We run interventions, 1 on 1 sessions with a few of our EAL learners that are new to English and are struggling readers and writers. Of course, best practice is for them to be in the mainstream but some of our learners benefit from tailored, 1 on 1 interventions to support them.
We try to mirror / replicate, as much as possible, what they are learning in the mainstream curriculum. In this sense, the intervention sessions give the learners some relevance to what they are doing. In addition, there are able to take what they have learnt in interventions to the mainstream classroom which then gives them more confidence, for example, in answering whole class questions or working in small groups.
A lot of the time we mirror what the learners are studying in English but I do think I should try to branch out more and include other subjects. But where do you stop? Do we stick the core subjects of English, Maths and Science? Or do we just tailor our lessons and resources to more writing heavy subjects such as humanities subjects? These are certainly questions that I ask myself when I am thinking about planning and designing resources.
The learners we support at the moment are in Y7 & Y8. We have one on one sessions with them between 2 and 3 times per week. They have been taken out of lessons which they are finding extremely difficult to access such as history or MFL. I know it is not ideal to take EAL learners out of MFL lessons but in the case of the Y8 learners, none of them have chosen their current MFL as an option (we run a 3 year GCSE program) and therefore they are not really losing anything by not being in the classroom. Also, the MFLs on offer at my school are not languages that the learners have a background in because they have come from education systems where these langauges were not taught. This was not a decision that was made on my own but in collaboration with the MFL teachers that work with the learners.
The resources I prepare serve the purpose of pre-teaching vocabulary, developing reading skills, developing phonemic awareness, and developing independent writing skills.
Pre teaching vocabulary will nearly always include a visual and or a first language translation. I also ensure that any vocabulary learnt is shown in the context of the text that the learners are reading. So, a new vocabulary word and picture will be acompanied by the sentence or phrase in which the word occurs in the text. To support the learners spelling there is a certain amount of copying of the vocabulary as well. We have found that the strategy of look, cover, write and check to be quite an effective tool in improving spelling. We also give them spellings to do at home, emphasising the importance of learning to spell correctly.
Reading skills are practiced through the use of specific comprehension questions that help to develop reading skills such as inference or prediction. Questions are answered orally first and then through scaffolded writing of the answers. The scaffold taking place is through sentence starters, substitution tables or through the teacher supporting with possible word and phrase choices.
Phonics is taught through the pre teaching of vocabulary. Sounds are highlighted, practiced and learners draw on their knowledge of the sounds to think of other words with the same sound. I must admit that phonics is not something I confess to be an expert in but for some learners teaching phonics works better than with others.
To improve writing, I have found that cutting up sentences and having learners put them in order does help to improve understanding of sentence structure. Writing frames, substitution tables and oral scaffold have also proven to be highly beneficial. Gap fills can be very helpful as they help the learner see how to extend their writing beyond word and phrase level.
Creating and preparing resources is quite a time consuming process but it is worthwhile when you see the results and improvements. Several teachers have commented on the increased confidence and class participation of the EAL learners that we provide interventions for which I see as a real positive.