Children Learning EAL - Early Years Alliance PDF

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Children Learning EALin theEarly Years SettingProduced by the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service and the Foundation Stage Advisory Team, Somerset County Council, in line with theEYFS document “Supporting Children Learning English as an Additional Language” and the EYFS Framework.The Unique ChildMore and more children in our Early Years Settings are learning English as an AdditionalLanguage (EAL). Some will be bi-lingual from birth, because their parents use both languagesSome will speak some English at times, but are not fluentSome will speak conversational English, but are not able to express more complexthoughtsSome will be at a much earlier stage of learning EnglishA child may have been born in England, yet have had very little exposure to English.Remember: All children are entitled to equal access to the curriculum – providers must promoteequality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practicePartnership with parents/carers is vitally important to a child’s progressBilingualism is an asset, and an opportunity for everyone to celebrateEffective PracticeMeeting the FamilyIf possible meet the family before the child begins preschool. (An effective way of doing this is a homemeeting, because it often leads to greaterunderstanding of what the child is used to, but this isnot always possible). Find out whether you need aninterpreter with you. The family may have a friend whocan help, or visit our website for a list of ng the meeting, find out how to pronounce the child’s name, and what languages the childspeaks. Ask which language the child is strongest in. Use lots of gesture if you need to.1

Ask about the child’s religion, customs and diet, and explain that you will respect these. Askabout celebrations the family might observe, and whether they would like the setting to sharethe celebrations.Find out about the child’s experiences, siblings, likes, dislikes, worries and difficulties.Make sure that parents/carers know the times and days their child will be attending, anddiscuss fees and grants.Complete the registration form together.Explain what drinks and snacks will be provided, and what the child will need to bring, eg forlunch. If you need to, use props to help you explain the lunchbox, suitable shoes for outdoorplay, book bag, PE kit etcExplain the activities the child will be involved in. Use a picture book to help if you like.Discuss bringing a coat for outdoor play.Encourage the family to share stories and other books at home, to join the library, use thepark, swimming pool etc.Explain how valuable it is to keep speaking the home language. Explain that research showsthat a child will learn English better if they go on developing the language they know best, andhave a strong foundation in this language. Give them the Somerset leaflet “Keep Talking”.Ask the family if they have any questions or worries.Explain that they can talk to you (or the child’s key worker) about anything concerning theirchild.Let them know that you welcome and celebrate the different languages and cultures in yoursetting, and that all the staff will help your child have a happy experience.2

Positive RelationshipsEffective Practice:Make sure that parents/carers feel welcome, even if they can’t speak any English yet. Letthem know they are welcome to talk to you about anything, including worries.Let them know that racism is not tolerated, and will always be dealt with sensitively.Use a link book, with cartoon picture sketches if necessary, to help tell parents aboutsuccesses and interests, and to give messages. For some communications a translation may beneeded, especially if there are concerns. For simple phrases use one of the many freeinternet sites, such as Babelfish.If you are sending a note home to all families, speak to the parents as well, to check theyunderstand. There are free translated letters available in many languages about outings,unhappy child, meetings etc, which you can easily customise. See website list for details.Involve the parents if possible – successful projects have included storytelling, cooking,craft, music, showing pictures and photographs, sharing rhymes and writing/labelling in twolanguages, assisting on outings, dressing up etc. You may find that a parent is lackingconfidence at first, but will feel able to get involved a few weeks later, so do ask them again.You might like to start by asking a parent to play alongside a child.Value and draw on the parent’s knowledge of the child and her experiences, to activate priorknowledge.Make reports clear and jargon-free, and give parents the chance to talk about them for moreclarity.Continue to reassure parents that using their strongest language at home is beneficial togeneral learning and English learning – give them the Somerset leaflet: “Keep Talking.”3

