What is context-embedded planning? EAL and Germination

Main Principles

What are the three most important principles in context-embedded planning for EAL pupils across curriculum subjects?

  1.  lead with visuals – first the concept, then the language.
  2. give the language you want them to use – make the key terms explicit and require they use them from the outset.
  3. plan activities (the context) in which the language is embedded – start with academic concepts and processes

Why? As explained in other articles here, EAL students who have been previously educated are not suffering from native-speaker, low literacy issues. They simply do not know the English for concepts they have been introduced to in their own educational systems.

Note: Non-educated, interrupted education or refugee status pupils are a different kettle of fish. However, even they benefit from visuals to help concretise concepts and explicit language with which to label them. But they will make slower progress due to inexperience with institutional settings and learning.

The Cognitive Effect of Visuals

Pictures help them to access higher cognitive/abstract thinking in their home language. Once they have the concept, tell them what it is in English. They will lay that word side-by-side with their own language in a natural process of contrastive linguistics. Science, Maths, Technology and Geography have natural linguistic advantages here. Many key words have roots in Greek or Latin. Both root languages have been adopted across Indo-European languages can be recognised by students across Europe, Asia and Africa.

Embedding Context and Lesson Structure

Lesson structure is very important. This article is accompanied by two resources which you can get from my TES store for free. I discuss them here.

Lesson: EAL and Germination

  • Resources Needed:
  • EAL and Germination booklet in which they do their work/writing/assessment
  • EAL and Germination Power point for visuals and lesson structure
  • Seeds, paper towels, glasses or cups, water, plant (pulled from school grounds)

Pedagogical Approaches

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Top 16 General Strategies for Working with Bilingual Learners

  1. 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.

2. Visuals – carefully select these for cultural- and age-specific accessibility. Always use photos, never clip art. Clip art drawings can be very abstract and require another layer of cultural interpretation and inference before the language can be applied.

This…?

…or this? Which one would get you to produce more words?

3. Break things down into manageable chunks. Put less on a power point slide or on the page. Give one instruction. Give them take-up time. Come back. Give the next instruction or task. Little and often.

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9 Strategies to Try with EAL Students Today

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.

That is why we have to start with higher academic language. An EAL student of good cognitive ability will be able to learn ‘nevertheless’ just as well as ‘but’. Remember that they do not have the same difficulties with multi-syllabic words as native-born, low-literacy students.

Chances are, they come from a language system that uses a highly complicated set of letter strings and are very used to longer words. Many other languages agglutinate, i.e., they ‘glue’ words together, like in Spanish, German, Hungarian or Turkish, resulting in hugely long words!

Top Tip: Pair work and group work allow fluent peers to model good English and EAL students to practice saying it. Work this into your lesson as often as you can for any key stage!

Below are nine general ways to build this support into your lesson structure, including how a teaching assistant (TA) can be a second pair of eyes and ears for you in your class.

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