Peterborough EAL TeachMeet

I am writing this – at least starting to write – at the very end of my holiday in Scotland. Rather well deserved one, if you ask me! In the last week, I met up with friends in St Andrews, Cupar, and also went to Glenrothes, whilst staying with my wife throughout this particularly sunny and warm week in Fife, Scotland. This also made me reflect on how much travelling I’ve done this year to all sorts of various events.

Earlier this year, I had been invited to deliver a keynote at the EAL Peterborough TeachMeet (the event took place in the afternoon on 25 March 2015 at Ken Stimpson Community School in Werrington (@ks_school), which is just north of Peterborough itself).

The event gathered well over 30 attendees. Just before we started, we were treated to a great short play from the students at Ken Stimpson Community School (KSCS). Following this, Diane (@DiLeed), who was running the event, in collaboration with EAL Academy (@EALACADEMY) and KSCS, kicked the event off with a rather interesting question: Why is a bar of chocolate like support for EAL learners? This generated some rather interesting responses from the attending teachers, ranging from rather humorous ones to more practical ones (e.g. greater quality = more expensive, the importance of breaking things down and everything is connected.

Following this warm-up activity, it was time for my keynote. My keynote focused on what EAL Academy, too, considers excellent EAL pedagogy practice: Partnership Teaching. I have written about Partnership Teaching before on this blog – my keynote included a lot of the similar points.


Rather than write another lengthy paragraph on the basics of Partnership Teaching as promoted by DfE a good while ago, I encourage you to simply view and read the PPT presentation above – the same as used during the event. This keynote was a prelude to a longer one-day training that I am going to deliver together with EAL Academy’s director Graham Smith in June 2015 – also on Partnership Teaching, so watch this space and their website! Please note that I am now EAL Academy’s Associate.

Following my keynote, the presentations started. In the good tradition of TeachMeets, the presentations were short, and if anyone spoke over the time a friendly fluffy bird (Angry Bird in case of our teachmeet!) is thrown at the presenter to remind them of the time!

Harinder spoke first about some of the techniques that she employs in her lessons to support EAL learners. These were bingo activities, cycling key terms throughout her lessons and units, using more PowerPoint slides with key terms and more attention drawn to key terms.

Graham Smith, EAL Academy’s director, made a presentation on an aspect of EAL / language teaching that is very important in EAL pedagogy: mode continuum and nominalization. He started by reminding us that there is a significant difference between spoken-like non-academic (non-abstract) language (such as the one used by children in the playground or during a lunch break and the academic, abstract written-like language required for C and above grades at GCSEs. This is where, often, EAL students in KS4 struggle. He used the word “shoes” as an example – whilst “shoes” can be used to describe any type of shoes, the more specific, less-general and more detailed-words will be required at the GCSE level. The teaching of spoken-like to written-like language is seen as a necessity by Pauline Gibbons – and myself! – please read her book. This must be at least the third time on this blog that I am writing about and linking to her book!ealpeterborough_graham

Graham then linked this to nominalization, i.e. making nouns. For instance, a good example of nominalization would be changing this sentence:

The student was scared because her task was very complex.


The complexity of the task scared the student.

Thus, we can see how the word complex changed to complexity. Being able to manipulate words in this way makes for a more literate learner and a better writer. Graham showed us research that he had conducted at schools, which reveals that schools which teach nominalization to their students contribute to their greater attainment.

Next up was Laura. She works at Gladstone Primary School in Peterborough and spoke of how the school supports EAL students, but what really stuck in my head after hearing her presentation was the unique ways in which the school engages EAL parents. They hold open doors, open days and parent consultations at the school. There are also Reading Wednesdays and Phonics & Reading Workshops. However, the most original idea, at least for me, was that the school uses videos which is shared with parents – that is, allowing parents to see the classrooms from their homes. Laura says that this approach allows parents to see how involved their children are in lessons, and see their patterns of behaviour, and learn from pedagogic strategies used by school teachers (perhaps use them at home, too?) – and to be more relaxed and check the well being of their children from home. Brilliant!

