English as an Additional Language (EAL)

On any given day, over 35 different languages are spoken by the pupils of St. Michael's. From Vietnamese to Yoruba, via Urdu and Kurdish, as well as English - the language journey of many a St. Michael's pupil is rich and varied. 

There are more than 1.7 million pupils in state-funded primary and secondary schools in England who use EAL. In 2022/2023, 22% of primary pupils and 18.1% of secondary school pupils use EAL.

All children, including those who use English as an Additional Language, should have the opportunity to fully access the curriculum and fulfil their potential.

All St. Michael's classes have EAL learners in them. As with other groups of learners, our teachers adapt their lessons to make sure that all learners can get the most out of lessons. They do this by involving learners in activities where the language is challenging but appropriate to their abilities and interests.

How do teachers meet the needs of EAL learners?

The potential among EAL learners for bilingualism is particularly important, as it increases mental ability such as problem-solving and creativity. Our teachers consider the role of learners’ first language and be aware that the acquisition of a new language goes hand-in-hand with cognitive and academic development.

Main principles of EAL teaching at St. Michael's:

  • Collaborative group work
  • Enhanced opportunities for speaking and listening
  • Effective role models of speaking, reading and writing
  • English speaking talk partners to help develop vocabulary
  • Alternative phrasing of instructions and objectives
  • Additional visual support, e.g. posters, objects, non-verbal clues, pictures, demonstration, use of gesture, etc.
  • Bilingual resources where needed, e.g. dictionaries, on-line support, texts, key word lists
  • Writing frames, directed activities related to texts
  • Opportunities for role play
  • Regular opportunities for feedback from staff
  • Learning progression moves from concrete to abstract
  • Further support for pupils’ language development is also provided outside the formal curriculum, e.g. in assemblies, school clubs, homework clubs, etc

EAL Teaching Strategy: Talk for Writing 

Talk for Writing  allows teachers to plan scaffolded activities that allow learners to orally rehearse explicit vocabulary, sentence, and language structures that they require in order to write. 

The type of scaffolding activities that Talk for Writing uses to support language acquisition: 

  • Collaborative tasks; 
  • Developing vocabulary; 
  • Using visuals; 
  • Modelling.

Talk for Writing activities broadly use the following teaching and learning cycle: 

  1. Building up knowledge of a specific context; 
  2. Shared reading of models of texts; 
  3. Joint construction of the text (shared writing).

Such learning cycles allow learners to integrate developing concepts and language which supports them to progress from informal, spoken language to the more formal and academic language, which is required for written language. This progress trajectory has been called mode continuum.

Examples of Activities

Activities that encourage oracy are crucial to the development of writing skills in learners of all ages. The ideas presented below can be used in any subject, text genre and at all levels of English language proficiency. Many of the activities suggested can be used for different parts of the mode continuum. For example, collaborative tasks can be used when building up the knowledge of the subject or when sharing reading of model texts. 

1. Collaborate Activities

Learners who use English as an Additional Language (EAL) need plenty of hands-on and interactive experiences in meaningful contexts to build up concepts. They also need encouragement to use new and explicit vocabulary of the curriculum area. Collaborative talk also provides active listening practice.

  • Working collaboratively on shared tasks: for example, school trips and educational visits, science experiments, following directions, giving and following instructions, matching, sorting, sequencing activities, and competitive games. 
  • Group or paired discussion: for example, recalling and reporting learning back to the class, paired or individual presentations, talk partners, listening triangles, think-pair-share, snowballing, and rainbowing.

2. Developing Vocabulary 

  • Introducing and rehearsing vocabulary: for example, pre-teaching key vocabulary. 
  • Applying some simple quick wins such as prompting vocabulary by providing options in the choice of vocabulary required for learners to recall alongside talk. This can also be achieved using visuals, finger talk, actions, and gestures.  
  • Memorising chunks of language using language drills. 
  • Playing well known adapted games using flashcards (snap, bingo). 
  • Using speaking frames, with gap fills, to recall new vocabulary in context. 

3. Visuals 

Visuals provide context for taught content. Use visuals that scaffold and prompt talk such as: 

  • Story maps 
  • Story props or story sacks (visual and objects) - helpful to scaffold the retelling of a story in sequence. 
  • Concrete objects - e.g., to scaffold identifying and naming objects.  
  • Flashcards, with pictures and words - to play collaborative matching games. 
  • Media (for instance, videos).  
  • Visual word mats. 
  • Bilingual keywords or glossaries, particularly for learners who are literate in their first language.

