Mark MacEwen-Yarnton, Author at National Education Show

Expert guide: How to support children learning EAL

Learning English as an additional language (EAL) is challenging at the best of times, but for children it can be even more testing. TTS understands the importance of understanding how each individual child learns and how you can use this to your advantage when it comes to working with and supporting children who are learning EAL. A child’s mannerisms can give a lot away – from their facial expressions, to their sounds of anguish when they don’t quite understand something and the joy and excitement they attain when they learn something new.

So, what are the secrets behind supporting children who are learning EAL? The truth is, there are none. There is no magic wand and no set agenda to follow when it comes to supporting these children. There are, however, a few factors to bear in mind when trying to steer them in the right direction and help them to develop their skills:

Relationship building
Building a solid relationship and a sense of trust with the child is the foundation of successful learning. Once a child feels secure, they flourish. Extend the relationship building to the child’s family too – take time to understand their situation and wellbeing as this will make it easier to communicate with them.

Effective communication
Building on from establishing a sense of trust and building a relationship with the child, communicating with them effectively will also have a positive impact on their learning. A meaningful conversation is a two-way communication and the child must feel comfortable asking questions to prompt their learning.
All members of staff must also model effective communication too, as the children will pick up on this and it will extend their vocabulary. It will allow them to feel confident in participating in certain conversations and interactions with their peers.

Relevant resources
Having access to suitable resources is always critical in a child’s learning and development. In particular, resources which encourage interest and build links with a child’s own experience are very beneficial as it establishes a sense of familiarity. This will enable children to spark a conversation with one another and provide opportunity for them to listen to and learn from each other. This is a great way to develop and enhance their knowledge of the English language without them even having to think about it – and eventually, it will all come naturally to them.

Patience is key
One of the most important factors of supporting a child who is learning EAL is to be patient. Every child learns at their own pace and allowing them to get their words out, as well as actions and sounds in their own time and without a prompt is critical to their learning. Gentle smiles and nods for encouragement go a long way in reassuring the child they are doing well. Maintaining strong eye contact with them will also reassure them that they have your full attention and support, making them feel more comfortable with their abilities.