Leading a Whole-School Strategy for EAL (Online Course)
- 16 January 2024
- Online course
“Talk to writing” occurs when a teacher plans scaffolded activities that allow learners to orally rehearse explicit vocabulary, sentence, and language structures that they require in order to write.
The type of scaffolding activities that can be used to support this include:
Talk to writing activities can be set up using the following teaching and learning cycle:
Such learning cycles allow learners to integrate developing concepts and language which supports them to progress from informal, spoken language to the more formal and academic language, which is required for written language. This progress trajectory has been called mode continuum.
Activities that encourage oracy are crucial to the development of writing skills in learners of all ages. The ideas presented below can be used in any subject, text genre and at all levels of English language proficiency. Many of the activities suggested can be used for different parts of the mode continuum. For example, collaborative tasks can be used when building up the knowledge of the subject or when sharing reading of model texts.
Learners who use English as an Additional Language (EAL) need plenty of hands-on and interactive experiences in meaningful contexts to build up concepts. They also need encouragement to use new and explicit vocabulary of the curriculum area. Collaborative talk also provides active listening practice.
Visuals provide context for taught content. Use visuals that scaffold and prompt talk such as:
Modelling provides learners with a written or oral model of the language that the teacher would like the learner to produce. Here are some examples of activities that model oral structures prior to writing taking place:
For talk to writing to be effective in the classroom teachers are advised to:
Make sure that collaborative talk extends and challenges learners to use new language and to promote effective peer interactions, resulting in increasing oral independence.
The mode continuum sequence of spoken language to written language is a way for learners who use EAL to make full use of their current language resources and skills at the start of learning a new curriculum topic or concept. They can then build on it to acquire and apply the new language of the curriculum as the topic progresses as written language. This process has been described by researchers such as Gibbons (2002, 2015), Martin (1984) and Halliday (1993, in Gibbons, 2002).
Sharples (2021) suggests that a solid grounding in speaking skills is essential for the development of writing and the understanding of curriculum concepts. Talking to write affords the opportunity for learners to:
The teaching and learning cycle (Derewianka & Jones, 2016) allows for scaffolding to occur. It enables a learner who uses EAL to progress through the mode continuum from informal (spoken-like) register to formal (written-like) register. Scaffolding is a key concept in Vygotsky’s work on the relationship between thought and language (e.g., Vygotsky 1962). Bruner’s research (Bruner, 1975) also looked at this area and suggested that language learning is scaffolded by what he termed the learner’s Language Acquisition Support System. More recently, Gibbons emphasised the importance of scaffolding language to support and enable access to learning when working with learners who use EAL (Gibbons, 2015).
Bruner, J., 1975. Language as an instrument of thought. In Davies, A. ed. 1975. Problems of Language and Learning. London: Heinemann.
Derewianka, B. and Jones, P., 2016. Teaching Language in Context. 2nd ed. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
Gibbons, P., 2002. Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning: Teaching second language learners in the mainstream classroom. 2nd ed. Portsmouth: Heinemann.
Martin, J., 1984. Language, Register and Genre. In Children Writing: Study Guide. In Christie, F. ed. 1984. Children writing: a reader. Geelong, Victoria, AU: Deakin University Press.
Sharples, R., 2021. Teaching EAL; Evidence based strategies for the Classroom and School. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Vygotsky L.S., 1962. Thought and language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.