Having spent 6 months (April – September) teaching EAP to approx. B2-level students preparing for entry into Sheffield University, and the last year teaching high fee-paying exclusively reasonably high-level adult learners (the youngest of whom were student age) a mixture of General English and EAP, I am now working in an EAL (English as an additional language) setting at a secondary school. My students are in their young to mid-teens with a very low level of English. They are refugees. The set-up in the school I am at is that they spend 12 weeks in an EAL unit, during which time they need to acquire enough English to join mainstream classes. If they don’t acquire sufficient language they have to repeat the programme. They are Arabic-speaking, Romanian-speaking (have now added Arabic and Romanian to my list of languages I am studying!) and Slovakian-speaking. This may change, as new students can enter the unit at any time. The level of English within the group is very, very mixed. The level of home-language numeracy and literacy is also very, very mixed. I started on Monday, which was brilliant, and then the school got an OFSTED alert for this week so I’ve had to stay away since then. Of course next week is half term so I will start again the following (w/c 31st October). Am really impatient for it to roll around!
So, from thinking about how to teach synthesis of sources and paraphrasing and the like, I am now thinking about the list of topics we (my co-teacher and I) will be looking at next time I’m in, which includes things like The Gruffalo, Halloween and measuring length/time. My co-teacher is keen for me to come up with imaginative, practical, fun activities to do with these topics, to make them more memorable. This feels like it is just up my street! Unfortunately it is not a paid gig, I am volunteering. However, I think I will get a lot of out of it as an experience/opportunity to learn and hopefully can make a positive difference to these kids’ learning and school life. Interestingly, this is the kind of thing I was interested in doing before I did my M.A. ELT and Delta. In fact, for my Delta Module 3 I wanted to focus on EAL but it didn’t work out (crossed specialisms and lack of access to a group of learners for doing needs analysis etc). I guess this is one of the things I love about ELT – there is a lot of scope for variety, when you think about it. It covers such a multitude of contexts and focuses.
No doubt there will be multiple blog posts related to my new work, so watch this space! And meanwhile, if you have any fantastic Gruffalo and Halloween-related ideas, please do comment with them. Also, if you can recommend any YL-focused blogs/resources that would be grand too! Thank you! 🙂