EAL teaching has its own distinctive pedagogy. It aims to teach English using the mainstream curriculum as the context. This involves developing specific resources which make the language of the curriculum accessible through, for example, increased use of visuals, scaffolding and modelling, while keeping the cognitive challenge and interest level high. The National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) defines EAL pedagogy as follows (NALDIC 2011):
‘EAL pedagogy is the set of systematic teaching approaches which have evolved from classroom based practices in conjunction with the development of knowledge through theoretical and research perspectives. These approaches meet the language and learning needs of pupils for whom English is an additional language. They can be used in a wide range of different teaching contexts.’
One of the most important aspects of effective teaching of EAL learners is the need to support and develop the child’s competence in the mother tongue alongside the learning of English. Linguists have concluded that we all have an innate ability to learn language and that the ‘surface features’ of all languages derive from a common underlying proficiency (CUP). This means that the knowledge developed in the first language can easily be transferred to the second or third languages (Cummins 1981). The pedagogical implications of this are that full bilingual education is the ideal and, where this is not possible, learning in the mother tongue needs to be encouraged and supported as much as possible.
Another important aspect of effective teaching of EAL is to pay attention to the links between language acquisition and cognitive and academic development, and understand the importance of providing work that is sufficiently challenging for all learners, both those who are new to English as well as more advanced EAL learners.
This website has advice about effective teaching of EAL learners in the Great Ideas pages section. Some of the key features of EAL pedagogy can be summarised like this:
- Make the verbal curriculum more visual (see Visuals).
- Make the abstract curriculum more concrete (see Graphic organisers).
- Develop interactive and collaborative teaching and learning styles (see Collaborative activities).
- Think about the language demands of the curriculum (oral and written) and provide models (see Modelling).
- Use drama and role play (see Drama and role play).
- Provide opportunities for exploratory talk (see Collaborative activities).
- Ensure home languages are valued and used (see Using learners' first language ability).
- Provide opportunities to talk before writing (see Language drills).
- Support through key phrases and structures rather than key words (see Scaffolding).
The National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (NALDIC) have identified five principles of good practice in EAL teaching and learning (NALDIC 1999).
In many primary schools there is an expectation that parents will share books with children from the very start of school in the reception class.
These pages look at teaching methodologies and strategies that are effective for all but particularly important for EAL learners. They include explanations of how each approach helps to foster language development and practical tips for using it in the classroom.
Various models of additional support for EAL learners, particularly beginners, are used in UK schools.