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Homework is an important part of helping learners develop their English language skills, as well as supporting the development of their first language(s). Developing multi- or bilingualism has many cognitive advantages, for example, it can help children learn as it gives them the opportunity to think about ideas in both or several languages. In order to help learners develop both their English language skills and first language skills, teachers might want to set homework where learners are asked to do tasks such as:
It is important to keep parents informed about the school’s expectations regarding homework, particularly regarding the benefits of multilingualism (to find out more please read Strand and Hessel’s 2018 research). Parents and carers who are not literate in English may need reassuring that reading to their children in their first language is important and that it is very helpful to look at and talk about the pictures in school reading books with their children. It is important to liaise with the parents of EAL learners to explain:
Olga Cara (University College London) suggests a number of ways that parents can use home language(s) to support learning at home. Here are a few suggestions:
More information on how parents can use home languages to support learning at home is available in the Foundation’s webinar with Olga Cara.
Classroom Guidance and Strategies to Support EAL Learners: Working with Learners in Primary Settings signposts other homework tasks to help develop first language skills and aid English language acquisition They are suitable for all EAL learners from Bands A to E. In order to download the Strategies, please complete this registration form which will provide free access to all of the Foundation’s resources.
For those at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the Guiding principles and strategies for practitioners working with learners who use English as an Additional Language (EAL) in Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Settings may also be a useful resource for ideas of how to work closely with parents to support language development at home (In order to download the Guiding Principles, please complete this registration form which will provide free access to all of the Foundation’s resources).
With learners who are New to English and at the Early Acquisition stage it is important to be flexible about homework and not penalise learners for not completing homework if they have not understood the task or have not been able to do it. If a teacher tells the class how important it is that a particular piece of homework is completed, then they will need to reassure a learner who is New to English and give them an appropriate alternative task. Some examples of this might be:
A learner who is New to English may also need to be allowed extra time to write the homework task in their diary. The learner could write it in English, or in (one of) their first language(s). Alternatively teachers may want to write it for them, or ask a supportive peer who is competent at reading and writing in English (and who has legible handwriting) to write it for them.
Classroom Guidance and Strategies to Support EAL Learners: Working with Learners in Secondary Settings signposts other homework tasks to help develop first language skills and aid English language acquisition. The Strategies are suitable for all EAL learners from Bands A to E. In order to download the Strategies, please complete this registration form which will provide free access to all of the Foundation’s resources.