EAL TeachMeet Hull Report

On the 27th of April, my school, Newland School for Girls, held its first ever EAL TeachMeet. The vast majority of the organization was done by myself, so it was a rather exciting experience! I’d never known, before I took this on, how much organization such one event actually takes! – but it was all really enjoyable!

What started in my head as a potential gathering of up to 30 people turned out to be approximately 70-people event! When we came back after Easter, I experienced a few days when 10 people per day were signing up; eventually, we had to turn potential attendees down – simply because we were running out of space in our Main Hall!

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Above is the programme of the event. The event’s theme was EAL in the Mainstream and its main goal was to build a bridge between EAL specialists and mainstream teachers. That’s why I’ve invited speakers that represented both the mainstream and EAL specialists. So, for instance Chimene Gowland is Director of English and Literacy, and Sally Witts, Director of Creative and Performing Arts at our school, but then we had some fantastic EAL specialists such as Dianne Excell and Frank Monaghan (NALDIC) speak at the event, who came from Leeds and London, respectively, and Christiana Rose, Team Leader for EAL in Durham. We were very lucky that they’ve agreed to travel such distances for the TeachMeet!

The event was preceded by a 30 minutes that I’d designed for networking before the event started. I felt this was rather successful as so many people were able to talk over flapjack that we provided! One of our lovely EAL students ensured that our raffle tickets were given out to the guests and it was brilliant seeing people coming in! We had two lovely students taking the photos throughout the event – thank you, girls! – some of the photos you can see in this blog below.

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  1. Frank Monaghan – The Distinctiveness of EAL Pedagogy

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Frank is a co-opted member of NALDIC and editor of NALDIC Quarterly. NALDIC stands for National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum, and is UK’s recognized national EAL association. I have invited Frank to deliver a short presentation on how EAL pedagogy different from a generalized “good practice” teaching and how it is a specific way of teaching.

Frank spoke of how the importance of teaching EAL has become over the recent years a particularly pressing matter, simply because of the growing numbers of learners in the UK. He spoke of matters such as how many EAL learners get into Oxbridge, the quality of EAL courses/modules for pre-service teachers, how the sometimes negative view of English language learners in British schools is portrayed in the media and by certain politicians (see press examples in his presentation). He called for the development of a well-trained teaching force that would understand and be able to support EAL learners, and the recognition of the fact that we do live in a multi-cultural society and for the development of EAL-specific assessment (which we still do not have!).

Please have a look at Frank’s presentation embedded below, and the video of his talk – at the bottom of this post.

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2.Chimene Gowland – Transferring Good Literacy Practice into Mainstream Support

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Chimene directs English and Literacy at Newland School for Girls. In her short presentation, she spoke of the need of using good literacy practice, such as Directed Activities Related to Text (DARTs: clozes, text reconstruction, text marking, and other text/language-focused activities), to support EAL learners in the mainstream.

She drew our attention, too, to the photographic dictionary at https://photographicdictionary.com/, and WordSmyth (http://www.wordsmyth.net/), a picture dictionary for children, easily used to support students in class.

Please make sure you read through Chimene’s presentation below as well as the video of her presentation.

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  1. Michelle Verity – EAL at Archbishop Sentamu Academy

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Michelle works at ASA in Hull, and spoke to us about how EAL is currently organized at her school. They have a relatively small, but growing, population of EAL students at her school – 15 students last year, now 47!, and are already making sure that strong provision for those students is provided. Students are withdrawn for 1-to-1 support, receive mentoring support in English and Maths, and in-class support.

The highlight of the presentation from ASA has been a short talk from one EAL student from the school, who spoke about his experiences of adjusting to the school and the life in the UK. Must’ve taken a lot of courage speaking to so many teachers in the room, but he was very confident! The student spoke about the difference in his Engilsh language skills at the point of his arrival to the UK and how he’s improved and progressed since he joined the ASA – a fantastic reminder of the difficult linguistic and cultural journey that so many EAL students take.

 

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  1. Kamil Trzebiatowski – The Power of DARTs

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I spoke extensively about DARTs – directed activities related to text, extending what Chimene spoke of in her presentation a few minutes earlier. As Chimene pointed out before myself, DARTs are activities that focus students attention on text and language itself, providing an alternative to your run-of-the-mill comprehension questions. They can be used with texts across the curriculum and are all about literacy across the curriculum.

