Supporting New to English EAL Learners during Remote Learning

Remote learning is here for a while in the UK. I have massive concerns about how my EAL learners who are at the New to English (DfE Code A) / Early Acquisition (DfE Code B) stage of their language proficiency. How are going to access remote teaching? There are a number of issues they face which include access to an appropriate device, Wi-Fi, space to study etc.

Then there are the lessons themselves! Accessing some of the content heavy curriculum subjects we have at secondary level is really tough for EAL learners.

The Bell Foundation did an excellent webinar during lockdown 1 which is well worth watching. You can look at the ideas they suggested by clicking the link here.

Here are some suggestions of the approaches and strategies that have worked for me. Some are from the Bell Foundation’s webinar and some other ideas that have worked for me.

Home languages – allowing learners to use their first language can be highly beneficial. During remote learning this is no different. Consider:

  • Translate docs, PPTs, PDF etc with this website. None translation site is perfect but some of my team have checked out some languages and said it was fairly accurate.
  • Dual language glossaries – get your learners to create dual language glossaries of key vocabulary or concepts they are learning. You will need to be careful because some EAL learners do not have the required academic language proficiency to understand translations into their language.
  • Reading a text in their home language. For instance, there are translations of some of the books that learners read in English.

Exposure to good models of English – The Bell Foundations’ webinar suggested learners need exposure to a wide range of English models. Consider:

Differentiating – we need to consider how we can make content comprehensible to our EAL learners. Consider the following to help make texts more accessible:

  • Simplified versions of texts
  • Chunking information into manageable parts
  • Highlighting / bolding / underlining key parts in a text
  • Microsoft’s Immersive Reader
  • DARTs activities (fill in the gaps, sequencing, ordering, matching, drawing diagrams or charts etc.)

Here’s an example I created for a Y9 Science lesson

For writing consider the following strategies

Matching – could be halves of a question / answer or sentence (see the example below)

I’ve also coloured coded the different halves to try to make it clearer

Sentence Starters – Sentence starters are good! But what if your EAL learners don’t have the language to complete the sentence? Consider allowing them to complete the sentence is their first language or by providing them the answers at the bottom (see example below). They then write the sentence starter and select the correct ending.

Substitution tables – are a great way to scaffold writing. They can differ in complexity according to the language proficiency of your EAL learners. The example below is for a learner that is New to English.

Gap fills – are great but for New to English EAL learners I focus on language over content. For example, I will focus on a particular part of speech and learners have to fill in the gaps say with verbs. See the example below.

Scrambled Sentences – Use the website The Scrambilator to create scrambled sentences for your learners to reorganise. Again, differentiate according to language proficiency. See the example below.

It’s not easy for our EAL learners at the moment here in the UK. Many are telling me how they are struggling with remote learning. Some of the strategies suggested above help to make their experiences a little better (I hope).


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