Let me begin by firstly explaining that this is a somewhat bizarre article to write, in the sense that it is not an ‘against all the odds’ battle to succeed in the style of Nativity (you’ve seen that film, right?) or Leicester City’s Premier League success of 2016. It’s more the story of a young student with very rare natural capabilities to shine and achieve, with or without the input of her Geography teacher.
As you would imagine, all English language lessons focus on the English language as the syllabus. Meanwhile, almost all English language lessons focus exclusively on the English language, without taking into account the learner’s first language, which we call ‘L1’. There is a pedagogical reason for this: the long-standing and ubiquitous idea that it is better to focus exclusively on L1 when learning a language.
Withington Girls School in Manchester have addressed ambitions of improving their pupils’ written work by undertaking a bespoke inset day. The session, based around the theme of Supporting the Needs of Advanced Learners of EAL, was run by Beaumont Training & Consultancy Ltd and concentrated on how inferences constitute a problem for EAL (English as an additional language) pupils. It also addressed the question of whether or not the school’s teachers should think that it is only the EAL pupils who struggle with texts in this way.
15 / 07 / 2015, Diana’s diary entry (EAL student, arrived two years ago from Latvia):
“In period 1 today we do History and Mr Smith asked us to write happen on the day when World War 2 start in 1939. That was quite easy, actually. It was fun looking at the pictures and writing little sentences about what went on. After tutor, in period 2, it is Maths, and we do something named word problems. They are small stories and we answer with numbers. But Miss Brooke said they are like stories – so why do her problems say, “Molly buys 6 CDs” and not “Molly bought”? I don’t get it! And then in Science we did about metals, but I don’t understand. Mr Hutchinson talked about “is done” and “is made” and “are formed”, but why is he using two verbs? – this is nonsense!”