The type of activities I touched on were clozes: vanishing cloze, specific cloze and total cloze, gap fills where specific words are removed (e.g. only prepositions) and I provided attendees with specific links to websites where such activities can be created automatically and in seconds.

I use DARTs on numerous occasions in my class – in fact, couldn’t do without them. Originally, I was inspired by the ideas of Pauline Gibbons in her book English Learners, Academic Literacy and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone – everyone should read it who works with any EAL learners, regardless of their stage of English language acquisition.

Whilst you can watch my presentation from the event below, please also view the narrated PowerPoint of the same presentation below (recorded by myself at home) – it will give you even a better idea of what is possible with DARTs – invaluable certainly in EAL classroom and a literacy must in any mainstream classroom anyhow!

 

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  1. Lukasz Materowski – Using L1 in the Classroom

Lukasz is an EAL professional and works at St Mary’s College in Hull as Assistant EAL Coordinator, just around the corner from my school.

He spoke of the need to recognize the benefits to EAL learners from using the first language in the classroom. Bilingualism is, after all, recognized by Ofsted as an advantage! – and certainly seen as advantageous in huge amounts in research! Lukasz referred to Jim Cummins’s Interdependence Hypothesis – the idea that knowledge is transferrable between L1 and L2 whilst L2 is being acquired. This is otherwise known as the Dual Iceberg Model and you can see an image of that – which is rather well known to EAL professionals – in Lukasz’s presentation embedded below. The first and second language share common underlying proficiency – i.e. the languages themselves might be different, but the common root is the same. If a student was literate in L1, they will acquire L2 more easily.

Finally, Lukasz spoke of how St Mary’s College utilizes L1 in their EAL provision: through providing learning resources in L1 and  essays are first written in L1. Make certain you watch Lukasz’s presentation by clicking the relevant video at the bottom of this post!

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At this point, the short 15-minute break took place, a short opportunity for networking and some more flapjack and tea or coffee! It was a pleasure once again being able to see so many professionals network and collaborate, albeit just for a few minutes this time.

 

6. Dianne Excell – Embedding Good EAL Practice Across the Curriculum

Dianne spoke of ways to embed good EAL practice across the curriculum in her school in Bradford, which has 100% ethnic minority background students. She spoke of ways to raising other teachers’ awareness of issues, the need recognise all EAL learners as individuals, delivering training sessions, appropriate strategies deployed for EAL learners, the use of data and more! As always, it was superbly engaging!

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7. Nikki Mercer – Effective Collaboration Between EAL Teaching Assistants and Mainstream Teachers

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Nikki works in my own EAL department, and is one of my two TAs at Newland School for Girls. She reminded us of some very important – and too often not heard – issues surrounding the effective provision of EAL TA support.

She called for:

  • sending the lesson plan or topic of learning to TAs before lesson – often, she said, learning along with the students due to not knowing the subject of the lesson beforehand makes imparting the knowledge to students very challenging
  • Such prior knowledge would allow TAs to look at the topic and identify vocabulary that may be challenging to students, prepare resources, add visuals or perhaps even translate some much needed keywords
  • Nikki asked that TAs are given specific examples of how a question should be answered or the answer itself – in order to facilitate guiding students to the correct answer and ensure that the format of the answer is in accordance with what the classroom teacher would like it to be
  • Nikki asked teachers to prioritise a learning objective of the lesson that they would like their EAL learners to have full knowledge and understanding of; this is due to the fact that the pace of lessons can be very fast and focusing on one aspect is more realistic than the futility of focusing on it all
  • She also pointed out that employing teaching assistants for an additional half hour would allow them the time to create resources to support students and engage in collaborative work with school teachers – normally, however, TAs finish when the last lesson finishes, which means they have no time to actually do it.

8. Sally Witts – EAL in the Practical Learning Environment

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Sally is Director of Creative and Performing Arts at Newland School for Girls. In a superbly engaging talk, she provided us with several ideas on how to engage EAL learners, suggesting that talking and written language is not everything, and communication can occur without speaking.

She suggested minimising data junk and having some lessons without speech. Have only essential words on the board and provide your EAL learners with lists of keywords, so they can familiarise themselves with them prior to the lesson – increasing their confidence.

