Learning to Learn in a Second Language by Pauline Gibbons

Learning to Learn is aimed at primary school teachers of learners that are English as an Additional Language (EAL). In the UK you can buy from Amazon by clicking here.

Any of Prof. Gibbons’ books would be fantastic additions to your teacher library and Learning to Learn is no different.

Included are lots of practical tips, advice and strategies for successfully supporting EAL learners in our primary schools. There are 10 chapters and those chapter titles are:

  1. Bilingual Children and the Language of the School
  2. Planning for a Language for Learning
  3. An Interactive Classroom: Developing Spoken Language
  4. Assessing Spoken Language
  5. Integrating New Arrival Children in the Classroom
  6. The Mother Tongue in the Classroom
  7. Reading in a Second Language
  8. Learning to Listen and Getting the Sounds Right
  9. The Writing Program
  10. A Whole School Approach

A couple of my favourite chapters are chapter 2 ‘Planning for a Language for Learning and chapter 3 ‘An Interactive Classroom: Developing Spoken Language. Firstly, chapter 2 has a range of topics that helped me to think about how I can plan for language learning in my classroom and in the classrooms of the mainstream teachers that I work with. For example, there is a list of the common functions of language, which has been extremely helpful for me to highlight specifically what function I want my learners to use at certain points. As Gibbons states keeping an ongoing record of the functions we use in our classrooms ‘ensures that classroom activities allow for an appropriate range of language.’ She also provides a ‘language framework’ that we can use to support planning for language programs / lessons in our classrooms. Also included are lists of questions that can be used for each language function because as she states ‘the questions teachers ask are an important way to create the situations where language patterns are likely to occur.’ These questions are really helpful to focus our attention on asking the right questions for a certain function. This chapter is full of great ideas that we can take into our own classrooms to ensure we meet the language needs of our EAL learners.

Chapter 3 again is filled with tips, advice, authentic classroom examples and strategies aimed at developing an interactive classroom where spoken language can flourish. Gibbons highlights specific situations in which spoken language will occur according to its language function (from chapter 2). Best of all she then gives a range of communicative activities that can be adapted and used in any primary school classroom, in any school in the world. She ends with a checklist for selecting communicative activities to that support the development of spoken language in an interactive classroom.

I highly recommend Learning to Learn for any primary school practitioner that wants to enhance their classroom practice for EAL learners. I also believe that many of the points Gibbons raises are related to non EAL learners as well, especially the functional role that language plays in EAL learners development.

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