The Role of an EAL Teacher

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The Role of an EAL Teacher

In previous articles we discussed the need for learners to obtain Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS). These skills need to be the initial focus of learning alongside curriculum content in the early days. Class teachers are required to make significant adjustments to their programme of learning which is not an easy task, especially for those teachers who are new to teaching foreign languages.
The EAL teacher has the important role of understanding the psychology of each individual, their attitude, their adaptation to their new surroundings and how they have managed their transition. The EAL teacher can take the burden off the class teacher by supporting and encouraging parent participation and communication. The EAL teacher should be seen as an asset and an invaluable resource for the class teacher. The class teacher has larger classes and with the best will in the world it can be difficult to provide sufficient help for the EAL students. Beginner students gain confidence in the small EAL groups and will participate actively in lessons whereas they may remain silent in class for fear of getting things wrong in front of their more fluent peers.  They can practice basic and classroom vocabulary to help them get through the day. The more advanced students benefit from more individually tailored lessons to support their language development. It is a myth that once students can speak and understand English that they no longer need support, as mentioned in a previous article, if a student is left to cope they may seem to be doing well for a while but after a year or two cracks in their academic writing will start to appear. Continued support with their writing assignments, their editing skills and vocabulary development once they are verbally fluent will help avoid these cracks. It is important at all stages that the class teacher and the EAL teacher work together as a team to support each individual student. Some things to discuss are:
  • How can the current topic be supported?
  • What is the vocabulary that needs to be worked  on/pre-taught?
  • What difficulties does this student have in class?
  • Would you prefer pull out or support in class?
  • What is the current text type?
  • Is it possible to review work samples?
  • What areas of grammar/ syntax errors are the most frequent?
  • In what areas has the student improved?
Article: Anita Bamberger & Caroline Scott

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