I was up next, I believe, with my presentation on Graphic Organizers. Please have a look at the presentation below – I have written about these issues, teaching ideas and strategies before: B.Mohan’s Knowledge Framework and his insights into certain thinking skills permeating the entire curriculum (all subjects), therefore enabling us to use certain language for certain thinking skills and certain graphic organizers for this type of language. The “Pugs” and Maths example comes from B.Mohan’s website at  . What I am suggesting, however, that more than just graphic organizers is used to support EAL learners (and any other struggling writers/readers) – put language into the graphic organizers to enable learners to pick up academic language and link the different portions (sentences or paragraphs) of their writing.

The last slide in my presentation (my mode continuum + key visuals aka graphic organizers lesson plan template) draws and is inspired by the work of B.Mohan and P.Gibbons. Please watch the video of me explaining this further at the last NALDIC Conference in Leceister (Nov 2014). The video is right below the Peterborough presentation in this post – just scroll down.

Cathy, with Longthorpe Primary School in Peterborough, spoke of some strategies that her schools has been using with their EAL learners. They have noticed that more vocabulary issues emerge as children get older, and devised some reading strategies in an attempt to combat this issue. Normally, their reading activities, occurring in groups, would involve what it was… anyone would like to help me fill thi followed by comprehension tasks. They now cover more difficult vocabulary first (essentially, doing pre-reading, as far as I understand it), reading and only then comprehension.

Cathy also spoke about TeaTime talk, which Longthorpe PS do, but it has actually escaped me; would anyone, who attended the event, help me fill in this gap?

Now, Anna (@MsGodzisz) works at Stanground Academy, and is a Distinguished Apple Educator. She has a passion for using technology when teaching new arrival EAL learners. Seeing her students as digital natives, she extensively uses tablets, mobile applications and games with her students. Please see the video below to see what she does – it is rather impressive!

Dianne (@DiLeed) spoke of some ideas on how to make language more explicit in your lessons – this is for across the curriculum, so if you’re a Science or Geography teacher, you’re not being excluded here! – particularly useful seem Word Maps. This is for building your students’ lexical knowledge – vocabulary is one of the most obvious barriers to accessing academic language, so we need to help our learners build it. The idea here is this: think of a key word from your lesson and ask learners to:ealpeterborough_diane

  • Translate the word into their language
  • Think of similar words (+ collaocations / idioms?)
  • Think of the context in which this word is used
  • Think what type of word it is (noun, verb, adjective…)
  • Write a sentence with the word
  • Break the word into syllables
  • What is this word’s end sound?
  • What is this word’s first sound?
  • Draw a picture of this word
  • Write what this word means

Brilliant idea, isn’t it?

Richard spoke of some of the ideas and methods he uses in his classes. I particularly liked his idea of using images for before and after, e.g. a before Earthquake and an after Earthquake images (you could use these for a spot the difference type of activities). Spot the difference exercises are obviously useful for the teaching of the language of contrast (but, however, whilst, and, on the other hand, unfortunately, etc.) – what better way to teach such language than with real-event images?ealpeterborough_richard

Richard also uses literacy mats, focuses on scientific words in his topics and provides key words, sentence starters and connectives to help his students out. Great to see such focus on language in the work of a mainstream teacher!

After the last presentation, prizes were given out to attendees, which ranged from bars of chocolate to Mantra Lingua’s PENPal.

Great event and, as usual, a lot of terrific ideas to take home – and to your classrooms! Do try out some of the ideas such as the Word Maps or nominalization.

My thanks to KSCS, Diane, Graham, EAL Academy and everyone who has helped to make this event happen.

There’s a Storify page with many Tweets and some pictures from the event. Click this link here:

And, if you missed this one, do not forget about the EAL TeachMeet that I am running in Hull in 2 weeks’ time on April 27, 2015. Sign up by clicking the link below!



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