Supporting EAL students in the Mainstream

2 years ago I completed a Masters Degree in TESOL; my area of focus was to construct guidelines to provide pedagogical support, to mainstream teachers, in facilitating the acquisition of academic language, by those students for whom English was an additional or a second language. In this presentation I shall share some strategies (feel free to get in touch if you would like to read the entire dissertation!). I am now teaching EAL students and am also supporting them in their various classes at school. My aim now is to consider how EAL students can best support themselves too in order to become increasingly more independent in their learning habits.

A consideration of the above questions will allow for reflection and transparency of acknowledging and meeting the learning needs of EAL students. Academic language requires a learner to analyse, synthesise and evaluate information in order to develop an understanding of new concepts; students need to be able to ask and answer questions, follow instructions, explain, describe, discuss and understand complex, abstract ideas. This is a challenge not just for EAL students of course, but all students. The following 3 images highlight how teachers can support students by giving them sentence frameworks to guide their oral and written language thus developing their academic thinking literacy.

The image below highlights the 4 zones of learning and this should be the backdrop for all teaching and learning environments in order for deep learning to take place. Scaffolded instruction within a social setting has a lot to contribute towards meeting the learning needs of EAL students within a context embedded and cognitively demanding methodology.

The following image is based on CALLA (Cognitive Academic Language Approach - Chamot and O'Malley, 1987, 1994) and this model advocates a 5 phase lesson plan which aims to develop academic language, metacognitive strategies and language skills. As language cannot be taught in isolation, mainstream subjects are a natural vehicle as language is being used for an authentic purpose.

The following 2 images aim to share some micro-scaffolding strategies for both teachers and students. Scaffolding supports the idea for subject teachers to create opportunities for students to collaboratively de-construct an academic text, then jointly construct one before going on to write an academic text independently. It takes advance literacy skills to face the challenges of various academic registers, consequently an explicit focus on acquiring academic linguistic features has the potential to aid learning for all students in a classroom.

Some guidelines and ideas for macro-scaffolding.

And finally it is important that mainstream teachers remain sensitive to the language and cultural needs of their EAL students if they are to reach their full academic potential. The content of the subject area should not be simplified but rather amplified so that skills and academic learning strategies can also be taught.