#100 Ideas for EAL

100 Ideas for Early Years Practitioners: Supporting EAL Learners Book Cover

To celebrate the release of my book 100 Ideas for Early Years Practitioners: Supporting EAL Learners, published by Bloomsbury Education, I will tweet once a day for the next 100 days with tips for how to support children learning English as an additional language within the early years setting. The book contains details about how to implement each of these ideas, as well as suggested resources and further information.

  1. Make children feel proud of their linguistic heritage. Encourage them to use their first language in the setting.
  2. Providing for children learning EAL is about culture as well as language.
  3. EAL learners bring with them rich opportunities to enhance the learning of everyone else in your setting.
  4. EAL learners are tasked with learning about social customs as well as a new language.
  5. Parents from different countries will have differing expectations of early years education.
  6. Build on the experience and knowledge of basic concepts the children already have in their first language.
  7. Start with the familiar. Ask parents to send in photos of family, friends and home to use to introduce English vocabulary.
  8. Put together a file of standard letters for parents in different languages.
  9. Learn how to spell and pronounce children's names correctly and don't shorten them for ease.
  10. See if your local authority can provide a translator for meetings, home and induction visits.
  11. Find out if families have relatives or friends who speak English and can translate for you.
  12. Have the prospectus for your setting translated into different languages.
  13. Put together an information book about early years education in Britain and have it translated into different languages.
  14. Display word banks in different languages of key vocabulary linked to areas of learning and topics in key worker group areas.
  15. Find out which languages a child understands and speaks with whom and in what situations.
  16. Set up a multilingual welcome display.
  17. Set up a multilingual parent information board.
  18. Display pictures and posters that show people of a range of ethnicities and depicting various cultures.
  19. Take account of cultural expectations in terms of physical contact, toileting, sleeping, clothing and independence.
  20. A child might nod to acknowledge you but this does not mean they understand you.
  21. Children from other cultures may avoid eye contact with you as a sign of respect.
  22. Some children may smile at you when reprimanded as a sign of respect.
  23. Don’t assume a family practices a particular religion because of their ethnic background.
  24. Put together a good EAL policy. Find an example here: http://bit.ly/1sLIP7N.
  25. Teach other children in the setting greetings in different languages.
  26. Set up a lending library of dual language picture books.
  27. Put together some multilingual story bags containing dual language books, props and puppets.
  28. Ask parents to record songs and rhymes in their home languages and to send them into the setting.
  29. Introduce a bilingual persona doll or character puppet into the setting.
  30. Introduce foods from other cultures to the snack table.
  31. Invite parents in to prepare traditional dishes from their home countries with the children.
  32. Play alongside EAL learners and model the use of English language through self talk.
  33. Ask parents to record songs and rhymes in their home languages and to send them into the setting.
  34. Put together a visual timetable to refer to throughout the day.
  35. Give new starters pictorial cue cards featuring survival vocabulary they can use to get by and communicate needs.
  36. Prioritise teaching EAL learners how to express their feelings to help avoid them becoming frustrated.
  37. Pair EAL learners with a buddy to help them get used to their new surroundings and routines.
  38. EAL learners may not speak at all initially. This is known as the silent period and is not unusual.
  39. Observe and monitor silent children to ensure they do not become isolated.
  40. Encourage parents to foster children’s use of their first language in the home.
  41. Enlist the help of a bilingual support assistant to assess the children’s language development in their first language.
  42. Choose stories and books that contain images representing the cultures within your setting.
  43. Invite parents into the setting to share traditional tales from their country of origin.
  44. EAL learners need hands-on activities that enable them to link language to first-hand experience.
  45. Plan activities that build on the children’s interests so they are motivated to communicate and learn.
  46. Play games like Simon Says that require children to respond to instructions.
  47. Use play as the main vehicle for learning because it puts language into context.
  48. Avoid the use of vocabulary lists and worksheets because these lack meaningful context.
  49. Ask questions that contain the answer, e.g. ‘Would you like the blue brick or the red one?’