She had other suggestions – much in line with the content of Lukasz’s presentation! – on how to take advantage of EAL students’ first language in lessons: ask your EAL learners to present and demonstrate in their own language and get other students to identify key terms / key words in their speech / demonstration.

Please have a look at Sally’s handout for more ideas relating to the language of action in education: an idea that can be successfully used for the benefit of EAL learners, and for engaging all learners in the multilingual, multicultural learning and dialogue. Impressive stuff!

She mentioned de Bono, of the Six Thinking Hats fame as inspiration. Have you read de Bono’s book by the same title yet? No? Do it now – it’s brilliant!

 

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9. Christiana Rose – Teaching Tenses Through Tasks

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Christiana is EAL Team Leader in Durham, and yes, she came to present all the way from Durham!

She pointed out to begin with that teaching and discussion of language through communication has been shown to be more effective than either traditional language- teaching approach or communication-only approach. Her talk was, therefore, on the effectiveness of tasks in language teaching. Tasks, she says, provide motivation, context, natural opportunity for practicing language and opportunities for corrective peer and teacher feedback.

She proceeded to presenting us with a number of fantastic examples of how different grammatical points can be taught through mainstream-based tasks – best look at her presentation embedded below to see this. Also, make sure you watch the video of her presentation (at the bottom of the post).

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10. Danny Topham – Partnership Teaching

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Danny and I team-teach – or partnership-teach – one English lesson a week to a group of year 9 learners at Newland School for Girls. Danny spoke of what this looks like in practice. You can see in the presentation below the examples of our work from the classroom. Danny delivered an engaging, insightful presentation on how we engage all of our year 9 learners through this approach: lessons which combine the teaching of English and language.

Partnership Teaching (I’ve written about it before on this blog) is a particularly effective approach, particularly in school that benefit from EAL teacher. It’s been around for years – since 1990s! (see NALDIC’s page with a guidance pack and a video of it in practice). It allows for schools to disseminate good EAL practice by mainstream and language teachers working together. Work and plan lesson together – teach – evaluate – disseminate to other staff. Then repeat the cycle and build up the language-in-the-curriculum expertise amongst your staff, improving language skills of all – both EAL and native speaking students at your school. The idea and programme has been around for years – beats me why more schools aren’t picking it up!

 

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Danny’s presentation was our last. At this point, only one more item on the agenda remained – prizes for the attendees. We drew the numbers and several lucky winners got their prizes from Racing to English, Pivotal Education, EAL Academy and NALDIC.

  • NALDIC donated two issues of their flagship NALDIC Quarterly academic journal – please please join NALDIC – they are the national EAL association and in my opinion the most knowledgeable body of people in the country as far as EAL goes – they’ve been around for years!
  • Racing to English donated for us their Racing to English CD – a £40 fabulous set of resources for beginner EAL learners – many many scaffolded activities (English language-based and curriculum based) – get your hands on it if you can
  • Pivotal Education donated one of their online behaviour courses + several of their behaviour goodies
  • Twinkl donated a Platinum subscription to their primary resources, including massive amount of EAL resources! If you’ve taken your free Twinkl mug from the table if you were able to attend the event, that was from Twinkl as well, of course!

I would also like to thank Toshiba and Haven Project for sponsoring us! (Have Project Hull work with and for refugees and asylum seekers in Hull). Thank you also to Multicultural Bookshop for coming over from Bradford and opening the EAL/multicultural bookshop at the event.

I’ve also decided to share the results of our Survey Monkey survey conducted online, sent to attendees, shortly after the event. It has (so far, at least) been completed by 17 attendees:

  • it appears we have been largely successful – surveys show that most survey participants we were mildly good or better, with above 35% believing it was extremely good
  • above 75% would like to attend another event like this
  • more than 82% thought it was well or extremely well organized (thank you – I am quite relieved by that, as it was the first time I’d organized anything like this!)
  • more than 50% in the survey, however, would like longer sessions than the traditional 3- or 7-minute short TeachMeet presentation – next time we do an EAL TeachMeet or EAL event at our school, we’ll make sure that this is the case!

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Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming over – I really enjoyed organizing the event, the event itself and meeting so many of teachers and professionals from the area, and I am glad that so many of you enjoyed the event. I’ve listened to the words of criticism too and will be taking these words of advice onboard when arranging for the next one. These events are so important in our area – it is so important to come together like this and share practice and build EAL expertise in your schools!

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