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Help with EAL student?

Discussion in 'English' started by thetapdancingteach, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. thetapdancingteach

    thetapdancingteach New commenter

    Hi all!
    I'm an NQT and I'm really struggling with one EAL student in my year 7 class. There are a few EAL learners in the group who all seem to cope quite well, but one of them appears to have very little English at all. She doesn't complete any work in class, and often gets upset when I or others try to help her with it. Speaking to her head of year, he seems to think that her English is better that she lets on and she actually just doesn't want to do anything. This is obviously really frustrating if this is the case, but I'm not convinced that it is!
    As part of our SoL the class are writing scripts in groups, but she has completely excluded herself, even though I put her in a group with kids who speak the same language in the hope they might encourage her. Today I gave in a bit and gave her some different work to do- basic English work which I thought she might be able to do and might increase her vocabulary and confidence a bit. She looked at it and told me 'no thanks' first of all, and after I'd told her she needed to do something, she took it but then just stared at it for the rest of the lesson.
    The data from KS2 says she has a 'developing competence' in English, which seems to suggest that she can speak more than she does- certainly in my lessons- but I am concerned that she really can't cope.
    I feel really bad, and like I'm excluding her now, but there doesn't seem to be any support or suggestion of what I can do for her, and at the end of the day the other 29 students all need to work too!

    If anyone has any suggestions I'd be eternally grateful!
    Thank you!
  2. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    I think there are two issues here:

    a) Non-completion of work. What is your school policy about students who don't complete work set in lessons? Do you give them a detention? Put them on report? Ask for a meeting with parents? Have you spoken to other teachers - is she like this in other lessons or just English? Find out what the school policy is and follow it. That's as much about demonstrating your expectations to the other 29 students as it is about helping her.

    b) Mind-set. From your description of the student, it sounds like there is a lot of learned-helplessness going on and a distinct lack of a growth mindset. You can differentiate your lessons to the nth degree, but unless the student believes that failure leads to learning and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, you aren't going to get anywhere. Does the school do anything on growth mindsets in PSHE? Can you set aside a couple of lessons to look at this with the whole class? Can you (or the student's tutor) find sometime to sit down one-to-one with her and set achievable targets so that the student can see progress and feel like she is achieving something? Make it clear to her what she needs to master (tenses, word order, etc) in order to progress and that not getting these things right every time does mean she's not suceeding - it means she's trying.

    I hope I don't sound patronising when I say that it is fantastic that you have a) noticed b) care c) are trying to do something to help this student and d) you are asking for advice. I find your determination to help this student quite inspiring. As a HoD, I'd be very proud to have an NQT like you in my department.

    Good luck.
  3. roamingteacher

    roamingteacher Established commenter Forum guide

    Sounds to me like she could be really suffering with the transition. Even well-adjusted teens have a hard time upping sticks and moving away from their friends and everything they have known. Until her emotional balance is back, I think anything academic is a lost cause, likely to make her feel/act worse and lead to more frustration all round.
    Have you (or a counsellor) tried speaking to her privately (like outside of lesson time) to find out what she thinks might help her? I'd definitely be taking a supportive rather than combative approach - not that I'm suggesting you are doing the latter at all.
    I am sorry you are facing this challenge, but I think whatever she's going through is much, much more painful.
  4. install

