Pupils at this popular independent school are high achievers, and the EAL pupils generally have very good levels of English. However, staff had identified that pupils needed to move away from sticking rigidly to the literal meaning of a text and instead demonstrate an ability to understand the subtleties of language, such as nuances and inferences.
Bernie O’Neal, the school’s head of Learning Support, recognised that some upskilling was needed in order for staff to best support the girls, particularly given that word-based problems are becoming more and more frequent across the curriculum, notably in Maths and Science.
Some of the key points made during this inset session included:
- Staff do not need to be qualified teachers of EAL. Instead they can use their existing skills set to enhance the learning experience for EAL pupils. Similarly, the stumbling block of questioning some of our own knowledge of grammar can easily be overcome.
- EAL students face the hurdle of first deciphering word-based problems. Working with parents to develop their children’s linguistic competence in their mother tongue will generate enormous benefits here. If parents are unwilling or unable to collaborate, then there are still techniques that teaching staff can use to compensate.
- Talk is the key to success in writing. Activities such as Socratic Talk can be tailored to move pupils from informal talk and writing to formal talk and academic writing.
- All pupils, whether native or non-native speakers, can benefit from EAL-based techniques to increase their written competence.
“The session led by Beaumont was excellent,” said deputy head Sarah Haslam. “It was pitched at just the right level. Thank you to Jo Higgins-Cezza for preparing so carefully to ensure that the session was tailored to our needs.”
Feedback from Withington Girls School staff was hugely positive. Teachers were keen to practise new strategies and explore how Resilience Training will further encourage pupils to move out of their comfort zones. Listen to head of Learning Miss O’ Neal’s feedback in this short video clip.
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