Leading a Whole-School Strategy for EAL (Online Course)
- 16 January 2024
- Online course
Explore our policy recommendations for breaking down language barriers
in schools, adult education, and the criminal justice system.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can be a very supportive tool for EAL learners, both for developing skills that are important, and as a complementary resource for classroom activities. There is a range of different types of ICT that can help EAL learners of varying levels of proficiency in English, for example:
ICT can be used with EAL learners at all stages of English language proficiency, at any age and across the curriculum. Here are a few examples:
1. IWB for sharing ideas:
Using the IWB with a group or whole class is suggested in many resources on this website. One example is I see I think I wonder - Little Red Riding Hood, where learners work in groups to discuss a picture and annotate it in either English or their first language or both. The teacher then collates ideas from the different groups around the same picture on the IWB. Where the notes are in first language EAL learners can come and write on the IWB if the teacher does not share that language.
2. Translation software:
Give EAL learners a text in English and ask them to highlight or underline unfamiliar words in it. Ask them to first try and guess the meaning of the new words from the context. Then they look them up and check whether they managed to guess their meanings correctly. This is a useful approach with chapter or scene summaries of set texts in English, for example The Tempest Act 1, or GCSE poetry such as The Charge of the Light Brigade.
3. Online research:
Using the internet to research topics online, accessing text (including in first language), images, sound, film / video / DVD, graphs, maps, charts etc. which will allow learners to make links between concepts and knowledge they already have and the English they need to explore them.
4. Group presentation:
Group or paired presentations on a topic can encourage organisational discussion during the task and also supports those who are less confident in speaking in English through the use of presentation software like PowerPoint or Prezi. Some of the resources on this website, for example Life and works of Charles Dickens, suggest that as an extension activity, groups of learners carry out their own research on the topic and then present their findings to the class.
5. Immersive games:
These are great for uniting learning across the curriculum. Games such as ‘The Room 2’ and ‘Amerzone’ feature a rich mystery-based storyline, with a variety of textual sources such as letters, codes and journals. Players are encouraged to interact with the texts as they reveal clues to solving puzzles and provide a backstory to events and characters that enhance the overall narrative.
6. Book or film making:
Digital cameras and video recorders are excellent for EAL learners at an early stage of developing literacy to make their own books, based for example on a practical activity they have carried out in class. They are also wonderful for collaborative projects such as making a welcome video for new arrivals at the school.
Top tip: When you get access to a new piece of technology, think about how it can be used to scaffold language and learning, give an opportunity for EAL learners to build on their prior knowledge or provide opportunities for learners to work collaboratively.
ICT can be used to employ all the Great Ideas suggested in these pages. The key to making it effective for EAL learners is to remember that the principles of good practice in terms of EAL teaching and learning apply equally to the use of ICT. In other words, ICT should be used in ways that are consistent with EAL good practice, for example to provide a rich context, to build on prior knowledge, to scaffold language and learning and to provide opportunities for collaborative learning (see NALDIC 1999).
It has been argued that some language learning computer games are essentially language drills (Dalton 2005) or ‘no more than thinly disguised tests’ (Mawer and Stanley 2011), and one key way to avoid this is to encourage pair or group work when using ICT. This works particularly well with immersive games or other software that gives opportunities for learners to work collaboratively to solve problems, as suggested by Pim (2013, 2015). Wegerif (2004) advocates using ICT collaboratively so as to provide a catalyst for exploratory talk as recommended by socio-cultural researchers such as Mercer, Wells and Alexander.
Dalton, E., 2005, Language learning games: Why, When and How? [Electronic version] Southern New Hampshire University.
NALDIC, 1999, The distinctiveness of English as an Additional Language: a cross-curricular discipline, National Association of Language Development in the Curriculum, Working Paper 5.
Mawer, K. and Stanley, G., 2011, Digital play: computer games and language aims, Surrey: Delta Publishing.
Pim, C., 2013, Emerging technologies, emerging minds: digital innovations within the primary sector, in G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technologies for English language learning, pp17-42, London: The British Council.
Pim, C., 2015, Developing the writing of advanced EAL learners through the use of 3D immersive adventure games, The British Council
Wegerif, R., 2004, The role of ICT as catalyst and support for dialogue, NALDIC Quarterly 1(4), electronic version.