EAL support for mainstream English

What does ‘EAL support’ look like in (or alongside) mainstream English lessons. Here’s an example of some support I provide to help with literature.

It was with a Year 7 class (all learners on the EAL register). They were studying Cirque du Freak. This support was done during an additional slot, not in class. The learners had just studied Chapter 8, the bit where Darren and Steve attend the freak show and see Wolfman bite the woman’s arm off. Pleasant. Their class teacher wasn’t sure how much they comprehended, so asked if I could go over some content from the chapter.

Here’s my planning process (bit raw, this…):

First step, approach things with a target language function in mind. *Pete delves into the WIDA standards*

Aha, narrate. Sounds obvious now. This should give me some good opportunities for formative assessment actually. Bonus.

Hmmmm. Need a task. Something that will get learners narrating the story (and hopefully showing comprehension of the main events), plus a chance to hit some of these other targets – pace of language, building tension, and so on.

Okay. It’s this:

Right. How to get there! So, start like the mainstream English does, recount (*chants WIDA, WIDA*) some key facts. Only, he does it with him leading from the front. I won’t get much out of my EAL learners like that, not this group. Give them questions to discuss, and a sentence starter:

It’s a start. BUT, they’ll need more details if they are going to recount the story…

Something like this should help:

They can do that in Google Docs… WAIT! No they can’t, because they won’t talk about it together. I’ve seen this happen in their English classes – laptops out, let the silence commence. NO! Chat, chat, chat. Help each other. Much better. Print it – one between two.

Quickfire quiz: Student A says the action, Student B says the character. Come on! It takes like 2 minutes! And they have a chance to produce some of the tricky words (sneak some pronunciation modelling and correction in). This is type of simple stage that is easily missed, but IMO it’s purposeful.


I bet they’re struggling with some of those verbs. They’ll probably mention that during the matching task, unless the context clues help them. I guess we’d better check. Get a load of images quickly…

Get learners to circle all the verbs in that previous matching activity. Which verb might match with each image? Maybe have the words in a box for support as back up…

Get them to mime the actions, why not. Definitely showing comprehension then. Aha! Wait! That’s a learning point I hadn’t thought of until now! I bet they’ll mime pushing, but not SHOVING. That’s different. Just like a jump is not exactly a leap, and thinking isn’t exactly wondering, and pull isn’t drag, and say isn’t whisper. So, that’s worth a quick discussion. Why did the writer choose this particular word? What do they want to show? How does it add more drama/tension/etc?

I’d focused on the verbs just because some would be tricky for the learners. I nearly missed the opportunity to properly bring lang and lit together there in a kind of ‘easing them in to analysing language’ kinda way too. Anyway…

I’ll give them this, get them to do one or two examples. They can add example sentences from the text, plus one of their own with the word in context. This is a Google Doccer – might not be that interactive. It can be homework to add to their vocab records, I don’t want to kill the pace here as we are going places!

Here we go, a mini comprehension check with the words in the actual extract from the text (copyright Darren O’Shaughnessy):

‘Hesitated’ is a good word, they’ll ask about that. They’ll need it to answer that last true/false. Plus, blood ‘pumping out’ is another one we can draw attention to – more dramatic effect!

So… It would be cool to get the learners to act out the scene, if they’re in the mood… Plus, we need to be sure they’ve enough to say for the recounting task, so… better do more speaking practice.

Right, if we’ve got to this point without having to break things down to much, I’d feel pretty confident that they comprehend it and that they’re able to recount it. I’ll probs add a quickfire quiz of comprehension questions here just to check.

Let’s go back to that task…

Let them have a practice, but they don’t have to continue it yet. Draw attention to the punctuation (I went overboard with this, need to edit actually). Elicit the intonation, stress, pitch changes, etc. If they’re not sure, model it.

At that point, the rest is kind of up to the learners. Once they’ve got the idea, they can run with it. Add to the dialogue, get creative, BUT within the boundaries of the task aims – recounting the story with accuracy (and drama!).

They perform in pairs, they perform to the class if they like. Some will write the dialogue, I’ll scan that for evidence of comprehension. Some will ad-lib. I know which ones – I’ll have a listen. On-the-spot corrections if needed.

Sometimes, I find the key to success here is not (perhaps a surprise) formalizing things too much. Having full on ‘success criteria’, I mean. It can be overwhelming, and it takes away from the overall aims here. For me, the aims are more a) check the learners are getting to grips with the story, b) give them more chances to verbalise this, c) sneak in a bit of language input AND discipline-specific input (sensitizing them to the authors choice of words), d) enjoy using English (and reading in it).

Categories: Lesson Ideas, vocabulary

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: