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My name is Harriet and I am an English and PSHE teacher at a diverse school in South Hackney. I have first hand experience of the power of class discussion, especially for EAL students. Empowering these students is a real passion of mine; it is transformational for a student to know that their teachers not only understand the cognitive and emotional difficulties they are experiencing by learning in a different language to their own, but also that their teachers are doing all that they can to help and support those students.


What does EAL mean?

EAL refers to students who know English as an “additional” language. These students will, naturally, have varying levels of understanding of the English language; some will have known English for all their lives, others may have only recently begun learning. There are currently 1.6 million EAL pupils in England alone (DFE, 2021). The needs of these students can often be overlooked, but as with all adaptive teaching, catering to these students will empower the entire class.


What skills does Classroom Discussion build?

An effective way to develop students literacy and general academic outcomes in through the development of their Oracy skills. This is simply our ability to express ourselves verbally, in a way that is grammatically correct and suited to our audience. One such way to scaffold Oracy learning for EAL students is through class discussions, and opportunities for low-stakes verbal rehearsal.


What does Classroom Discussion look like?

Classroom discussion is the name we give to those opportunities for students to verbally share and explore their ideas. In The Story Project lessons, these moments may come in the training or reading phase of the lesson, and are pre-planned to elicit answers from students that allow them to explore their ideas verbally. Questions are designed to encourage students to make predictions of texts, to question texts, and interrogate them, leading to personal inference based responses.

Discussion moments can also be presented through Think-Pair-Share; this is an activity through which the educator provides a question for students to consider silently, alone. This is followed by sharing ideas with partners, and then back to the whole class. This activity allows low stakes engagement – as students can practice their answer with their partner – and students perceive that they have had increased opportunities to share their opinions. All Story Project questions could easily be used in this format, if the educator thinks this would be beneficial.



How else can I adapt my teaching for EAL students?

There are lots of fantastic scaffolding options that can and should be used in lessons to assist cognitive load for EAL students. These are listed below:

Dual coding – using images where possible to limit the need for translation.

Fonts – translating into languages that write in a different script style to your own can be compared to learning to draw, rather than read. To negate this, do not write anything out for students by hand, and always use simple fonts such as Calibri or Ariel.

Provide translations – providing translations, generated on online translating tools, can help students to access stories. Over-reliance on translations should not be encouraged, but can be used to make students feel as though they have an understanding of the story.

Celebrate our differences – on lesson PowerPoints, translate key words on the side for certain students, consider ways to bring other languages into the classroom, and celebrate students that are learning in other languages.

Check in – make sure the students know that they are doing amazing and if they need help, they can ask at any time.

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