4. Modelling

Modelling provides learners with a written or oral model of the language that the teacher would like the learner to produce. Here are some examples of activities that model oral structures prior to writing taking place: 

  • Story map: A story map can be used orally to scaffold and practice models of vocabulary, language, and sentence structures for specific writing genres. For example, a sentence with a language pattern with gaps to complete not only provides the opportunity for learners to rehearse the language form, but also allows them to practise recalling the vocabulary in the gaps. Story maps can be adapted for different levels of English language proficiency. 
  • Shared reading: This can be carried out with the teacher first preparing a model of the text to write (for example, an instruction text). The teacher and the whole class or small groups of learners can read such a text together. The sentences in the text can have gaps for learners to fill in. This provides opportunity for the teacher to bring learners’ close attention to the specific language structures of the genre being taught.  
  • Planning frames and/or substitution tables: A planning frame / substitution table is a type of activity where a teacher provides a table giving model sentences with a range of choices for learners to select from, using a set pattern. It is a useful scaffolding resource which provides opportunity to rehearse and extend speaking skills, and in turn prepares learners for writing. A planning frame / substitution table can be easily adapted for different levels of English language proficiency by providing visuals or sentences with different levels of complexity. 
  • Sequencing jumbled up sentences / Colourful Semantics: Learners work in pairs to sequence a set of words that form a sentence when placed in the correct order. These sentences can be matched to a corresponding visual aid. 
  • Shared Write (joint construction of text): This involves the teacher and the learners writing together (shared writing). Learners are encouraged to contribute orally to the writing and act as scribes alongside the teacher to construct the text. During this process, you can use oracy strategies, for instance, prompt words or phrases, provide a choice of vocabulary to include, visual word banks, and recasting modelled language. This will scaffold language and support the participation of learners who use EAL. 


EAL Teaching Strategy: Colourful Semantics 

Alongside Talk for Writing, we use Colourful Semantics to help EAL learners acquire language at an accelerated pace. 

Colourful Semantics is a system for colour coding sentences according to the role of different words. It can help children to break down sentences and understand the individual meaning of each word and its role in the sentence. It can help children to better understand word order. Children can use colourful semantics to build up meaningful, well-structured sentences.

Colourful Semantics is a whole-school approach used for pupils who are new to English and those in the early stages of language acquisition. 

The document and video below provide more information about our use of this teaching approach. 

EAL Assessment Tool: Wellcomm

We use both the WellComm Early Years and WellComm Primary toolkits to screen EAL pupils who are new to English, to further identify specific age-related needs for language development before embarking on the EAL curriculum.

WellComm Early Years / Primary toolkits are used to screen all members of our Reception and Year 1 cohort when they join St. Michael's. This has been an invaluable tool for us to assess the language development of EAL and non-EAL pupils. It gives us a starting point to identify the pupils’ needs and enables us to group the children to develop language needs highlighted by the results.

After the screening, our staff focus on the needs of the EAL pupils – using both their own resources and those from The Big Book of Ideas. This is included in the WellComm toolkit and is extremely useful in helping our staff to design activities to challenge the pupils further or to offer more support and practice. 

Pupils are then screened again with the WellComm toolkit towards the end of the academic year, to formalise the evidence of the progress they have made. 

WellComm Primary is an excellent tool for getting an overall picture of how a pupil uses, understands, and manipulates language. It helps us design their EAL curriculum more effectively, tailoring it to each individual pupil’s needs by being able to address the areas that are the basis of age-related expectations.

EAL Assessment Tool: The Bell Foundation 

We use the Bell Foundation EAL Assessment Framework to baseline EAL learners from Year 2 to Year 6 when they join us. 

The Bell Foundation’s assessment tools are straightforward, easy-to-use, and have been designed with busy teachers in mind. They can be used to gather data to support the teaching and learning of learners who use EAL and to enable teachers to generate targets to guide progress. Through this on-going cycle of formative assessment, leading to individual target-setting and tailored support, learners can develop their English language skills, fully access the curriculum and fulfil their academic potential.

The Bell Foundation’s award-winning EAL Assessment Framework for Schools provides a set of standards to assist staff in establishing English language proficiency and has been designed to support teaching and learning by enabling practitioners to generate targets to guide individual learner progress. The assessment bands pupils according to their English proficiency. 

  1. New to English - Learners require considerable support to access curriculum content.
  2. Early Acquisition -  Learners still need a significant amount of EAL support to access the curriculum.
  3. Developing Competency - Learners would typically be confident in communicating in English and would be starting to develop more control of functional language. 
  4. Competent - Learners may still need some/occasional support to access complex curriculum material and tasks.
  5. Fluent - As with Competent learners, Fluent learners may still need some/occasional support to access complex curriculum material and tasks.

Learners assessed to be between Band 1 and 3 (New to English, Early Acquisition or Developing Competency) are then placed on the St. Michael's EAL support programme - called the EAL Academy

EAL Intervention Programme (Year 2 to Year 6): The EAL Academy  

The Bell Academy EAL assessment framework is used to baseline children’s English proficiency.

Pupils in Years 2 to 6 who are assessed to be in Bands A to C are eligible to join the St. Michael’s EAL Academy, a language intervention programme delivered by members of the St. Michael’s Inclusion Team.

Participants in the EAL Academy programme receive small group EAL support 2 or 3 times per week.

More information is detailed in the document below. 

Reading Intervention Champion 

Mrs K Devi - Reading Intervention Champion 

As well as being part of the EAL Academy programme, Pupils in Years 2 to 6 who are assessed to be in Bands A to C receive daily 1:1 reading support from the St. Michael's Reading Intervention Champion. The 15-minute daily sessions incorporate phonics revision, language acquisition, comprehension and reading aloud.