English Learners: Academic Literacy and Thinking. Pauline Gibbons.

Anyone interested in EAL should have this book it is just an amazing resource of theory, practical advice and classroom strategies.

Pauline Gibbons outstanding book has been a mainstay of my bookshelf for well over a decade. Including a forward by no less than Jim Cummins the book sets out to support EAL specialists and mainstream teachers in some of the key challenges that we face when supporting our EAL learners.

The book has 8 chapters all jam packed with useful advice that you can use in your day to day classroom teaching and when planning lessons or resources for EAL learners. Chapter headings include: ‘Literacy in the Curriculum, Engaging with Academic Literacy: Examples of Classroom Activities, Building Bridges to Text: Supporting Academic Reading, Scaffolding EL learners to Be Successful writers and Planing Talk for Learning and Literacy.’

I will outline a couple of chapters starting with Chapter 4 ‘Engaging with Academic Literacy: Examples of Classroom Activities’ which, as the title suggests, offers a wide range of strategies and activities that are extremely practical and highly beneficial for EAL learners and non EAL learners. The chapter is also very useful for mainstream teachers because it discusses how you can plan and use language based activities and learning in a content based classroom. I feel that this is a real area for development for a large majority of mainstream teachers and the advice that Gibbons gives here is second to none. I have used strategies such as Progressive Brainstorm and Dictogloss in my own practice and as recommended strategies to my mainstream colleagues with powerful results.  These are just two of the strategies from this chapter but there are a lot lot more.

Chapter 5 ‘Building Bridges to Text: Supporting Academic Reading’ again offers a number of strategies to support our EAL learners in engaging with academic texts in the mainstream context.  Gibbons outlines ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches to texts as effective approaches to academic reading. She discusses the roles that a reader takes and how it is important that we support our EAL learners in developing these key roles when approaching an academic text. I find that we often teach our EAL learners the meaning of a text without thinking about the need to teach them how to be an effective reader. One particular strategy that I like from this chapter is the use of ‘margin questions’ as a way to develop effective reading strategies, a move away from the usual comprehension questions that can lead us into a quagmire of problems as learners struggle to understand a text.  Margin questions are placed carefully around a text and promote these reading roles and highlight exactly where the learner will find the answer.  The chapter also contains practical tips on how to approach before, during and after reading activities.  Again, an excellent chapter that is very useful to any teacher mainstream or EAL.

As mentioned, any of Pauline Gibbons books come highly recommended and Academic Literacy and Thinking would probably be the one that I would say to buy first. Practical, insightful and full of interesting information you won’t regret having this book as part of your continuing professional development bookcase.

Gibbons, P. English Learners: Academic Literacy and Thinking. Learning in the Challenge Zone. Heinemann.

You can buy this book on Amazon here:

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close