6 December 2019 (TESS)
From making imaginary pizzas to becoming interior designers for a doll’s house, learning through play isn’t just for the youngest pupils, argue two Glasgow teachers. They tell Emma Seith how they are using it to support children who speak English as an additional language – and to connect with colleagues around the world.
Have you heard the tale about play-based learning, a viral Facebook page and one of Scotland’s most diverse communities? It involves two young teachers in Glasgow, who have gained thousands of followers around the world for their imaginative use of play in the classroom.
The magic happens at Holy Cross Primary in the Govanhill area, which serves a truly multicultural community. Holy Cross has a significant Romanian and Slovakian pupil population, and there are a large number of children with Pakistani heritage, many of whom speak Urdu and Punjabi. Overall, 80 per cent of pupils speak English as an additional language – something that proved challenging for Rebecca Meighan and Claire Scally when they were both teaching P1.
So, what are they doing that has struck such a chord with teachers around the world?
Meighan and Scally quickly realised that before they could push on with reading and writing skills, they needed to first build up their pupils’ English vocabulary. But they didn’t want to simply show pictures – they wanted pupils to be able to “see and touch and feel these objects”. The solution was to enable them to acquire language in a more natural way: to let them play.
“When we got to teaching phonics, initial sounds and word blends, we were finding it really difficult because the children were coming either with little English or no English at all,” explains Scally. “You always start with the letter S – the ‘sss’ sound – but when we were trying to get them to think of words that start with the letter S, they were just looking at us blankly.”
Meighan and Scally decided to change tack. After brainstorming words with the sound they wanted children to learn that week, they set up play activities related to that sound. For instance, with the “V” sound, one activity was to make a volcano erupt (with lava produced by combining vinegar and baking soda). The children were also given the chance to role-play being a vet; one of the suggested activities was taking a pet dog for a vaccination.
The plan achieved the desired result: instead of looking blank when they were asked to give examples of words featuring the sound they were working on, the children were able to reel off a list. And, importantly, they remembered these words because they had been immersed in a world (albeit an imaginary one) where they were relevant.
“We knew that if we gave children the chance to interact with these objects – to do and not just see – they would remember them and gain some more language from that,” explains Meighan.
Meighan and Scally set up The Power of Play Facebook page to collaborate with teachers outside their school (bit.ly/PowerPlayGla). They quickly discovered that teachers across the UK – as well as from Finland, Norway, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – were on similar journeys and wanted to introduce more play into their classrooms.
At the time of writing, the page had attracted more than 17,000 followers and 16,000-plus likes. Some of Meighan and Scally’s posts, meanwhile, have attracted hundreds of comments.
Many Facebook commenters ask them where they get their resources from, including the miniature apples decorating their cardboard apple trees, brightly painted numbers with googly eyes and “bones” (dog biscuits) used for Halloween activities.
What they have created is a community of teachers helping each other. The ideas that go down well, they say, are the ones that are relatively easy to do, and which feature resources that can be adapted and used again.
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19 August 2019 (TES)
Entering a classroom packed with students who have little knowledge of English is every teacher's nightmare. We know how challenging it can be to create an inclusive environment and aid those struggling with English, so we've gathered some useful resources to help you support your EAL/ESL students.
13 September 2018 (Education Scotland)
A new theatre play, The Arrival, will be touring Scotland from 26 September to 26 October 2018.
The story is about a man that travels to a new land in search of a future for his family.
The play and classroom activities are targeted at S1-S2 pupils. The aim is to engage the students in the world of The Arrival throughout the day, setting up playful interventions, happenings and surprises that create the sense of an event, building towards a performance of the play after lunch.
The key fact is that the play is accessible to deaf, hearing and people who have English as a second/other language.
See the trailer and visit the website for more information and to book.
12 September 2018 (SecEd)
This September, many secondary schools will have new arrivals from abroad who have English as an additional language. Continuing our series on EAL, Dr Ruth Wilson gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of this diverse group of learners
New arrivals with English as an additional language (EAL) are a very diverse group. Their language proficiency can range from “new to English” to “fluent”. The young person can arrive at any age and with widely different socio-economic and educational backgrounds. Some students may come from an advantaged context with a high standard of education; others may have had little or interrupted schooling or experienced traumatic events. A new arrival could for example be a refugee from a war-torn country or a child of a German banker working in the City of London.
