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A School Language Profile is an invaluable tool!

In the previous article we looked at the thorny issue of EAL learners with specific learning differences (SpLD).  We discussed how identification of SpLD in EAL learners could be a long and frustrating process.  We looked at some possible, non-language based assessments.  At the end of the article we discussed the possibility of using a ‘language profile’ to help identify possible concerns at an early stage.

What is a language profile?  A language profile is basically ‘a picture’ of a new student’s language learning history.  The profile can be used with all students (not just EAL students), and provides valuable information to inform good teaching practice.

The profile builds a picture of the student’s:

  • Home language learning
  • Home language literacy
  • Language learning strengths and possibly, their language learning needs

Crucially for EAL student’s, it contradicts that notion that a student is arriving with ‘no language’.  This profile is an invaluable tool for teachers and TA’s to determine where a student fits in a learning continuum and which teaching strategies to use.
There is a second use for a language profile.  Increasingly data is being used to guide our teaching as well as to guide ‘effective’ resource allocation and interventions. The onus is on schools to set up data collection that is useful and insightful.  Creating a ‘School Language Profile’ is one such activity that provides teachers with information to directly guide their teaching, but also provides statistical data for the school to monitor it’s student body.  The school where this approach was trialed was able to collect data on all of its students.  This data was used to inform teaching and learning and it was also used to draw up statistical data to identify the need for additional EAL support in the school.  Attached is an example of the data collected.

How does one set up a School Language Profile?
The following example was an effective ‘rolling’ programme to build up a language profile in a school.  

(The attached ‘Language Profile’ template is an example that schools can use to build a more relevant profile for their individual situation.)

  1. Agree the follow information you wish to collect in your school about a new arrival:
    • Spoken language development – in English and first language.
    • Literacy in reading and writing – in English and first language
    • SpLD indicators
    • Statistical data:
      1. How many bilingual/multi-lingual students in the school
      2. How many students in the school do not speak English at home
      3. How many students go to additional language schools after the school day
    • It is crucial that these questions are phrased in such a way that they are ‘unambiguous’ questions with clear answers (particularly for use in data collection).

    N.B. It was found to be more effective to collect this data after admission as sometimes it was creatively filled in prior to admission.

  2. Draw up the questions on a sheet (no more than two sided) and trial them with parents to ensure that they are understood and unambiguous.  It is preferable to get parents to fill in the sheet either in a group situation (with someone guiding them through and explaining such as at parents evening) or 1:1 with someone from school (and a translator if necessary).
  3. Start a rolling programme of data collection in one or two year groups (starting from the lower end of the school).  Also profile all the students on the EAL register.
  4. There after, collect information on each new student as a rolling programme and any new students who arrive further up the school.
  5. Store the profile in the student’s file so that all teachers working with the student could access the information.

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