Enabling EnvironmentsEffective Practice:The good pre-school setting is an excellent place for a young EAL learner, and will already, forexample: make sure that all staff have read and understood your policies on anti-racism andinclusion/equalities. use resources and displays around the setting to reflect the cultural diversity andexperiences of the children and beyond: books, posters, role -play resources, printedfabrics, puzzles, musical instruments, food, cutlery etc. Buy or borrow some duallanguage story books and audio books. Make sure you have paints and crayons with arange of skin tones. Dolls and puppets should have a range of skin tones, facialfeatures, clothes and hair textures. Glade has some good resources. See the list ofwebsites below for good sources. use STC signs or other visuals around the setting to help the child navigate, and knowwhere to find things. have a “Welcome” sign in many languages, including those languages spoken in thesetting. use the EMAS/Foundation Stage Advisory Team poster “I don’t speak much English –how can you help?” and make sure all staff have seen it. where possible, make links with community groups, and invite visitors, musicians,storytellers from a range of cultures to visit. provide plenty of opportunities for outdoorplay (research has shown that this leads to 5times more utterances, and so is particularlybeneficial to language development)4

In addition, there are some more specific preparations for a setting receiving anew EAL learner: If appropriate, prepare the children for the new arrival – ask them for ideas of howthey could help. Let them ask questions they may have about ethnicity and languageopenly, and discuss them sensitively, perhaps using some books and pictures. Find out about special celebrations or festivals which may be coming up for the child,and how you could help celebrate too, but please don’t assume that all children from acountry will wish to celebrate the same (or any) festivals. Make sure all staff in the setting know the child’s name, language strengths, needs,likes, dislikes and other relevant experiences. Use some extra dual language books and other resources in the particular languagesspoken by your EAL learners5

Observation, Assessment and PlanningAssessing Children who are learning English as an additional languageUseful information for practitioners can be found in the “Guidance Notes: assessing childrenwho are learning English as an additional language” on the National assessment agency website( This document aims in particular to support practitioners who are workingwith reception age and Year 1 children who are learning English but the principles outlined areuseful for all those working within the early Years Foundation stage. It is noted, for example,that: Good practice in the observational assessment of children who are learning English isgood practice for the observation of all childrenAssessment must distinguish between a child’s English language acquisition and theirdevelopment of knowledge and concepts across the six areas of learningThe guidance emphasises the importance of observing self-initiated activities, as a greatervariety of communication skills are likely to be observed in these situations. It is alsoimportant to develop trusting relationships with parents and to involve them as appropriate inbuilding up a picture of their child’s interests and achievements.The document also contains information on which areas of learning and development can bereadily assessed through the medium of the child’s home language and which areas must beassessed in English. It is also acknowledged that some areas, in particular knowledge andunderstanding of the world, are more challenging to assess without knowledge of the child’shome language. Practitioners are advised to “moderate their provisional judgements withcolleagues, bilingual assistants if available and talk to parents if possible”.Overall, the most meaningful assessments for children learning EAL take place in: an exciting learning environmentan environment which celebrates and respects cultural diversityan environment which provides plenty of opportunities for child initiated learning6

Learning and DevelopmentEffective Practice:Remember that some children need to go through a “silent period” before they feel ready totalk. This can last for weeks, or even months. Let them listen and observe, look for signs thatthey are ready to join in, and praise every attempt to join in, however small. Check bodylanguage for signs of distress. Remember that personality plays a great part in languagedevelopment.Use lots of positive expressions and gestures, with STC if you can. Try repetition, or, if thatdoesn’t help, vary the way you explain. Continue to include the child in talk, even if they aresilent themselves.Babies may find English sounds strange at first – gestures and tone of voice will help them tofeel reassured. They may relax well at sleep times if they can hear songs and stories in theirhome language, perhaps recorded by a familiar voice.As with any child, observing their actions and interactions will help you plan the next steps inlearning.Use lots of visual support, pictures and objects to help show what you are talking about, egpuppets, role play items, dolls, story props Pair the child with a variety of caring “buddies” – remember, the job is too much for onebuddy – a “team” can have special times and activities to help with. Adult support may beneeded at whole group times.Make sure the child has a little tour of the setting,and is introduced to all the staff.A digital camera could be used to make a personalbook, picturing the child hanging up her coat, playing inthe sand etc. This can be used daily to help developthe vocabulary of the environment.Provide the child with a set of pictures or STC symbols, perhaps joined like a fan, to showwhen they need the toilet, are thirsty, feel sad etc.Use stories with clear illustrations and repeated language patterns. Let the child take thebook home to look at again – if it is a dual language copy, they can hear the story read in theirhome language, and make links between languages. During story time, consider giving the childa related task to help keep them focussed when the language is difficult – perhaps they could7

