Having worked in International Schools for a number of years now, I'm always astonished at how well the students pick up English, beyond what even I, as an EAL teacher, could ever have hoped for. I decided to use some of the IB philosophy and the excellent teaching (along with less EAL friendly teaching) I've observed as a basis for my talk and hope to give those of you reading this, and the attendees at the conference, some useful, but simple tools to support these learners and show differentiation in your own classroom.
Here are some simple things to try with absolute beginner EAL students:
- Engage with the student; make eye contact with them, learn to pronounce their name correctly, try and learn some words in their language (ask them, "how do I say hello?")
- Sit students at the front of the classroom - again give them eye contact!
- Show visuals and real objects that give clues about the task
- Ask yourself if you are delivering activities for kinaesthetic and visual learners as well as auditory learners.
- Provide short targeted instruction followed by active responses
- Use small group tasks to rehearse answers before asking students to raise their hands and give their answers.
Now let's think about some things to avoid:
- Giving lengthy explanations without any visual cues or objects.
- Calling on only selected individuals to answer for the rest of the class.
- Provide only one way to responde to a question.
- Turn your back and explain something to the class (make sure you look at the students).
- Translate every word – just some key words.
- Giving students abstract activities - try to use Cummins model (see below).
- Neglecting writing opportunities because students struggle with spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Accepting only error free writing.
These are just a few things to get you started and hopefully you will find them useful. As the student becomes more confident then of course you can begin to challenge the students some more, but remember the initial step is to make the students feel comfortable. Try to worry too much if they are very quiet for the first six months, they are still listening and absorbing.
I have included a copy of Cummins model to help you think about planning your lessons. Please do get in touch if you have any further questions.