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: Sat 21st Dec 2013

As a Head of Early Years in an international school following the EYFS and IPC curriculums it has always been important to ensure that the teaching of the English language is done in the classroom without the help of specialist EAL support. Early years teachers are great physical, visual talkers!

One of the key principles of teaching in the Early Years is that bilingualism has an advantage and that as the first language it has a continuing and significant role in identity, learning and the acquisition of additional languages.

Created: Wed 7th Feb 2024

Learners with speech and language difficulties may find it difficult to use the correct tense or find it hard to understand the concepts of time.  

Tip or Idea: Take 5 minutes to chat together at the end of a busy day or lesson. Talk about what you did, what you enjoyed or what made you laugh. This gives learners the opportunity to practise using the past tense and maybe time and order words too like first, next and then

Collaborative learning activity template
Created: Mon 25th Mar 2019

This ‘Introduce Me’ activity is a fun and rewarding way to introduce a new topic, while developing language skills.

It’s ideally suited to learners of English, allowing them to hear knowledge  presented in different ways, by more than one source, in a non-threatening environment. There’s plenty of opportunity for repetition and rephrasing. This is an adaptable activity to suit any topic where you need to introduce content. This particular example is based on trading goods (see References), but a blank template is provided for you to create your own resource.