hold up a toy bear every time they hear the word bear, for instance. Sometimes give the childthe opportunity to see and hear the book in advance of the session, or at home.Use pre-teaching groups to familiarise children with new vocabulary in advance (eg before agroup story, trip, cooking etc), then re-visit the vocabulary afterwards.Provide opportunities for all the children to hear and participate in music from other cultures,and see scripts, taste foods etc. Use ICT resources to enrich this, and use CDs and websiteswith vocabulary/sound files (eg. A selection designed for Early Years available from MantraLingua).Use picture sequencing , matching games, puzzles, “feely”games, Simon Says and Kim’s Game. Turn taking boardgames also provide good language opportunities. Encouragesocial language and provide motivation to talk throughinteresting games and pictures. Barrier games encouragetalk between partners. Play games to enhance listeningskills, such as Sound Lotto.Make sure that the child has plenty of opportunity for physical play and quiet rests – it ismentally very tiring to be surrounded by an unfamiliar language. Blowing bubbles is oftensoothing and relaxing.Model lots of talking as you play alongside the child: “I’m putting the hat on.” “Here are thescissors” etc.When a child is ready to join in with talk, they may like to “practice” their contribution with atrusted adult or friend before speaking to a bigger group, then eventually the whole group.Make sure there is plenty of opportunity to build confidence gradually. When a child uses nonstandard English, give lots of praise, and model back the simplest standard form.Closed questions - “What’s this colour?” etc – may be helpful at first, but do not get stuck onthem – once a child is ready to join in, you can gradually move to more open questions – “Whyis he happy?” etc. This will help extend the language development.If you have other children in the setting who use thechild’s language, let them help to explain activities andtasks, and also encourage home language discussions andplay. Be flexible and varied with the groupings.If you have bilingual staff who share the child’slanguage, you will be able to do many of the above ideasmore easily, including links with the home.8

Some extra things to rememberOnce a child is settled and happy, and is using conversational English, do not assume that theydo not need extra support. It takes several years to catch up completely in a new language, asthe child has a “moving target” – her peers are developing too! An EAL child who is not trulybi-lingual will continue to need support to develop more complex language related to cognitivedevelopment throughout Foundation and KS1.Record a child’s progress in English and generally – at the early stages this will involveobserving body language. However, remember that sometimes body language varies betweencultures: Some children prefer to avoid physical contact – for example Muslim children may feelparticularly uncomfortable about having their heads touched, as the head is consideredsacred. Some children are only used to eating with their families, and may not be accustomedto knives, forks and spoons. Sometimes children avoid eye contact as a mark of respect for those in authority – thisis often the case with Chinese and Thai pupils. Some children are used to speaking only to offer a “correct answer”, and needencouragement to make a guess or have a discussion. Sometimes children may seem aggressive, especially outside, because they arefrustrated at blocks to verbal communication. Some children will nod and smile to please you – it does not mean they understand. Sometimes children are overwhelmed by the freedom and abundance of excitingactivities, and do not understand the bound

EYFS document “Supporting Children Learning English as an Additional Language” and the EYFS Framework. The Unique Child More and more children in our Early Years Settings are learning English as an Additional Language (EAL). Some will be bi-lingual from birth, because their parents use both languages Some will speak some English at times, but are not fluent Some will speak conversational ...