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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