5 Simple Ideas for Supporting EAL Pupils at Primary School

With the relatively recent increase in the number of children with English as another language (EAL), delivering lessons that meet the needs of your whole class can be difficult.

Without adequate support, EAL pupils can become disengaged, isolated and unwilling to contribute to classroom discussion.

Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested approaches that you can implement in your teaching practice to meet this challenge. They won’t demand a lot of extra work on your part, just a little pre-lesson planning. And you will be surprised at how quickly they begin to bear fruit.

Here are five simple ideas just for starters.


1.) Visual learning materials

Mini whiteboards are an affordable resource that you can utilise to get your EAL pupils writing without the worry of making mistakes.

Encourage them to ‘have a go’ at writing out a word or phrase, making it clear that it doesn’t matter if they get it wrong.

Inject some extra fun into the activity by getting them to make sketches representing the word or phrase that they are writing down.

Flash cards are another resource. You can create these yourself or order some packs from an educational resources website. Play games where your pupils flip the cards over and try to say what the picture is or construct a sentence that includes that word.


2.) Songs

There are plenty of websites where you can download free songs to support the teaching of language skills or other primary-level curriculum topics.

These songs feature simple vocabulary and frequent repetition of words and phrases. This will help your EAL pupils remember new words and begin to understand how they can be used in sentences.


3.) Physical activities

Why not get your pupils speaking and listening through drama, puppet shows and dance?

The more informal and fun you can make your lessons, the more comfortable your EAL pupils will be with speaking up and getting involved.

You could even introduce elements from their home culture, such as traditional songs or forms of dance.


4.) Modelling

Break the class into groups, making sure that every group including an EAL pupil also includes one of your strongest English language speakers. Set each group a reading task. Your EAL pupils will benefit from hearing their peers use the language and will make an effort to follow their example.


5.) Buddies

An excellent recent article on teaching EAL pupils talks about how many schools are pairing their EAL pupils up with two buddies. One of which is fluent in their first language and the other a native English speaker.

If the pupil is starting school or has only just arrived in the UK with their family, this is an effective way to ease them into classroom activities. If necessary, the buddy who speaks their first language can translate for them. Meanwhile, the native speaker will be someone with whom they can practice their English, one-to-one.


Dig deeper

TES: Primary Teaching Resources

The Guardian: How Schools are Breaking Down the Language Barrier for EAL Students

TES New Teachers: Top Tips for Teaching EAL Pupils


Over to you

So what do you think of the ideas above? Do you have any winning strategies for supporting EAL pupils? What are the biggest challenges that you face?
Get in touch via Twitter (and if you liked the post, feel free to share).


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