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For those of us who are EAL teachers in school, selecting our language learning outcomes is only one consideration in our planning. Our students attend our lessons primarily to be able to access the language they are facing in their mainstream classes. This means that we need to be very clear about our context, and about what vocabulary and language structures are relevant to that context.

Take, for example, a Maths lesson in which the students are studying geometry and doing problems related to shape. The vocabulary required includes words such as bisect, centimetre and circumference and the names of shapes such as equilateral triangle. These words are all part of the academic language needed to succeed, but they don’t usually appear in a language classroom at low levels. If we use a contextual approach, we can integrate the content learning with the language learning. This is called CLIL (content and language integrated learning). We can create two different learning outcomes for the lesson, as seen in the resource accompanying this article.

Example of a CLIL lesson

First, I would teach how a prefix gives meaning to a word. For example: cent means 100; we have 100 cents in a Dollar or Euro and a century is 100 years. Likewise, bi = two, and we have two wheels on a bicycle; tri means three, and so on. Once they understand these prefixes, I refer to the Maths vocabulary and ask the students to apply the principle to a specific context to show that they understand what words like centimetre, bisect and circumference might mean. This involves decoding and problem-solving.

The second example you can find in the resource is from a Social Science lesson and integrates the topic of water conservation with listening and writing skills. The final activity consolidates both the curriculum and language learning and can be differentiated to suit individual learners. The key to successful CLIL teaching is ensuring that as teachers, we know exactly what we want to teach in terms of both the subject content and the language structure. Programmes such as the Learning Village enable us to do this more effectively.

Further learning - Blog

Created: Fri 25th Sep 2015

The lack of a common language between children can be frustrating so we often assign buddies who have a common language to help our learners. Someone who speaks the same language can help the new student feel less alienated by speaking the same language and recounting what is being said and explaining what is happening. Students are often used as interpreters in schools. However, as with any translation, it can result in unintentionally misinterpretation.

Created: Mon 24th Feb 2014

How can the new-to-English language learners and their teachers work together to provide a successful language learning experience when curriculum content is the priority? Rubin & Thompson (1982) researched and found 14 characteristics of a good language learner.

If each characteristic of a good language learner can be developed for young learners into a ‘child friendly’  question, translated into their mother tongue (maybe orally) and unpicked, question by question, each characteristic can act as a guide for learners to try out new strategies.

Bilingual world
Created: Wed 20th May 2020

If you have the opportunity to use a bilingual support partner to help families who have learners working from home, it may be useful to prepare a list of questions for this staff member to ask. Bilingual support is extremely useful when making contact with parents who speak little or no English.