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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, she loved her new friends and school, and spoke only English and made good progress but it was important for her to have that settling in time.

Finding a buddy who speaks the new arrival's home language, preferably in the same year, 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 a did not show any signs of having difficulties.

Tips for starting the year:

Glance over these features of best practice for new arrivals:

  • Finding a buddy who speaks their home language, preferably in the same year, can be a great help in the beginning as they can relax and express themselves comfortable and effortlessly in their 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.
  • Establish classroom agreements in the first term with the students and put them on the wall.
  • Classroom instructions can be practiced in a fun way playing Simon says.
  • Prepare key academic vocabulary in EAL intervention with students prior to use in class. Getting parents on board to help with translation by sending lists home is a key to successful learning and can also help parents feel involved and part of their child's learning.
  • Give key Maths vocabulary in advance, it would be useful for them to take key words home to translate into their home languages.
  • Establish key goals and intervention strategies. This should be done in conjunction with the class teacher and may include grammatical structures such as articles and the ways of enabling the student to use them with accuracy.
  • Use differentiation by having different levels for each piece of work so 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: visual, auditory and kinesthetic (VAK) Many studies show that using different learning styles can influence the level of success.
  • Set realistic and individual achievable goals in EAL, these should be set in collaboration with both the student and class teacher. Collaboration with the class teacher is important for planning as EAL support is often need for their classwork.
  • Compare syntax in English and their home language to help develop an understanding of English sentence structure in EAL.
  • Give students ownership of learning and celebrate learning. Feedback, feed forward is important in establishing clear objectives and reviewing progress. A good example of this was seen in 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 to a more recent piece of work (a persuasive letter to the prime minister on transport in London) and was really proud of his progress.
  • Students can develop their individual editing checklist to help them review their work.

Further learning - Blog

Created: Wed 4th Feb 2015

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This area is a minefield! Without other references or expertise to hand, a new teacher often turns to an expert for help… Google! Results popping up on the first page of a search shows the Oxford placement tests on the first page, but are they the answer?

EAL and language learning mindmap
Created: Mon 16th Aug 2021

You're the EAL lead in your school - or a teacher with responsibility for EAL. You're a class teacher who's been asked to look into EAL - or a teaching assistant who runs a special EAL group. But do your colleagues really know what you do? Do they know what EAL is - and why it matters for all staff in a school, and not just you?

Image of a waterfall
Created: Wed 3rd Jan 2018

"One look is worth a thousand words." Barnard (1921), Chinese proverb.

Images are powerful as they can usually be interpreted regardless of the language spoken.

Have a look at this image:

Someone sitting alone isn’t always negative. A title can make all the difference. For example, ‘Hope!’ What does this picture mean to you? ‘Alone!’ Now what does it mean?