Author: Gemma Fanning, EAL Teacher, Dwight School London
Writing essays and short stories at secondary level can be a daunting experience but when you are asked to write in a second language, it can be even more daunting. Students are asked to write small essays and significantly extended stories when they reach key stages three and four. This can be very overwhelming for an EAL student. Many students may write their essay using a translator, like Google Translate which can provide some benefit to learning; however, the benefit can be lost when huge chunks of text are copied without understanding the vocabulary and grammar structures used to write their requirement. Our role is to provide students with the tools they need for writing. Written assignments can prove useful for developing writing in an additional language (MacKay, 2006) especially when modelled from previous reading or shared writing.
Nunan (2011) explains that developing the ability to write a fluent, coherent, extended piece takes time and a lot of practice. Writing is a fundamental skill for all learners to accomplish and also serves as a cognitive as well as a physical function, whereby the student is learning to form letters or characters. Writing can help a student develop their thinking and reasoning skills, develop their arguments and support them with evidence.
There are many possible ways to approach writing, but here’s one possible approach which can help learners begin the writing process. You could deliver the following steps to support an EAL student:
Provide the student with the keywords related to the topic of the essay or short story. For example, a lesson on adjectives may lend itself to short story writing (Coelho, 2010).
Provide students with a content-based cloze activity to support new words.
Give students a writing frame, as a model of how the essay or story should be structured. For example, a lesson on connectives and sentence starters can help formulate an essay (Coelho, 2010). This can also support students to look beyond writing ‘and’ and ‘then’ (Wray and Lewis). Writing frames can help students with a variety of structures, e.g. writing to persuade vs writing a report for a Science class (Wray and Lewis).
Provide models or prompts for short journal responses. For example, if you are learning the grammatical structure of ‘used to’ you could provide a scaffolding such as my mother used to…
Ask the student to provide their own writing journal which they can decorate. This can be their personal writing book, with a focus on writing for confidence. Give the student a title such as 3 things I enjoy doing…and time the students or let them write about the topic for homework.
Students may also be required to reference their work. Find some simplified websites and books, which they can use to find their information (never leave EAL students to find the information alone on the Internet). This will also help to develop their reading skills. You will also need to model how the essay should be referenced.
Once you have prepared all the materials, students need to plan their ideas first. Allowing students to speak about their ideas will help with the organisation and development of the students’ speaking skills. This can be done as a small group, with the support of an adult. Students may need to use their first language initially, to help them develop their ideas with the topic. This should also build on their confidence and develop their language structures and vocabulary. During this time, you may also wish to use some visual images as a prompt to learning new language.
During the discussion group, give your students a set of post-it notes to write down keywords and phrases (Mackay, 2006). Using a line map, ask your students to place their post-it notes on the line to begin forming an argument.
A line map:
Students can even write in their first language if need be. Using the post-it notes, the focus will be on what needs to be said rather than how to start (Mackay).
Attached is a sample writing frame which can be used as simple scaffolds. With these your students will feel ‘safe’ and this technique is very friendly because planning should help your learners to feel more secure (Mackay, 2006).
Coelho. E (2010) Differentiated Instruction for English Language Learners, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.
Nunan. D (2011) Teaching English to Young Learners, Anaheim University Press, Anaheim California.
Mackay, N (2006) Removing Dyslexia as a barrier to achievement (Second Edition), SEN Marketing, Wakefield.
Wray. D and Lewis. M (year) An approach to scaffolding children’s non-fiction writing: the use of writing frames, University of Exeter.
International Schools Magazine
The latest edition of the International Schools Magazine is now out with a special focus on language learning. Notable articles on language include:
Determining the language profile of an international student, Susan Stewart
Do we need to change our approach to mother tongue?, Eowyn Crisfield
Creating an inspiring environment for language learners, Julian Edwards ‘The Silent Way’ to language acquisition, Fanny Passeport
Expanding the vocabulary of teaching and learning, Bradley A Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling
How you can support students’ mother tongue development, Caroline Scott
Is your school ready for a mother tongue programme?, Mattie Jackson
Like, get over it, Nicholas Alchin
Mother tongue support within the IB, Mary Langford
Communication Across Cultures will be exhibiting the Learning Village in an EAL Conference for mainstream teachers in Hull, 1st July 16 (see below). This will be a great event for supporting mainstream teachers with the language demands of the classroom:
Come and chat to us at the IPC Summer School, London, from Wednesday 27 July – Friday 29 July 16: Click here!
