I will start this first post by explaining how this blog might best be used:
The idea, from my perspective, is to use the blog to regularly share strategies and tips which you should be able to use straight away in the classroom–and I will try and avoid any semantics regarding EAL theories etc.! If you want to ‘talk shop’ then we can do so 1-1, and there will plenty of opportunities to do so during the EAL INSET sessions and courses which are happening throughout the year.
So, first of all, I thought I should outline 5 key things that I would politely urge you to think about seriously, if you haven’t done so already. These 5 things, as a start, should help to better develop the language proficiency of your EAL students. That said, it is important to point out here that the majority of our student body are ELLs (English Language Learners) or ‘EAL’, so the strategies which will be presented in this blog are useful to many students, not just to those on the EAL Register (and not just those who use English as an additional language). . . And let’s remember, too, that EAL is not SEN/LDD–the majority of EAL students are just as able as anyone else, it is just that their English language is not yet ‘up to scratch’ academically. . .
So, here come to the Top 5:
- Know who your ‘EAL students’ are (e.g. the students who are on the EAL Register–you can find them on Google Docs by clicking here;
- Arrange for your EAL students to be nearest the front of the class (e.g. nearest to the whiteboard etc. and in a place where you can monitor them easily);
- Write neatly in blue or black–obviously, there will be times where we need to write in green and red, but bear in mind that green pen on a white board (especially if the pen is old or not working well), for example, can be very hard to read;
- Expect them to and oblige them to speak up in each class–there are various questioning strategies etc. which can be used in order to elicit information from ‘reluctant speakers’; you probably already know many of them but if you need a hand, just let me, or anyone else on the EAL Team know;
- Give them lots of positive praise and encouragement! It is tough for them to use academic English all day.
And now for a simple strategy:
Purpose: Vocabulary building/definitions of key terms. By doing this activity, students get to encounter a variety of language structures, key terms and definitions either as a plenary or as a first encounter with the language of the topic/unit of work.
Materials needed: bits of paper and pencils.
Timing: 5-10 minutes.
- Each student is given wither a key term or a definition to write down on their piece of paper; alternatively, you can already have these written down on paper and simply hand them to students, face down;
- Students crumple the paper into a ‘snowball’;
- Students then stand in a circle and have a ‘snowball fight’ where they throw the ‘snowballs’ at their peers;
- Students recover their nearest snowball and read to themselves the key term or definition;
- Students then need to find their ‘partner’ (e.g. the person who has either the ‘matching’ definition or key term) by walking around the room and asking a peer to read what is on their paper (students might try and simply show each other, which is not the point!)–once they find their partner, they should stand together;
- The students, in pairs, read out to the class their key term and definition. It is often a good idea to do this twice as it aids comprehension of the content and of the language used.
Extension: The students can then return to their places and, individually, write out as many of the key terms and definitions as they remember. They can then share their ideas with a partner, and then, finally, with the rest of their table. Has any table got all the correct definitions?
The teacher then leads the class in consolidating their knowledge (probably by going through all the key terms and definitions which they have encountered by ‘showing and telling’; in other words, it would be good practice at this point to have all the key terms and definitions presented visually to the students either on a worksheet or on screen etc. etc.).
When should I use it?
Anytime! However, due to the fact that it is a kinesthetic activity which boosts energy levels, it might be wise to use this activity directly after lunch or sometime during the final period of the day (the ‘graveyard shift’!).
***This might not be the most environmentally friendly strategy, so I would suggest pieces of scrap paper/or recycling the pieces of paper after use!