Helping EAL learners to review subject content

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned how EAL teachers can provide opportunities for learners to use new language – whether that be in mainstream classes or in additional support slots.

This post looks at how we can support EAL learners with reviewing content over a term (or terms), and help them recognize gaps in their knowledge, content- and language-wise. It’s also another chance to…

  • Get them using the language
  • Help them prepare for discussion with their subject teacher
  • Build confidence – they can see just how much they know and have learnt in English about complex topics!

Example activity – Science reviews

Why this review? Because there was sooooo much content in Science lessons across a two terms (or term and a half?). I felt in my context that the learners did a lot of Grade Gorilla reviews, but could do with some more open tasks to demonstrate understanding. So, I thought I’d mix it up.

Stage 1 – Planning review content

This happened throughout the term. I’d pick content from mainstream classes, and add it to my ongoing ‘activities bank’. Examples:

Some activities I scribbled down after a lesson on circuits…

Actually, this one was probably the best for circuits as the learners really prepped for it. I was surprised, but…

It sounds more high-stakes than it was! I’m lenient really – just wanted them to practice a bit!

Some Wordwalls for key vocab…

And mixing up the skills as well, a bit of writing, but manageable…

Also, a good chance to a) recycle past tasks, and b) make this feel a collaborative exercise. I created tasks based around learners own work – in this case, a ‘YouTube Channel’ style presentation one of the learners had produced (removed name here).

Make’s them feel part of the proceedings. Plus, this learner explained waves/wavelengths far better than me or the subject teacher anyway, hehe.

Here are few more examples of tasks from across the topics which were in our activities bank…

Etc. Excuse occasional bad spelling/punct there. I guess there were 25 or so activities, maybe more. It soon builds up over a term if you keep adding them regularly.

Bear in mind – learners are reviewing this content semi-regularly either in mainstream classes or a bit in EAL. This activity is more of a ‘right, exam is coming up, let’s remember what we’ve studied, identify gaps… etc. For me it’s better than just open books reviewing as they’ve got a task to demo understanding.


Stage 2 – Where are you now?

Give learners a review sheet of each topic covered, like this:

Learners evaluate their level of confidence, and a bit about what they already know, before doing the tasks. They complete this in Google docs so more room in those boxes, ha!

Anyway, this gives them a bit of direction – like, ‘1 out of 5’ for vector vs scalar. I can’t remember what the difference is, I’d better review that first!’.

Stage 3 – review tasks!

Cut up the activities bank and have it spread around on one of the front tables. Activities face down, write the topics in the back (or not if you want learners to work that out for themselves…):

Learners pick a task at random, get on with it, call you when they need help/support/clarification, or when they are ready to present (if the task requires). I make up a rule like they can have max 2 activities on the go (so they don’t have to wait for the teacher to come round and check before moving on). They complete activities in their books, you can decide if they are allowed open subject books for support, etc.

Stage 4 – Reflect

This is kinda ongoing. As they complete activities around a topic, they go back to their reflection sheets, evaluate whether their confidence has increased, add any questions they still have for their subject teachers, maybe note down some ideas for how they can follow up on the review, etc.

Benefits and challenges

So, this was done with an EAL class of 12-14. It would be fine with larger numbers depending on adults around for support. It’s quite demanding for the teacher to be supporting with tasks, micro-teaching, listening to mini presentations, and so on. There are always work arounds on the spot. However, I’d say its essential to have your notebook and pen handy to note down similar areas of development across the class, and to gather data for the class teacher. Self-reported data from the learners is good, but a bit from you to back that up would help the subject teacher no end.

Use any data gathered to inform planning for further reviews leading up to assessment. You’ve identified gaps, you might need to plan deliberate practice activities or follow ups based on that.

Quick tasks, fast-paced, fun, purposeful IMO. Planning-wise, it might look heavier than it is – if you regularly add to the activities bank its fine, and most images here are snips from actual lesson content, sometimes slightly adapted. I’m not too precious about how the activities look either (provided they are clear enough), it’s more about what learners get from them.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay 

Categories: Lesson Ideas, other, vocabulary

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Wow, some really great activities here to make content accessible to EAL learners (and others besides, I’d wager). I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found it tricky navigating my role as an EAL teacher. Ideally, I feel that we’d support subject teachers by helping to plan this sort of thing into their lessons, but in our school that isn’t how it works, for various reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah completely agree. The ideal for me would be a long-term collaboration with subject teachers which leads to our role in the classes being less necessary! I mean, we support them in understanding how to embed support for EAL, they develop their skills, we can guide from the side once they develop confidence, etc. most cost effective for a school in the long-term with potentially less additional EAL support staff needed, and better trained subject teachers hopefully means more effective learning. I’m pleased with the lack of understanding re: EAL provision in many contexts right now though as we are not getting done out of a job!


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