  50. Invite parents in to help plan celebrations for religious festivals that are relevant to the families in your setting.
  51. Visit places of worship to encourage children to understand and respect the beliefs of all families linked to the setting.
  52. Hold regular open days and coffee mornings with a translator on hand to help new families get to know everyone.
  53. Plan small group activities so EAL learners have more opportunity to participate and speak.
  54. Add verbal translations to display headings and captions using Talking Points (TTS).
  55. Introduce everyday language through role play.
  56. Equip the role play area with multicultural resources and add multilingual labels.
  57. Rather than drawing attention to mistakes, simply respond using the correct English language.
  58. Model the correct language for EAL learners but do not ask them to ‘repeat after me…’
  59. Children learn to speak a language by listening to others. Play plenty of listening games to practise this skill.
  60. EAL learners need to develop phonological awareness of the English language. Plan regular singing and rhyme times.
  61. Use a sign support system such as Makaton or Signalong alongside spoken English.
  62. Give children time to play without adult interference so they can learn conversational language from their peers.
  63. Set up imaginative provocations that fill EAL learners with awe and inspire them to talk. http://bit.ly/1Wxbz0L
  64. Use memory games to practise concentration and introduce and reinforce English vocabulary.
  65. Use observational drawing and painting to introduce descriptive words for shapes, colours and patterns.
  66. Set up a stage outside with toy microphones to encourage children to shout, talk and sing in any language.
  67. Use physical gestures, objects and pictures to help illustrate the meaning of spoken English.
  68. Repetition is vital for EAL learners. Take photos and film of activities and revisit them later to reinforce language.
  69. Remember, just because a child cannot speak English it doesn’t mean they are incapable of more complex thought.
  70. Comparing, sorting and classifying is a good way to expand language and teach new vocabulary.
  71. Source dual-language counting books for maths.
  72. Make playdough mats linked to different topics featuring key vocabulary in different languages.
  73. Teach the children to sing Happy Birthday in the languages of different children in the group.
  74. Use craft activities to provide the context EAL learners need to process and remember new vocabulary.
  75. Books and rhymes with repeated refrains are particularly helpful for helping children pick up and retain new language.
  76. Make story boxes and use finger puppets to practise retelling stories in different languages.
  77. Use repetitive phrases throughout each day so EAL learners begin to recognise verbal cues.
  78. Invite parents in to read dual-language picture books to the children alongside you.
  79. Use treasure hunts to introduce directional and positional language.
  80. Listen to music and play instruments from different countries around the world.
  81. Group EAL learners with English speaking peers so they are exposed to and encouraged to use English.
  82. Group children who speak the same language together so they are encouraged to use their first language.
  83. Introduce children to a variety of different language scripts so they are aware of the differences.
  84. Use ribbon wands to compare and contrast the directionality of different scripts.
  85. Children who are enthusiastic about their play will be more eager to communicate with each other.
  86. Create a bit of peace and quiet to make understanding and speaking English less of a struggle.
  87. Use sand and water play to introduce language and vocabulary related to a range of concepts and themes.
  88. Introduce a little at a time and use plenty of repetition to help EAL learners absorb the language.
  89. Minibeasts come in a variety of colours, shapes and with many different features; great for language development.
  90. Play physical games to teach vocabulary linked to the body, movement, direction and sport.
  91. EAL learners that start to mix English words in with their first language are beginning to internalise English.
  92. The most accurate and rounded assessment of a child’s language development will come from observation.
  93. Give key workers extra time to observe the EAL learners in their group more frequently, especially during the settling in period.
  94. Take regular video observations to build an overview of language learning progress over time.
  95. Use colour coding on assessment records to show what a child has achieved in their first language and in English.
  96. Involve parents when assessing EAL learners’ progress.
  97. Speaking English as an additional language is not the same as having special educational needs.
  98. Find out if your local authority can offer training and support regarding providing for EAL learners.
  99. Allow EAL learners to take themselves away from the action and chill out sometimes. It’s tiring learning a new language.
  100. Celebrate multilingualism. A diverse linguistic knowledge can be a cognitive advantage.