Supporting Vulnerable Children
Thanks to LPH for a great opportunity to talk about EAL case studies recently:
Communication Across Cultures Director, Caroline Scott, will be part of the judging panel for the ESU Awards.
The ESU is a unique global educational charity and membership organisation that brings together and empowers people of different languages and cultures. By building skills and confidence in communication, they give people the opportunity to realise their full potential. These ESU awards aim to celebrate innovation and good practice in the field of ELT, with a particular focus on resources which seek to improve oracy skills. Click here!
The Communication Across Cultures Team
Telephone: +44 (0) 118 335 0035 Fax: +44 (0) 118 335 0036 Mail us here
Credits: Gemma Fanning (Article) Editor: Caroline Scott
So much has been happening on the Learning Village this month!
Firstly, we moved to a new URL. You can now find the Learning Village at www.learningvillage.net as well as www.learningvillage.net. This was completed as we moved, again, to a faster, more powerful server! This latest move will support access for countries that are in more remote locations.
A few additional features:
Having revised the exit buttons in the Learning Village student area, we have changed some of the artwork to make exiting a little clearer.
You’ll also notice we have jazzed up the transitions between screens.
The newest feature to the Learning Village is a change in the amount of time needed to spend on the Learning Village before a gift is awarded. We have reduced the award time from 90 minutes to 45 minutes. This does mean that learners points and your school points will have increased significantly as the system adjusts the score for ‘all time’.
Where ‘Proficiency in English’ is required, it is expected that schools will assess the position of their EAL pupils against a five point scale of reading, writing and spoken language proficiency outlined below and make a ‘best fit’ judgement as to the proficiency stage that a pupil corresponds most closely to:
New to English [Code ‘A’]: May use first language for learning and other purposes. May remain completely silent in the classroom. May be copying/repeating some words or phrases. May understand some everyday expressions in English but may have minimal or no literacy in English. Needs a considerable amount of EAL support.
Early acquisition [Code ‘B’]: May follow day to day social communication in English and participate in learning activities with support. Beginning to use spoken English for social purposes. May understand simple instructions and can follow narrative/accounts with visual support. May have developed some skills in reading and writing. May have become familiar with some subject specific vocabulary. Still needs a significant amount of EAL support to access the curriculum.
Developing competence [Code ‘C’]: May participate in learning activities with increasing independence. Able to express self orally in English, but structural inaccuracies are still apparent. Literacy will require ongoing support, particularly for understanding text and writing. May be able to follow abstract concepts and more complex written English. Requires ongoing EAL support to access the curriculum fully.
Competent [Code ‘D’]: Oral English will be developing well, enabling successful engagement in activities across the curriculum. Can read and understand a wide variety of texts. Written English may lack complexity and contain occasional evidence of errors in structure. Needs some support to access subtle nuances of meaning, to refine English usage, and to develop abstract vocabulary. Needs some/occasional EAL support to access complex curriculum material and tasks.
Fluent [Code ‘E’]: Can operate across the curriculum to a level of competence equivalent to that of a pupil who uses English as his/her first language. Operates without EAL support across the curriculum.
Multiplayer feature – we are in our fourth round of piloting the multiplayer function and it’s likely to be ready in the next 4-6 weeks… or maybe even before!
We are also working on enhanced features of the multiplayer games which include special ‘power-ups’ to create an element of luck that will encourage those that are less able.
You will be able to turn this feature off at your discretion.
4 June International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression
5 June World Environment Day
6 June Russian Language Day at the UN (in Russian)
8 June World Oceans Day
12 June World Day Against Child Labour
13 June International Albinism Awareness Day
14 June World Blood Donor Day
15 June World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
17 June World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
19 June International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict
20 June World Refugee Day
21 June International Day of Yoga
23 June United Nations Public Service Day
23 June International Widows’ Day
25 June Day of the Seafarer
26 June International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
26 June United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
2 July (first Saturday in July) International Day of Cooperatives