Oy vey! Where do I begin? I’m a born and bred New Yorker transplanted to small-town Essex. I became a teacher by accident. I stayed out of stubborn determination. I succeeded because I used my painful journey of being a foreigner to help kids who were or felt different.
My Masters Dissertation – A short plain-language summary of my findings
Why I did this study
Heading a Speech and Language Resource Base at a large, multilingual London school, I noticed the high number of EAL children who were on the NHS caseload for Speech and Language Impairment (SLI). Looking through case notes, I noticed the lack of contextualised background gathered on those pupils. I felt an investigation into the methods used to diagnose and norm would be useful to my setting.
I asked, what role should the L1 play in the assessment of SLI in bilingual children? What problems can arise when assessing SLI in the absence of complete ethno-linguistic information about the L1 use of the bilingual child and family?
How do you tell if an EAL pupil has Speech and Language Needs?
Your job is not to diagnose, but it is to flag up problems. Of course, knowing what is a problem is more difficult with a pupil learning English as an Additional Language. Here is a brief overview of considerations when suspecting Speech and Language Needs in an EAL pupil.
Don’t blunder in with any old EAL resource. Learn what you need to support your students’ stage of language acquisition.
There are a multitude of bilingual resources out there from translated welcome packs and English-language learning lessons to assessment criteria. What do you need? More importantly, where do you find it?
Student E was present during my first interview lesson when I wanted to work in London schools. He had his head on the desk, in the small, hot EAL classroom and seemed generally unwell. I remember stopping the lesson and saying, ‘I might not get the job, but something is not right with this child. Should he go to medical?’ Perhaps it was prophetic. I did get the job, but something wasn’t right with this student.
Student N was a casual admission, i.e., mid-year, and came to our secondary school directly into Year 9. She seemed happy, socially confident and willing to learn, but was extremely slow to acquire English. In the group of students who were all new admissions, she was making the slowest progress out of all of them.
Oral work before written work – always! It is in oral work that language is tried, tested and acquired. Students should always work in pairs or groups for building complex answers. Read on for 15 more strategies!
So, I promised EAL would be made easy…well…easier. EAL students have one big problem and it’s NOT learning English. It’s learning enough academic English, fast enough, to get through whatever exam is coming. Their problem is not actual language acquisition, it’s the speed of acquisition. So providing support to access the curriculum must be done in a way that allows the EAL student to put chunks of useful language to good use right away.
…their problem is not actual language acquisition, it’s the speed of acquisition…