Data show that, on average, pupils arriving late into the English school system do less well in external exams than their first language English peers, and that the older the pupils are when they arrive the less likely they are to achieve good results in year 11 (Hutchinson, 2018).
This article gives some practical advice for you and your schools in meeting the needs of EAL learners who are newly arrived from abroad.
3 September 2018 (EAL Journal)
NALDIC has an ever-expanding membership, creating a vibrant and supportive national (and increasingly international) community of educators and advocates. If you’re in EAL you need to be in NALDIC! If you’re not yet a member please consider signing up. All members get our flagship magazine The EAL Journal every term, full access to the members’ area of our website, and free or reduced price entry to NALDIC events.
This year we will be taking the national conference to Leeds on Saturday 17 November, where the theme of the event is Evidence Informed Practice for EAL, and features keynote speaker Jean Conteh author of The EAL Teaching Book, among many other classics on teaching multilingual learners.
We’d love to hear from you if you would like to write for NALDIC. We are always on the lookout for contributors to the blog. We accept pitches for posts about research, practice, and advocacy around EAL and multilingualism.
Read the blogpost for more information on NALDIC's upcoming events and opportunities.
23 August 2018 (SCILT)
Education Scotland, Glasgow City Council and SCILT (Scotland’s National Centre for Languages) are delighted to be able to offer a free online learning opportunity highlighting the benefits of bilingualism, practical strategies teachers can use to promote and support bilingualism in their classrooms, background information on policy and legislation, and useful resources and links to other sites.
The module has been developed to to support the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy. It will provide practitioners who work with bilingual learners an improved awareness of what bilingualism is and help to promote a more inclusive learning environment.
See the attached flyer for more information. The free module can be accessed on the Glow website.
6 June 2018 (SecEd)
In a new series focused on supporting pupils with English as an additional language, Nic Kidston and Katherine Solomon discuss how schools can learn more about who their EAL learners are and how they can be empowered and supported to fulfil their potential
This article, the first in a series of articles on supporting EAL learners that will appear in the coming year, examines the recent research report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), with the Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy – entitled Educational Outcomes of Children with English as an Additional Language.
The series will provide insights into, and best practice on, how to support individual learners through a whole school approach.
28 August 2017 (TES)
Supporting EAL students is personal to this assistant headteacher. Here she gives her six tips to ensure these students – and their families – get the right assistance.
21 July 2017 (TESS)
Across the globe, being bilingual is the norm. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population can speak at least two languages. Yet in the UK, primarily as a result of the dominance of English in the world, a child that converses in more than one tongue is still viewed as being “different”, particularly within education.
This is despite the number of bilingual pupils in our schools increasing. Over 1 in 5 (1.25 million) of our pupils are recorded as having English as an additional language (EAL), according to 2016 government figures.
Have schools adapted to this? Not enough, in my view. For example, EAL pupils tend to be seen as a homogenous group, a remnant of that view of bilingualism as being a deviation from the norm, not the standard. But they are nothing of the sort.
The definition of EAL used by the Department for Education is if a child is exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be one other than English (1). This definition covers pupils who may have recently arrived in the country, as well as families that have been here for many generations.
Each EAL pupil will also vary in their level of proficiency in their mother tongue, as well as in English, across the four language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Quite simply, teachers are not being prepared well enough to support EAL students’ range of needs. Many newly qualified teachers, in particular, cite low levels of preparedness for meeting the needs of this group (2).
Sure, there are success stories. The attainment of EAL pupils is often cited as a key narrative in attainment improvements in England. This is certainly worthy of praise, with schools and communities deserving recognition for their hard work in this area. However, attainment of EAL pupils is extremely variable across regions and cities outside of London and its surrounding areas.
In addition, recent research (3) has shown that attainment varies considerably by the language spoken by pupils, with Japanese speakers being the highest-performing and Czech speakers the lowest.
So what can schools do to effectively support their EAL pupils and ensure they attain high standards?
Read the full article in TESS online, 21 July 2017 (subscription required).
TES talks to...Madeleine Arnot
(TES, 28 July 2017) - Migrant children are lumped together in the ‘English as additional language’ category, with no systemic understanding of their unique cultural and social needs. It’s about time we had a joined-up education strategy, the academic tells Simon Creasey.
28 April 2017 (TES)
Thousands of children in Scotland who have English as an additional language are missing out on the funding and support they need, warns one charity chief.
