Communicating with multilingual families

Mother Tongues and the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin have created video for teachers/principals/administrative staff on communicating with families in different languages – see here – and a list of useful phrases that can be used in schools. This is a project we will continue to work on over the next few months and anyone can request phrases to be translated (see here).

Remote learning: what works?

The EEF’s rapid evidence assessment has published a report on the existing research (from 60 systematic reviews and meta-analyses) for approaches that schools could use, or are already using, to support the learning of pupils while schools are closed due to Covid-19.  The report is available here.

How can the excellent EAL support normally provided in schools be adapted to remote learning? Please get in touch (via to share your experience

Quantifying bilingualism

“How bilingual are the children in my classroom?” “How much experience of English have they had over their lifetime?” “From what point can I expect this EAL child to have caught up with her peers in terms of English proficiency?”

Children with English as an Additional Language can present very different profiles, and their needs and potential require a more fine-grained approach than a binary EAL / non-EAL categorisation.

The Quantifying Bilingual Experience project brings together an international team of researchers and practitioners to establish a consensus regarding what aspects of the multilingual language experience we need to measure in school settings and for what purpose.  This will inform the creation of user-friendly, online questionnaires (and their associated back-end calculators) to return measures of current and cumulative language experience in real time. Exploiting cutting-edge statistical techniques, we will also develop an objective method to identify early those bilingual children in need of support with their school language, helping practitioners estimate when a child who speaks a different language at home can be expected to have “caught up” with their monolingual peers.

The Q-BEx project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council from October 2019 to September 2022. It is led by Professor Cecile De Cat (University of Leeds).

Online CPD from the BELL Foundation

In response to the Covid-19 crisis and school closures The Bell Foundation will be offering teachers increased opportunities for remote CPD to help them support pupils during and after closures, and publishing new resources which can be used with home learning. 

These opportunities are important because:As a result of school closures, pupils using English as an Additional Language (EAL) may spend weeks with limited access to the approaches to teaching which are best suited to enhancing their English language development alongside their curriculum learning. The switch to home learning is a challenge for most pupils. Adapting this unfamiliar medium to ensure appropriately differentiated pedagogy for students with EAL is likely to be even more so.Some students may lack explicit language input from schools and in many cases experience inconsistent or insufficient exposure to English in the home.  Therefore, there is a risk of loss of learning for many students using EAL, particularly those who are new to English or in the early acquisition stages.Considering that learning is now taking place at a distance, it is more important than ever that schools seek to develop effective communication with parents of learners who use EAL to ensure parents understand what they should be doing to support the learning of their children.  This highlights a need for schools to be especially mindful that communications (both written and spoken) are delivered in clear accessible English, and ideally supported by visual cues.

Free webinars:
The Bell Foundation will be hosting regular free, interactive webinars throughout school closure offering teachers unrivalled access to experts for CPD. 

Overview of forthcoming webinars
View previous webinar recordings

On 30 April 2020 the Foundation is running a series of three webinars focusing on how teachers can effectively support the learning of EAL pupils during and after school closures:

Supporting the home learning of primary EAL pupils
Supporting the home learning of secondary EAL pupils
Assessing the learning of primary and secondary EAL pupils

Free resources:
The Foundation is publishing guidance videos for schools on how to make home learning accessible for EAL pupils and their parents.  The first of these videos are now available on EAL Nexus.  We will be adding to these resources on a regular basis for as long as schools are closed.

View EAL Nexus videos

Online training courses:
Throughout school closure The Bell Foundation will be running online CPD opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants. The courses are designed to be highly interactive and collaborative, with opportunities to work with other course participants, course tutors and course material.  All courses are differentiated for primary and secondary levels.

View all courses
Embedding EAL Assessment
Primary: Teaching Assistants: Working with learners using EAL
Primary: Supporting new arrivals who are New to English
Primary: Introduction to EAL Assessment
Secondary: Teaching Assistants: Working with learners using EAL
Secondary: Supporting new arrivals who are New to English
Secondary: Introduction to EAL Assessment

Word learning interventions for EAL pupils, a systematic review

by Emily Oxley

Emily has recently completed a PhD investigating vocabulary acquisition in children with more than one language. She conducted a systematic review of word learning interventions for children with English as an additional language, and carried out an experimental word learning study comparing EALs and children who only speak English.

What is a systematic review?

A systematic review is a very thorough way of searching the current literature without bias. You decide upon search terms and enter these into databases of research papers. From there you end up with thousands of results that you filter according to an inclusion and exclusion criteria. This gives you a much more manageable amount of papers to read in depth and include in your review.

How many papers did your review include?

After screening my results, I was left with a total of 18 studies to review. 17 of these studies were conducted in the USA and one in the UK. All studies included children with EAL from a variety of language backgrounds. The most common language spoken was Spanish.

What were the results of the studies?

The results of the studies suggested that explicit vocabulary training in context can produce word learning gains for EALs. When new words are explicitly taught within a curriculum, EALs can learn at the same rate as their peers who only speak English. Storybook reading alongside adult led questioning and discussion can lead to vocabulary growth with younger children. However explicit vocabulary teaching in this review showed larger comparative vocabulary gains than storybook related interventions. Two studies showed no intervention effects across measures; implicit acquisition through television viewing and sign supported English instruction.

What are the conclusions to the study?

The study provided more evidence that children with English as an additional language start school with a lower English vocabulary than their monolingual peers. Early interventions are recommended in first years of schooling for EAL children so that they will not fall further behind. Most interventions in this review have shown to reduce the vocabulary deficit.

Were there any limitations?

Yes- because most interventions in this review were carried out in the USA, it may not be possible to replicate their techniques in the context of the United Kingdom. Due to the homogenous sample of first languages in the USA, many of the interventions were able to use the first language to help bridge the gap. Language backgrounds of children in the United Kingdom are diverse so this causes additional constraints. In addition, it is not generally possible to know a child’s underlying L1 vocabulary in the UK, whereas in the USA there are standardised Spanish first language vocabulary measures which can be used.

What are the future directions?

This review has shown that we are really in need of randomised control trials for school aged EAL children in the United Kingdom. There is so much still to learn about children with English as an additional language, and although research in this field is growing in the UK, it is still in its relative infancy compared to the USA

RT @ajstewart_lang: Interested in learning #rstats in the context of #OpenResearch and #Reproducibility? I’m happy to share 10 workshop……

RT @ludoserratrice: An excellent podcast(in English) by Sharon Unsworth for parents thinking about raising a bilingual child……