Community Village


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Small group teaching is an approach in which learners are divided into small groups of roughly 4-8 students and work together supported by a teacher. It is a highly effective way to improve learning outcomes, particularly for EAL learners.

Small-group teaching can be focused on an induction to English, gap-filling areas of challenge or need, or pre-teaching content in the curriculum. 

Learners who learn in a small group often participate more than in a whole class session because there are fewer learners and more targeted support in the group. Teachers also find it easier to adapt learning for small multi-level groups or to select learners at similar levels to ensure comprehensive input occurs.

“We acquire language when we understand messages, when we understand what people tell us and when we understand what we read.” (Krashen, 2003)

Working with EAL learners in focused small-group settings can also provide opportunities to enhance motivation due to increased engagement and targeted support.  Learning can be pitched at a level of challenge just above the learner’s ability to learn independently, therefore increasing their progress in the focus area of learning.  This can build learner confidence significantly, a quality not often measured in EAL learner progress. EAL learners can feel overwhelmed by whole class sessions where their peers are highly proficient in English and can, at times, feel excluded by being included in the mainstream classroom setting (at times when input is not comprehensible).  Whereas in the small-group setting, they can feel less intimidated. This also “builds students’ responsibility for themselves and their group members through reliance upon each others’ talents and an assessment process which rewards both individuals and groups.” (Badache, 2011). When a learner is more actively involved in the learning (or will enjoy increased opportunities to speak and engage with the teacher), it can result in more opportunities to use the language collaboratively, a non-negotiable in the language learning classroom.

The small-group session also poses more opportunities for building friendships with learners of similar circumstances e.g. those with similar levels of English or from other cultures. These friendships are significant for feeling that sense of safety and belonging in the early days of learning English in their new context.

Beyond all these reasons, the small group setting also provides a chance to connect the learning to the wider world. Learning English in a formal classroom setting requires a creative approach to supporting learners with making connections to real-life contexts. Similarly, the small-group setting can build additional bridges in this area (as well as wider learning) through increased opportunities to connect with the home language, increased learner engagement and increased confidence.


Krashen, S. (2003) Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Heinemann.

Badache, L. (2011) The Benefits of Group Work, University of Batna

Scott, C. (2012) Teaching English as an Additional Language 5-11: A Whole School Resource, Routledge

Scott, C. (2019) Learning Village in Action,

Further learning - Blog

Created: Mon 21st Apr 2014

In schools where English is the language of instruction we welcome new arrivals with limited English and, step by step, they become skilled in speaking English. These young learners have a gift, the gift of bilingualism. A skill that has a profound effect on their lives. This skills may affect their identity, the way they are educated, their employment, the friends they keep, marriage, where they choose to live, travel and how they think. The consequences are significant.

Created: Sun 29th Dec 2013

Scenario: You are moving to a new country (pick a country which has a different script such as China, Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh).  You can only take a suitcase with you.  Discuss your thoughts on the following groups of questions;

How would you feel about moving?

  • What would you take?
  • What would you leave behind?
  • Who would you miss?
  • What activities would you miss?

How would you feel about learning the language?

group of students clustered round a teacher
Created: Wed 6th Dec 2023

Moving to and joining a new school is daunting for any child. It is essential that schools have procedures in place to support new arrivals with this transition (discussed in detail in our article here). However, it is important to consider that their parents may also be experiencing a similar transition, without necessarily having a network of support. If support is not provided, there is the potential for parents to struggle to access education, find employment and be part of the school or wider community.