Recent figures speak of more than 1 million English as an additional language (EAL) pupils in mainstream UK education today. For Scotland alone, the 2016 Census mentions 39,000. These figures are so considerable that it’s hard to understand why education authorities in Scotland, England and Wales do not acknowledge the presence of children and young people who require English language support.
There is no government ring-fenced budget for EAL; neither are there clear recommendations for using available funds. In fact, there is much confusion surrounding EAL. This has to be addressed before more pupils leave school feeling that they have underachieved due to language issues.
Problems start the moment schools have to identify who is and isn’t EAL. Since September 2016, the Department for Education has expected all schools in England and Wales to assess the language development of all children identified as EAL. This was a great step forward – only the DfE has not yet provided a clear, uniform EAL assessment framework that schools can use.
An experienced language teacher can assess a child’s level of English after conducting an oral interview and doing some writing exercises, but not every school has such a teacher. A positive development is that the Cambridge-based Bell Foundation has commissioned a research and development team at King’s College, London to prepare an EAL assessment toolkit, which recently became available on its website. It will take some time and effort to learn how to use the kit, but it’s a very comprehensive assessment.
For Scotland, the situation is quite different. The government does not ask for a level assessment for EAL; in fact, EAL departments confirm that schools do not have to identify EAL pupils. Instead, it is left to the parents to say if their child speaks English as an additional language.
Each parent of a schoolchild in Scotland is given a form to complete, which asks the ethnic group of the child and which language is his or her mother tongue.
This can lead to confusion, as parents will state that the child’s first language is, for example, Polish if the child uses this language at home and spoke it first as a baby; however, this child may also be fully proficient in English and not require any support at all.
On the other hand, a parent may state that their child’s first language is English, implying that the child is fluent – but that parent may be misjudging the child’s competency.
6 September 2016 (British Council)
The British Council is calling for worldwide nominations for its 2017 ELTons award scheme which recognises innovation in English language teaching.
The annual awards are into their fifteenth year and celebrate innovation and excellence in different aspects of English language teaching (ELT) around the world.
Any ELT professional can apply for consideration for one of the categories including authors, teachers, trainers and publishers.
The deadline for submissions is 4 November 2016 and a shortlist will be drawn up by March 2017.
Visit the British Council website for more information and to download an application pack.
2 September 2016 (SCILT)
SCILT has developed a new section on its website in recognition of the growing diversity within Scottish schools. The new EAL & Bilingualism section celebrates all languages spoken in Scotland, promotes bilingualism, and supports parents and practitioners in facilitating a multilingual ethos. It also signposts a wealth of resources and advice for learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL).
17 June 2016 (TESS)
Teachers are dealing with increasing numbers of new arrivals to the UK, so here's a guide to ensure every learner with English as an additional language can succeed.
Read the full article in TESS online, 17 June 2016, page 32-33 (subscription required).
Job opportunity for Scottish teachers in China
18 February 2016 (CISS)
The school principal of the newly built Suzhou Experimental School which is affiliated to Nanjing Normal University has asked for our assistance in recruiting at least one Foreign Teacher of English. The school sees it as crucial to the quality of their English Language teaching effort to employ a native English speaker as part of their team and is very keen to recruit a suitable person from any sector who has had experience of the Scottish education system.
In addition to a full competitive salary calibrated to be commensurate with expectations in Scotland, they would provide: on-site accommodation of a very high standard; all meals; and airfares to and from UK. The school would expect the successful candidate to commit to a two year contract; starting date open to negotiation.
Please note your interest with Natasha Bowman before 29 February 2016 firstname.lastname@example.org
24 April 2015 (Education Scotland)
The strategy provides an updated and informed context for the provision of publicly funded ESOL in Scotland. It places ESOL in the broad context of learning in Scotland and sets out the strategic direction for ESOL for the next five years.
22 July 2014 (British Council)
This new book from ESOL Nexus is about the role of language in the integration of migrants. The writers of the chapters are all engaged in the education of migrants as teachers, researchers or policymakers in a wide variety of contexts and they provide us with a rich and thought-provoking array of perspectives from teachers and learners on language issues in migration and integration. Through them we hear directly from learners, migrants who have arrived in a new country and are now striving to master the host language. We learn much from them about the place of language and language learning in their new lives.
31 January 2014 (Telegraph)
How the schools where nine in ten pupils do not speak English as their first language help bring their pupils up to speed.