Technology to support English as an Additional Language

Post by Simon Newman, EAL Coordinator, The Lancaster School:

Simon previously reported on the professional development innovation project he undertook this year, exploring the use of iPad features and apps to support students working with staff in the school’s English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department. Here he provides an update, along with recommendations from and tips for teaching assistants.

One of my aims for the project was to introduce the use of tablet computers in the English as an Additional Language classroom environment, and to explore the impact on pupil learning – with the aim of supporting better progress.

The pupils found the iPads useful as it gave them some independence and allowed them to have greater control over their learning. Pupils identified the following resources as particularly useful when they were working independently:

  • Google Translate and iTranslate. They allow instant translation for many languages and it is easy to switch between languages. The ability to hear the words spoken in some languages was very useful, especially if the pupils were not literate in their own language. Longer sentences are translated less accurately however, and meaning could be lost. The pupils preferred the iPads over normal dictionaries because of the speed of translation, and felt this enabled them to focus on the lesson more effectively.
  • Google images. This was especially useful to get an understanding of the keywords for the lesson.

The iPads have been used by about 8 different staff members. The staff liked the pupils using the iPads because it gave them independence and improved their ability to access the lesson. I think we are still at an early stage of iPad classroom use. Some staff appear unsure how they can be useful, so more input is required on my behalf to make the benefits clear to them.

It is also clear that making effective use of the iPads needs to be planned –  effective use doesn’t happen by just having devices in the classroom. EAL pupils made most progress from those teachers who put careful thought to how they were to be used.

The iPads have also been used by my EAL teaching assistants and also other teaching assistants within the school. These staff members were very positive about iPad classroom use and about the way the devices have helped support EAL pupil progress.

In addition to translate and image search, the teaching assistants identified these resources as particularly useful:

  •  BBC Bitesize – staff and learners used this in Science, English and Geography. The teaching assistants liked the use of the images available and the simple language. For EAL pupils the KS2 Bitesize was most appropriate (free).
  • Dropbox – This allowed instant access to lesson worksheet and presentations so the TA’s could revisit ideas to support understanding. Dropbox’s terms and conditions specify that the service is only for use by people 13 years old and over (free).
  • Clicker Sentences (link to Apple App Store) – Clicker Sentences is an app that supports sentence construction and can be used to build tailored resources for specific lessons. The sentence construction can be supported by images allowing better pupil understanding. It also has the ability for resources to be saved to Dropbox. Once saved the resources can be shared easily between other iPads (£19.99)

Clicker Sentences

  • Nearpod – This is a resource for creating presentations which include a range of interactive elements including multi-choice and open-ended questions, audio, video and quizzes. The presentation plays on all iPads at the same time and the pace is controlled by the teaching assistant or teacher (basic version free).

Our English teaching assistant recommended the following apps for grammar work:

Teaching assistants using iPads in the classroom

The use of iPads by teaching assistants can have significant benefits for EAL pupils in the classroom – we believe they have enabled EAL pupils to make more progress than they would have made without them.  EAL pupils can often struggle with the use of vocabulary or key words in lessons. The iPads allow the teaching assistant to revisit words or pictures used by the teacher to allow for clarification or can use images or translation to ensure the EAL pupils are clear in their understanding.

Understanding does not come about just by knowing the meaning of the key words. They need to see them in context and then have a chance to use them in context to ensure the learning is secure.

Tips for teaching assistance using iPads to support EAL learners in lessons

  • Use pictures to illustrate key language where possible so pupils have a visual image to allow them to link with own language.
  • Maps can be very useful where appropriate.
  • Translate the words into the pupils own language.
  • Show learners the words in context in English so they can see the word in use.
  • Ask learners to explain the meaning of any language used and model language as appropriate for them to practice.
  • Help students practice using the words in context by using an app like Clicker Sentences (or with the words written on a mini whiteboard.)

Clicker Sentences

  • Ask pupils to use the same words in a sentence of their own.
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