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Girl with rulers

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

building blocks
Created: Thu 29th Aug 2019

“Scaffolding is the process a teacher uses to model or demonstrate how to solve a problem (in the case of language learning, to support learners with using the language needed to articulate themselves). After modelling, they step back, offering support as needed.”
Scott, 2019

Created: Wed 21st Jun 2017

Learners are often faced with the challenge of carrying out research for their class project work, and often schools invest heavily into non-fiction readers which can be used for such projects. Non-fiction books are a vehicle for learning all sorts of information about life and the way the world works. These books are also invaluable for helping EAL learners to develop a range of literacy skills, which in contrast to fiction books, require a different type of literacy skill because they use a narrative tone (Lines, 2009).

Teacher talking about bullying
Created: Tue 15th Nov 2022

When I was teaching early literacy to adults some years ago, I had two teenage students from a refugee background join one of my classes. They were beginner-level English as an Additional language (EAL) learners and both were non-literate. They had been expelled from the local high school for fighting. At the time, there was a national fundraising campaign to support children in troubled parts of the world.