Imagine a typical year eleven lesson on a cold winter’s day. The pressure of the looming GCSE exams, the wistful dreams of being nestled in bed instead of memorising quotes in the gloomy confines of a chilly classroom amid heartbreaking protestations of ‘It’s cold’, ‘It’s raining’, and ‘I’m sick’… It’s enough to make any teacher want to stand up and declare, “You all need to pull your socks up. I don’t care if it’s raining cats and dogs out there, those exams are still coming!” These words can probably never be said in an EAL classroom or to an EAL student without further questioning about the wellbeing of the cats and dogs.

No matter how neglectful one in a million students can sometimes unfortunately be, the type of language we use to help them can be dangerously close to being the exact opposite of helpful. ‘Pull your socks up’, for example, can lead to a rather quizzical look down at the socks in question, followed by a confused ‘Ce este în neregulă cu șosetele mele?’ – ‘What’s wrong with my socks?’ in Romanian (true story). Clarity, therefore, is absolutely key. Waffling (no matter how much we all love a good soliloquy) is not the way forward, especially with EAL students.

The general feedback from students who are learning English as an Additional Language is that the best lessons are almost always the ones that are the simplest, with clear instructions, short explanations and a close eye on the individuals who might need an extra helping hand. Sprinkling in some complex language, as much as we adore broadening the lexicon of our appreciative young people, can sometimes be more of a hindrance than we think, especially if they’ve never heard the word before. However, using a genius G9 term and explaining it at a beginner’s level to make the word accessible for all goes a long way in teaching our EAL students, as well as the rest of the class, a wide range of vocabulary. In fact, they are also much more likely to use it in their speech, seeing it as part of their language, as well as in a written exam for a very specific purpose.

The EAL Department at Lister has existed for many years, and has grown and developed over these years for the better. Support within lessons has been tried and tested, dictionary provisions have been successes and – well, losses. Over time, Lister has encouraged in its EAL students a resilience that has been demonstrated by the department itself, proving by its very existence that determination is a real factor in attaining success. Withdrawals, EAL classes as well as Clubs and Reading Groups are some of the ways students are supported. Many schools are not fortunate enough to have these provisions in place, and having heard of the challenges faced by stretched teams of LSAs, TAs or even teachers, it is clear that Lister’s approach to EAL is exceptional – being a safe space, putting students’ needs first and supporting everyone in making all lessons EAL-friendly.

Ms Khan

EAL Co-ordinator

With special thanks to the EAL Lunch Club attendees for their contributions and valued opinions: Laura Paulet, Mariana and Alina Bacris, Ana Odir, Raluca Granada and Narcisa Stoica.

For more information on EAL at Lister, please email Ms Khan (hazira.khan@lister.newham.sch.uk).

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