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The National Learning and Work Institute (2018) completed a randomised controlled trial of a Community-Based English Language intervention aimed at people with very low levels of functional English proficiency. Findings showed “a strong and clear positive impact that attendance on an intensive 11-week Community-Based English Language course has on both English proficiency and social integration for those with relatively low levels of English proficiency.” (Integrated Communities English Language Programme, 2018). Although this study was on adults, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of building a community at any age.

Here's a scenario:

Your new EAL learner arrives, they come to class, they don’t know anyone, they can’t speak the language. There do not seem to be any other learners in the school that speak their language. The other learners say hello and some try to connect.

Before long, the novelty of trying to communicate with the new arrival wears off. The new arrival is assigned a buddy who works very hard to help them, but that buddy finds it quite time-consuming and hard. They also aren’t sure of the best way to help. You choose a few buddies and attempt to give them some training in how to support the learner. This is fairly successful, but you are struggling to find time to ensure the buddies are monitored and that the new arrival’s social needs are met.

You see the new arrival alone in the playground and you know they are feeling isolated. You go to see them and ask if they’d like to do something inside. You have a mountain of resources on your desk to prepare and so you ask a few pupils on the playground to come and play some games with the new arrival. They happily take on the role and you get on with your work.

Over the coming days, you see your new arrival on their own again. You worry that they aren’t happy or settling in well and you know that they need some further support.

So, what can you do?

Creating friendships is the very start of the learner’s transition to their new environment. All learners need to feel happy and safe and develop a sense of belonging. It’s hard to learn without those fundamental elements in place. The importance of those friendships should never be underestimated and there is a lot we can do to foster them in the early days, regardless of the language a learner speaks.

Providing opportunities to play games can have a significant impact on the learner’s transition. Here are some games that don’t require a good grasp of English for learners to enjoy and to promote friendships:

Scramble: Be the first to put the shapes in the correct holes. This is great fun!

Kerplunk: Carefully remove sticks from a tower without dislodging the marbles. The person with the fewest marbles at the end is the winner.

Snakes and ladders: Roll the dice. If you land on a ladder you climb up, if you land on a snake you slide down. The first to the top wins! Any variety of this will work... you can download this variation to let your learners have some fun!


National Learning and Work Institute (2018) Measuring the impact of Community-Based English Language Provision: Findings from a Randomised Controlled Trial, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Further learning - Blog

Memory strategy
Created: Fri 4th Jun 2021

While learning new languages, a lot of information simply needs to be remembered, and we often have to combine new information with what we already know, using our working memory. For students with specific learning differences, such as dyslexia, retrieving information from the long-term memory can be slower or less effective, resulting in greater difficulties in learning. It is therefore vital to teach specific memory strategies.

Memory processes are complex, but in my experience, we remember better the things that we:

Created: Sat 30th May 2015

In previous articles we discussed the need for learners to obtain Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS). These skills need to be the initial focus of learning alongside curriculum content in the early days. Class teachers are required to make significant adjustments to their programme of learning which is not an easy task, especially for those teachers who are new to teaching foreign languages.

Created: Sat 14th Dec 2013

If you have EAL new arrivals in your school with limited English, you need a scheme of work in English that supports learners with language learning alongside the curriculum content you are delivering. This is to ensure young learners are understanding the basics of language needed for success.

Learning can be split into two parts: