Hannah reflects on her time as a language assistant and how it has prepared her for teaching.
Hoşgeldiniz, Çoçuklar (means 'Welcome, children' in Turkish)
My first job in schools was as a language assistant. As a child I went to school in a different language to what I spoke at home which was a huge advantage to the role. Having been through the experience myself meant I could recognise the difficulties the children were facing and help them to communicate more effectively.
Children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) may join your school at any age and at any point in the year. When they arrive they might be able to hold full conversations, only have a few words, or have no English at all. Children who struggle to communicate may present behavioural difficulties as they try to assert themselves, and some may stop speaking at school altogether. It is vital to ensure that all children have the means to express their basic needs as soon as we are able.
A great way to prepare for this is to have some picture cards ready that can be given to the child almost as soon as they have walked through the classroom door. These picture cards might include a pencil, a coat, a lunchbox, a toilet, a sink and a computer to start with and then they can be added to as the child's needs becomes more evident. The teacher or assistant should make an effort to use the cards to reinforce their use, and always the corresponding word.
A child who does not yet understand the language of their lessons will use their environment for clues. Use a visual timetable and indicate which lesson they are currently in. This is more easily blended into younger classes, but is still helpful for older children.
Eventually, children will be speaking and joining in with their peers. After a few years their language difficulties may be barely noticeable. However, this does not mean they no longer need support. The school I currently work in provides 1:1 support for EAL children far beyond their ability to read and write basic phrases. Although there are key areas of grammar where children can struggle, it can vary greatly between children which is why continued and specific support is so key.
Do you have experience teaching EAL? Become one our Pupil Support experts and assist individuals or small groups of pupils who may require extra support. Contact your local consultant for more information.