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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 www.betterbilingual.co.uk or contact Catherine directly at catherine@betterbilingual.co.uk.

Further learning - Blog

EAL children in school
Created: Mon 3rd Jun 2019

The Sentence Analyser was piloted by the children and staff in the EAL Hub at Lea Forest Academy in the autumn term of 2018. Over the following two terms, the children and staff used it in a variety of ways to support a widening of the children's vocabulary. The EAL Hub children's morphology skills were tracked, alongside a control group.

What did the data show? What did the staff think? Was the resource beneficial enough to become embedded? Let's find out!

Created: Sun 16th Feb 2014

It’s hard to even start to highlight the challenges of teaching EAL students in such a short article but there are a few key areas to consider:

Including learners of all cultures into the classroom environment and the school

Boy cupping hand to ear listening
Created: Wed 12th Apr 2023

Despite legitimate claims that EAL students devote over half of their time to listening when functioning in English (Nunan, 1998), this is often not reflected in the time that we dedicate to the four main skills in the classroom. In fact, Nation (2009) states that listening is arguably the least understood and most overlooked of the four skills in language teaching.