EAL Coordinator series: Anna Czebiolko on whole-school training
Teacher Standard 5 recommends that teaching should respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils, including those with EAL. The implementation of this standard can be challenging for EAL teaching, as EAL has its own pedagogy, assessment systems, language awareness and linguistic skills which require individual attention. In this post, I share some of the ways we organised whole-school EAL training and initiatives that could provide all teachers with the tools needed to better support EAL students.
An EAL CPD for all
A whole-school EAL CPD session is one of the most practical ways to ensure school staff receives useful guidance to facilitate multilingual pupils’ learning. CPD on EAL for all the teaching staff has the potential to ensure that children are supported across the curriculum and the more priority-oriented the sessions are, the better outcomes they generate. In fact, priorities in EAL may be different. For example, if a new whole-school policy has recently been introduced and it refers to reading, it would seem practical to focus on the same theme in the context of EAL. However, an EAL leader may discover other important aspects that they deem more urgent. A school may have just admitted some new-to-English pupils from a specific country, and knowledge about particular groups of learners may be significantly more beneficial at that time, not only for EAL teachers but for all.
Sharing: EAL mini-publications, accessible departmental folders, and the school website
Distributing a theme-oriented series of mini-publications is both an innovative and time-saving strategy. Those may come in the form of short summaries or data analyses. They can focus specifically on current trends, needs and news from the EAL perspective. For example, in our school reports are created termly and they present reviews of regular assessments. It is also useful to update the number of speakers of each language. This information can help with organising heritage language exams, or with finding a buddy for a newly-arrived pupil.
A system that allows teachers to access information about EAL teaching can increase awareness of the complementary work conducted in the EAL department. Subject-specific and themed folders can contain, for example, personalised resources, translations, visualised texts, simplified books, word mats and flashcards. By offering easy access to such collections, school staff can find appropriate materials to use in their lessons. Furthermore, conveniently stored individualised teaching resources can suggest what differentiation may look like for specific pupils and those samples may prompt educators to create their own resources and tailor them to their subjects. Ultimately, the more practice is shared, the better.
Finally, there is no better and more streamlined way of interacting in a school setting than an internal school website for all staff, where all the EAL-related information is uploaded into one place. Pupil profiles, opportunities for electronic CPD sessions, useful websites, and samples of resources or establishing EAL TV to visually present teaching strategies, are some examples of what can be found in this valuable tool. You can find out more about a school’s internal EAL pages on the EAL Journal and NALDIC Blog.
Collaboration across departments
EAL collaboration with individual departments may result in several positive outcomes. Focusing on one subject may not only significantly strengthen the EAL provision in the area, but it may also help evaluate what strategies are practical and worth being shared for EAL coordinators, such cooperation includes attending departmental meetings to understand the relevant prime concerns of each department, providing tailored subject-oriented training, collecting resources for the unit, and offering in-class support which is linked with observing and helping EAL learners in the classroom.
The important role of Teaching Assistants
It seems that teaching assistants are often supporting a range of learners, including those with EAL, on an individual basis so specific training for them is essential. Experience shows that TA’s are reliable observers and their lesson feedback makes an invaluable contribution toward understanding pupils’ needs. Sometimes, they may bring to the classroom their own multilingual repertoire, and this can be a precious resource for the school. Training for teaching assistants should therefore offer time for Q&A and enable more two-way conversation.
In conclusion, ongoing staff development opportunities in reference to EAL can come in several forms. Staff benefits from open dialogue and constant practice evaluation. Providing whole-school EAL news and sharing best practices across the school is advantageous to both teachers and pupils. Along with the development of EAL pedagogy itself, increasing specialised subject-specific practice performed by specialist teachers has been observed. Finally, sharing resources and opening discussions is fundamental to support our EAL learners.