The start of a new school year can be a daunting experience for new EAL arrivals. Some may be devastated to leave their friends, schools and homes. Some may be excited at the experience of a new adventure – but for all, arriving with little or no English can be an alienating and exhausting experience. It is important to gain an understanding of how the child feels about the move, to enable them to settle well.
One example is a girl who refused to speak English for the first term. She spoke only French to the teacher in the EAL lessons, who in turn would give her explanations in French (although it was a group lesson conducted in English). After a term and a half she started to settle, loved her new friends and school, spoke only English and made good progress. However, it was important for her to have had that settling-in time.
Finding a buddy who speaks the new arrival’s home language, preferably in the same year group, can be a great help in the beginning, as they can relax and express themselves effortlessly in a comfortable language. The amount of concentration needed to follow a school day in a new or less familiar language is draining and exhausting. Both parents and educators are often unaware of the toll this takes on the child.
This footage of two siblings settling in their new school in Russia revealed some surprises for the parents, who were under the impression that the younger brother settled in effortlessly, as he did not show any signs of having difficulties at home.
Tips for starting the year:
Glance over these features of best practice for new arrivals:
- Find a buddy who speaks the child’s home language, preferably in the same year group.
- Establish classroom agreements in the first term with the students and put them on the wall.
- Classroom instructions can be practised in a fun way by playing ‘Simon Says’.
- Prepare key academic vocabulary for EAL intervention with students prior to use in class. Get parents on board to help with translation by sending lists home – this can be a key to successful learning and can help parents feel involved in their child’s learning.
- Give key maths vocabulary in advance. It is often useful for students to take key words home to translate into their home languages.
- Establish key goals and intervention strategies. This should be done in conjunction with class teachers and may include grammatical structures such as the use of articles and ways of enabling students to use them with accuracy.
- Use differentiation: have different levels for each piece of work so that more advanced students can expand their writing with more complex sentences and vocabulary, with appropriate support.
- Use different strategies to appeal to different senses and learning styles, including visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (VAK). Many studies show that using different learning styles can influence the level of success.
- Set realistic and individual achievable goals for EAL, in collaboration with both the student and the class teacher. Collaboration with the class teacher is important for planning, as EAL support is often need for classwork.
- Compare syntax in English and the student’s home language to help develop an understanding of English sentence structure.
- Give students ownership of learning and celebrate learning. ‘Feedback and feed forward’ is important for establishing clear objectives and reviewing progress. A good example of this was seen at a parent-teacher conference in May. A relatively new student to English who began in September shared his first piece of work, which was a basic description of himself, and compared it with a more recent piece of work (a persuasive letter to the prime minister on transport in London). He was really proud of his progress.
- Students can develop an individual editing checklist to help them review their work.
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