Integrating EAL support into mainstream teaching

Author: Anna Czebiolko
Published: 06/02/2023
Students of diverse ethnic backgrounds in a science lesson

When working with multilingual learners, it is fundamental to demonstrate high expectations for every pupil, with an appropriate level of challenge, differentiation and support. To empower every single student during their educational journey to reach their full learning potential, it is essential to develop effective methods of integrating EAL support into mainstream lessons.

Here are 15 recommendations which can aid the process of limiting the English language barrier in a mainstream classroom setting.

1. Student profile Gathering information prior to the student’s arrival will make the settling-in process much less complicated. Being aware of the learner’s previous personal and educational experiences, as well as their level of English, level of literacy in their home language(s) and subject-specific abilities helps to make the teacher–student interaction more targeted.

2. Body language Facial expressions and body language often alter the meaning of spoken language – for example, whether something is said angrily or as a joke. Seating the learner close to the teacher’s desk can make nonverbal communication smoother.

3. Seating plan Newly arrived multilingual learners benefit from being seated next to welcome buddies, who can help to dispel initial confusion. When possible, it is a good idea to pair a newcomer with a buddy who speaks the same language(s).

4. Prior teaching Lesson preparation homework or school interventions focused on preparation for the actual subject content can boost learners’ confidence and make their learning more interactive during lessons. Working on key vocabulary, longer texts or specific questions helps EAL pupils to access the curriculum during regular learning.

5. Starters and plenaries What is good for students who have English as an additional language is often good for all learners. Short introductory tasks help to activate the students’ prior knowledge and ignite their interest, whilst recaps and low-stakes assessments at the end of the lesson help to identify what has been learned.

6. Employing images The language of visuals is universal. Multimedia presentations, dual coding, storyboards, illustrated texts and labelling tasks are just few productive ways of taking advantage of images.

7. Personalised resources Knowledge organisers, vocabulary mats, flashcards, translations and simplified versions of texts are among many ways of personalising learning, which helps EAL students and lower-ability learners to actively understand and retain the lesson content.

8. Advantage of IT Using electronic translators, searching for images and taking photos of teacher presentations and class displays help to make EAL pupils more independent learners.

9. Using simplified language Idioms, slang and sophisticated English words may be a challenge for new arrivals, so it is best to avoid them where possible; for instance, instead of using the phrasal verb note down, it is better to say write.

10. Vocabulary Matching words to pictures and finding definitions or synonyms can be the first steps in absorbing basic Tier 1 words. Writing definitions and practising the use of Tier 2 vocabulary (academic language) is helpful for all learners. Similarly, explicit learning of Tier 3 vocabulary (disciplinary literacy) can benefit the whole class.

11. Reading Highlighting key vocabulary in the text, colour-coding key concepts, and answering true/false or multiple-choice questions on the text are some methods that help multilingual learners to access complex curricular texts.

12. Writing Sentence starters, gap-fill tasks, storyboards, describing pictures, table-fill activities and scaffolded texts develop students’ individual text creation skills. Using personalised writing strategies ensures EAL students can make constructive progress within lesson time.

13. Oracy Speaking frames, role-plays, debates and presentations help to practise speaking and listening skills. Peer teaching can initiate natural conversations and also elicits what pupils already know.

14. Feedback EAL-oriented feedback should mention and address frequent error patterns. Individualised checklists for learning raise pupils’ awareness of their common errors and should give guidance on how to avoid those errors in the future; for example, ‘Use an irregular verbs table to check the correct form of a verb’.

15. Parental engagement Parents and carers can support their children in many different ways. Translating or reading bilingual books, discussing topics in English or the home language or simply motivating their children to learn can make a real difference. By making parents/carers aware of their children’s current learning needs, we can help them to provide the most relevant support.

These tips can be downloaded in printable format as 15 tips for teaching EAL students.

For more advice on the integration of EAL learners into the mainstream classroom at key stage 3 and key stage 4, along with adaptable templates and printable resources, download Anna Czebiolko’s EAL toolkit. For further EAL teaching strategies and resources for all age groups, browse our English as an additional language collection.

Anna Czebiolko

Anna Czebiolko is head of EAL in a secondary school in North Yorkshire. Previously, she coordinated the EAL provision for seven years in a large secondary academy in Leeds. Since starting to work with EAL learners in 2009, she has worked with children in every year group from nursery to sixth form. She is always willing to try innovative methods with her students and to share her knowledge with teachers and other practitioners.