Any English Questions

NATE Classroom, Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

Any English Questions


A regular feature which invites questions on the chosen theme for Classroom each term. We have narrowed down this issue's theme of Special Need to 'English as an Additional Language', which shares the spotlight with questions about 'Gifted and Talented' provision for English. Our guest respondents for these two subjects respectively are:

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Stuart Scott, an independent consultant, director of the Collaborative Learning Project and NATE regional coordinator;

Peter Thomas, a principal moderator for AQA GCSE English Literature; author of The Complete Shakespearience, NATE 2010. Articles by both writers can also be found in this issue of Classroom (see pages 36 and 16), exploring their respective subjects in more detail.

English as an Additional Language

1. Are EAL teachers and assistants better deployed in the classroom alongside a student or in giving help to groups of students or individuals outside the classroom? (Our school has just sacked its counsellor on the grounds that if teachers were doing their job properly, counsellors would not be needed!)

There is no straight answer to this question. How many students require EAL support? What stages are they at and what is their learning profile? How many teachers/assistants are available to provide it? How experienced are they and how well is their work understood and supported by the other school staff and managers? The aim of the school should be to provide for EAL learners as many opportunities as possible for experiencing and practising at a wide variety of language events within the context of the curriculum. Researchers have come up with the concept of 'providing affordances'. They need, for example (and these are just a few), events where they can listen to dialogue or narrative, where they can follow instructions, or where they can practise question making or presenting an argument. These events need to occur in small doses right through the school day. Any EAL practitioner should work on addressing the needs of their students, which they have persistently and accurately assessed while also ensuring that whole school practice supports them by understanding what constitutes EAL friendly practice. This means that at one time the EAL practitioner is planning events and testing them out in partnership with a subject teacher and at another time is working with a small group on a language issue during registration, or maybe running an after school club with a language focus.

2. What advice would you give about the use of students' first languages in school? Should they be told they can only use English in class or is it helpful if someone can explain things in their own language?

If students are able to use their first language confidently there is a knock on effect on the development of their English. It is only recently that this fact, well supported by research and practice in other English speaking countries, has been included in statutory guidance and only at Foundation stage. Primary schools are now offering the chance to learn science or maths in first languages, but the practice is still rare. Where a goodly number of your students speak (but maybe not write) a first language confidently then you should try to make use of this skill to develop concepts. For instance I have given Turkish and Bengali speaking students the chance to work in language groups on preparing a presentation. It was eventually presented in English.

3. What can teachers recommend that students and parents do about developing their English outside school--such as additional reading or listening, etc, to boost their grasp of English?

Students should be encouraged to use their f English actively outside school. Does your | school provide school clubs for drama and debate? Do students get the opportunity to attend Film Club? Talking books or plays can be loaded on ipods. …

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