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Minibeast project - boy with magnifying glass
Author: Catherine Brennan, Better Bilingual

As I write this, it is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18-24 May) in the UK, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, with World Wellbeing Week fast approaching on 22-26 June 2020. During these strange COVID-19 times, my thoughts are turning to the power of nature to lift spirits, lighten moods and provide a positive focus in these long, lockdown days. Fortunately, some glorious weather in England is coinciding with government permission to spend unlimited time outside exercising, which must be an absolute gift for those EAL families with young children, especially those without gardens. 

To celebrate and utilise access to the outdoors, I'd like to share an example of an outdoor home learning project that combines fresh air, exercise and connection with nature with the development of English language proficiency in primary-aged EAL pupils. There is little teacher input required, but several opportunities for family members to join in - and hopefully, a fun learning experience for pupils overall.

Project stages

The project is carefully staged into five tasks, combining elements of EAL pedagogy in the following order:

  • introduction and exploration of key vocabulary
  • valuing and active use of home or first language (L1)
  • active, multi-sensory tasks to explore the subject content
  • use of graded instructions to support comprehension
  • graphic organisers to record information clearly and support feedback
  • speaking/writing frames to scaffold sentence development
  • fun opportunities to engage with the new language and learning.

Originally a primary school teacher, Catherine Brennan works with EAL pupils across the age range from 5-19 in her role as Better Bilingual Director and Consultant, based in Bristol, UK. As well as school improvement consultancy and training on BAME and EAL inclusion issues, Catherine works in partnership with both primary and secondary teachers to embed EAL pedagogy across the curriculum. Direct EAL pupil support, including initial and ongoing EAL assessments, can also be arranged.

For further information, please visit or contact Catherine directly at

Further learning - Blog

Created: Thu 7th Sep 2017

EAL: Excluded by inclusion

Group of children on grey background
Created: Sun 26th Sep 2021

Barry and Matthew Carpenter’s ‘Recovery Curriculum’ has many applications for EAL pupils. Their ‘Recovery Curriculum’ was created during the 2021-21 pandemic, over concerns about how learners would cope when back in school. The Carpenters describe how the Recovery Curriculum is built on five levers, “as a systematic, relationships-based approach to reigniting the flame of learning in each child” (Carpenter and Carpenter, 2020).

Created: Mon 24th Feb 2014

Helping our students to be better language learners

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.