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Discussion in 'Vocational' started by danicista, Apr 25, 2016.

  1. danicista

    danicista New commenter

    Hi there,

    I work with EAL student Y7 who moved to the UK 8 months ago and does not speak with anybody. He can read and write but never ever use his voice even with peers.

    Any ideas or experiences please?
  2. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    I once taught German to a girl who never said a single word in class. When it came to GCSE time, I was worried about how she would perform in the Speaking Test. In the event, she turned out to be the best candidate in the class, speaking at length and using a wide variety of vocabulary and structure in the target language. She went on to do A-level in the subject. Her explanation for her taciturnity in class was that she didn't feel the need to speak up in class and was confident about her progress in the subject. Like babies, some people take a while to use speech. That doesn't mean that they're not listening and learning. As you say, your student performs satisfactorily in reading and writing English.

    Of course, you can't take this all for granted. How do you know that he does not communicate in English outside your classroom? If he is following the Year 7 curriculum, do his other teachers share your concern? Has the school special educational needs coordinator conducted any tests that might shed light on the matter? It may be worth speaking with the SENCo, who can determine whether there is any possibility of "selective mutism", which is recognised as a SEN condition with a body of research and interventions. The school SENCo may also be able to talk things over with the parents of this student. In other words, involve as many fellow teachers as you can to pool knowledge and come up with possible responses.
  3. blueskydreaming

    blueskydreaming Lead commenter

    It's common for EAL kids to go through a 'silent period'; they are taking things in, but not yet confident about using spoken language. Speaking and listening skills develop at different rates, and one may always be weaker than the other.

    Is he the only EAL kid in school? Or the only new-to-English kid? You could try to buddy him up with a kid who is also EAL (doesn't matter if there's no common language), or hold extra curricular lunch sessions where all EAL kids can spend time together communicating (just playing games). Do you have access to ipads? He could use an ipad to use a dictionary in his native language - this gives him control of his learning, but it is a lot to ask for a Y7 kid to have to be in control of their own learning (be careful of Google Translate though, not always accurate).

    Are there any kids in the school with the same first language as him? Talking in his first language is perfectly legitimate and can boost confidence.

    Does he produce any written work? If he's really struggling give him word searches and crosswords with topic vocab to help aid familiarity and literacy. Teachers could come up with lists of key words for each topic - not too many. Anything with images, he could label them etc. Or he could draw instead of write. Differentiated assessments - I'm an English teacher, I had a child like this in my class, so instead of writing about the text we'd been reading I asked him to write about his new life in England.

    Depending on his native country he may have already learnt some English, or another language. Ask him. Or communicate with parent/s, if they are able to speak any English. Ask if there's anything they'd like you to do.

    Good luck!
    sabrinakat likes this.
  4. -Sarah-

    -Sarah- New commenter

    Some great ideas have been suggested above.

    I would add just one thing: I don't know if it is possible/allowed in your context, but perhaps an informal home visit would give you some insight into his family life, culture and personal interests & skills. This could also strengthen the trust in you he might need to activate his speaking.

    Let us know how things develop!

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