    install Star commenter

    1 Pair the student up initially with another student who speaks the same home language

    2 Speak to your head of Eal and ask for Eal support staff/lsa/ta

    3 Move the student to a smaller class initially and let them absorb the english language in that class.

    4 Go on training eg phonics / eal learning

    5 Speak to your school librarian to help if possible

    6 Give the student exercises to do. Use laptop if necessary

    Good luck!
  5. rachelsays

    rachelsays New commenter

    Firstly, good for you for caring so much and wanting to help this student - not everyone would be so diligent. Don't feel bad - you're doing the best you can with the information you've been provided, and you've done the right thing by going to the HoY to try and find out more. The HoY sounds very dismissive - if he thinks she can't be bothered to do any work, then why isn't he intervening? Is this a problem in all her lessons? You need to know this - I'm really surprised the HoY hasn't been more helpful, and hasn't shown more concern. I'd go back to him and be more insistent that something is done to support this child, because if this is a problem across all of her subjects, then she clearly needs far more support than you can offer in your English lessons. A joined-up approach needs to be put in place, with all teachers working together to support this student, as English is the language of delivery of every single lesson - if she can't do the work in English, she's not going to be able to do it in Science, or Maths, or History, etc. either - EAL learners aren't just their English teachers' responsibility, and everyone needs to be working together to give consistent support, and she may well need some additional help, such as a TA. She also probably needs some emotional support, as this level of resistance and disengagement suggests something deeper is going on beneath the surface. Has she recently arrived in the UK? Do you know the circumstances of her move to the country? If there's been a traumatic upheaval from her home country, then the school - not just you as an individual - will need to be giving pastoral support and potentially sourcing counselling. If you're not comfortable with going back to the HoY to push for more information, I'd have a word with your HoD and get them to approach them, because his response so far really isn't good enough.

    Something else for you to think about is how utterly exhausting it is to be operating in a language that's not your own all day. This poor child is having to constantly take in information in one language, translate it into her own language in her head so that she can understand it, and then translate it back again into English, every time anyone says anything to her. That process is utterly draining and so I'm not surprised she's so listless in your lessons. Working in a bilingual environment myself, having to spend my working day operating in two languages, one of which I am fluent but not bilingual in, I can attest how tiring it is to have to pay 100% attention all the time when your non-native language is being spoken in order to ensure you have understood everything that is happening.

    I teach in a bilingual international school, so pretty much everyone I teach is not a native speaker of English. Some kids arrive in September with no English whatsoever, and they just get thrown in at the deep end and have to cope. One thing I would say is that I never give separate work. That's a recipe for disaster. You have to ensure that the EAL student is participating in the same lesson as everyone else, otherwise you're just enhancing their sense of separation and difference. On a practical level, in the classroom, I find the following strategies work well:

    1. Pairing the student with someone who can translate for them during the lesson.
    2. Giving the student a print out of everything we're doing in the lesson at the beginning, so that they can see in advance what is going to be discussed and so can orient themselves within the discussions. When you know the context of what is being talked about in advance, then it's much easier for a non-speaker of a language to follow a conversation.
    3. Providing a list of key vocabulary for a unit of work before the unit starts, so that they can learn the key words that are going to keep coming up again and again in advance.
    4. Giving simplified chapter summaries/scene summaries before reading a chapter/scene, so that, as above with the discussions, if they know what's coming, they can follow the story much more successfully.
    5. When setting a written task, providing gap fills/word banks/sentence starters so that they have help with structuring their writing. This enables them to produce the same piece of work as their native speaker classmates so they can feel they have achieved the same goal as everyone else.
    6. Allowing them to minimise how much they need to write wherever possible - for example not making them write in complete sentences unless it's 100% necessary. This will allow them to get their ideas down more quickly/successfully as they won't get bogged down in grammatical constructions.
    7. Constantly giving encouragement and praise - encourage their verbal participation as frequently as possible, asking them simple questions that will only require simple answers, so that they can answer confidently in correct English, and celebrate every achievement - every time they use a new word, or manage a new grammatical construction, tell them how great they are and how much progress they're making. Learning a language is a hard slog and so every milestone, no matter how small, should be celebrated.

    I hope that helps and good luck!
  6. thetapdancingteach

    thetapdancingteach New commenter

    Thank you everyone for your comments! It's all been really helpful.
    I've had a word with some other teachers who have her and while she is definitely struggling across the board, there certainly seems to be a small group of us have more problems than others! HoY has now arranged language support for her and another student in class so we should hopefully start to see some change! She has seemed much more relaxed this week having the TA sat with her, so I think that's a step in the right direction.
    And yep, as someone who has learnt a second language, I have massive amounts of respect and admiration for all my EAL students- I think they're all amazing!

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