link book, where both the teacher and assisting adults can make notes, can be a very handy communication tool.
The resource accompanying this article demonstrates how both the teacher and an additional adult can support one another when planning for support in a lesson.
McGill, Ross Morrison. Teacher Toolkit: Helping You Survive Your First Five Years. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.
Scott, Caroline. Teaching English as an Additional Language, 5-11: A Whole School Resource File. London: Routledge, 2012. Print
Williams, M. and Burden, R. (1997) Psychology for Language Teachers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Print.
Wilson, V., Schlapp, U. and Davidson, J. (2003) ‘An “extra pair of hands”? Managing classroom assistants in Scottish primary schools’, Educational Management and Administration, 31(2): 189-205 Print.