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For older pupils (late Year 9, Years 10, 11) a dual approach of immersion and specific language teaching is particularly important for learners without literacy.

  • Young people who have never been to school will be unfamiliar with a school and teaching environment. This will compound any culture shock and disorientation they may be experiencing
  • Distress and frustration may result from not understanding
  • Pupils may miss extended family and friends
  • Some children experience emotional trauma when they arrive
  • Buddies can be a vital source of support, especially initially
  • During the ‘silent period’ pupils actively listen and tune in to the new language
  • It is extremely tiring to function all day in an unfamiliar language
  • Pupils with EAL benefit from confidence building, as English speaking pupils often dominate the discourse
  • Traditional phonics approaches appropriate for monolingual pupils may not be helpful for developing bilinguals. The main focus should be on understanding meaning and noticing phonic patterns in context. The de-contextualised nature of some phonics activities can create confusion

Listening and understanding

  • A good listening environment is essential
  • Position so that the pupil can see any visual clues easily
  • Subject buddies can help EAL learners in the lesson
  • Ensure practical involvement in the classroom, collecting books or distributing equipment
  • Give as many clues to the context as possible, visual and oral, e.g. key words on board, objects, pictures and maps, written questions.
  • Interactive whiteboards are an excellent tool for supporting learners with EAL
  • Provide keywords, key phrases, key visuals
  • Speak naturally, expressively and clearly. Mime, gesture and body language will help understanding
  • Avoid jokes, clichés, and idiomatic expressions. Such use makes new arrivals feel excluded. If use is necessary, ensure explanation
  • Check understanding; note that many students will answer ‘Yes’, to ‘Do you understand?’ questions. Rephrase rather than repeat.

Encourage the pupil to admit when he/she has not followed what is happening


  • Allow for a ‘silent period’
  • Encourage, but do not force a spoken response
  • Plan opportunities for talk – talk partners/threes should be competent users of English
  • Allow time to reflect before expecting a response
  • Be clear in questioning – new arrivals will usually find it easier to answer closed questions
  • Don’t overcorrect – mistakes are a normal part of learning a language
  • Be a good ‘link person,’ i.e. link and lead discussion, summarise and repeat main points. Repeat clearly other pupils’ answers to questions
  • Allow the pupil to verbalise before written work is attempted.


It is vital that talk underpins writing activities

  • Use colour coding or boxing to highlight important information or pick out words
  • Teach spelling of common high-frequency words. Help students to notice the shape and length of words and pick up important letter combinations
  • Always write clearly on board and in workbooks
  • Link oral and written forms by writing new vocabulary
  • Use alternatives to written recording – tables, flow charts, mind maps, etc.
  • Ask the pupil what he/she thinks would be helpful and involve him/her with target setting

Use of first/home language

  • Maintenance of the first language is beneficial. Pupils can continue to learn concepts effectively through the first/home language
  • Allow written work in the home language if appropriate
  • If available, encourage bilingual support in the classroom
  • Encourage pupils to make links between their languages
  • Ensure parents and carers are made to feel welcome at parents’ evenings etc. using an interpreter if necessary