MFL Framework: Pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL)
The inclusion of pupils learning EAL is a fundamental principle articulated in the National Curriculum 2000. It sets out statutory expectations for their inclusion. MFL Framework objectives and the suggested teaching and learning approaches provide a focus on clear, unambiguous objectives in ways that engage pupils in active learning.
Pupils for whom English is an additional language have diverse needs in terms of the support they need for English language learning. However, such pupils may be able to offer insights into language learning which may benefit both their own learning of MFL and that of other pupils who have English as a first language. Pupils with EAL may need support with those aspects of the MFL Framework and the National Curriculum programme of study in MFLwhich deal with comparisons between the target language and English. Planning needs to take account of such factors as the pupil's age, previous educational experience and skills in other languages. Each pupil's progress in the acquisition of English as well as of target language skills, subject knowledge and understanding needs to be carefully monitored to confirm that no learning difficulties are present. The ability of such pupils to take part in the National Curriculum may be ahead of their communication skills in English. Teachers of MFL are well placed to offer learning opportunities that develop these pupils' MFL and English skills and enhance their ability to participate in all areas of the curriculum.
The MFL Framework provides for planned progression in language skills, understanding and competence. It encompasses the ability to recognise, understand, use and manipulate the conventions of both oral and written language. Reinforcement of objectives enables pupils to revisit insecure areas of learning while continuing to develop other aspects of language with which they are confident.
Clear learning objectives will support pupils learning EAL when they are used in a context that builds on prior attainment, and when pupils are fully aware of the substance and purpose of the work. Furthermore, the delivery of objectives through teaching which is highly interactive, and which allows for participative whole-class and group work, will help pupils learning EAL, especially if teachers take full account of their specific needs.
This guidance offers general support to mainstream and specialist teachers and to language support staff and will be useful to those responsible for the management of literacy at whole-school level.

Inclusive teaching of pupils learning EAL

A broad and varied population of pupils learns EAL and they are especially valued in MFL. Some will be literate in other languages: awareness of languages and cultures other than English allows them to make a valuable contribution to MFL lessons, where their learning will be at the same level or even ahead of other pupils of the same age. It is important that all their teachers have information about their educational history and their literacy skills in their first language, as these will be significant factors for their progress in learning MFL. This information is vital in planning how best to teach these pupils and in assessing their progress within all subjects.
Mohammed has been in the UK for two years. He is an able pupil in Year 7 whose native language is French. He is learning Spanish. His oral expression in his home language – and increasingly in English – is sophisticated. He is able to retell a narrative text with great understanding and attention to detail. His oral response in English in all subject areas shows evidence of good levels of understanding, but he finds it difficult to express his thoughts and ideas in open-ended written exercises. Mohammed's teachers in his various subjects have found that he can clearly articulate his knowledge and understanding in written form when provided with a supportive framework. Visual aids such as photographs, and questions which guide his thinking, enable him to demonstrate a more realistic view of his knowledge. His Spanish teacher uses all this information to help Mohammed make good progress in his lessons.
Beginner learners of EAL and newly arrived pupils can benefit from the earliest stage from the whole-class and small-group activities characteristic of MFL Framework lessons. Effective teaching strategies for the inclusive teaching of pupils learning EAL benefit all learners and include an emphasis on oral language through:
  • carefully planned and structured teacher talk
  • ensuring pupils have ample opportunities to listen to a well-spoken model of language and to engage in whole-class and small-group activities before being asked to make a spoken or written individual response
  • developing pupils' spoken language through activities which require them to listen to, and engage in, increasingly extended talk in settings where their efforts can be supported and developed (e.g. through collaborative work in small groups)
  • making links between spoken and written language which clarify explicitly the similarities and differences between the target language, their home language and English

'At present classrooms are rather like crowded swimming pools. Those who are competent dive in. Some take things slowly and concentrate on improving their style and performance, while others are there for a good time and do not mind making waves that disturb others. Those who are less competent may try to get in but are quickly discouraged and remain on the edges. Those who are learning have little support from the others and stand timidly on the sides waiting for the right time to enter. Sometimes they might dip their toes in but most often they walk away without getting wet. Rather than pushing people in or leaving them to fend for themselves, the situation needs to be organised so that everyone gets the opportunity to develop their skills and enjoy themselves without hindering the progress of others. I would therefore make the following proposals:
  • all teachers need to be aware of how talk is used in class; by teachers themselves and by different
    groups of pupils
  • all teachers need to monitor the talk of their pupils and aim to improve the oral skills of all pupils in
    a range of styles and contexts
  • all teachers should set up ground rules for talk. There should be 'zero tolerance' of peer hostility
  • all teachers should use structured, planned talk as a learning tool linked to other activities
    including reading and writing
  • talk activities should happen regularly and be evaluated rigorously
  • there is a need to overcome the attitude prevalent among pupils that talk does not count as real work.'
Head of school EAL department praised by Ofsted in 1999

In MFL lessons, all of the advice given above continues to apply to pupils learning EAL. Language comparisons can sometimes be extended to include references to pupils' home languages. Pupils with EAL will benefit from regular use of the target language by teachers and other pupils, and by the demonstration, modelling and investigation of language structures and functions. The MFL Framework provides for detailed progression through a planned increase in knowledge, skills, understanding and language competence through work in a range of contexts.
Where teaching is well matched to their needs, pupils learning EAL will derive great benefit from focused MFL teaching based on the Framework, because:
  • it promotes explicit attention to language learning
  • pupils have opportunities to hear the foreign language spoken often and distinctly, to speak to the teacher and to each other, and to develop knowledge about language and language use within a shared and familiar context
  • class teaching provides pupils with helpful models of spoken MFL in real contexts
  • group work provides opportunities for intensive and focused teaching matched to learning needs.
In MFL lessons pupils learning EAL will - like other pupils - need support in accessing the foreign language through the use of inclusive teaching strategies and meaningful activities. Almost all pupils in MFL will be in the same situation, at some stage, as EAL learners, who may need support in their English learning to understand inferences and allusions, differential meanings of words in context, constructions used in particular genres and culturally embedded language. The range of supportive teaching strategies valuable for pupils with EAL in this context includes:
  • provision for visual support to enable pupils to conceptualise information and learning tasks when their knowledge of the subject language may be limited. This involves the use of a range of devices, for example objects, illustrations, labels, diagrams, use of video or computer graphics, provision of writing frames and grids
  • provision for pre-reading of texts where pupils can be introduced to key vocabulary and phrases and discuss the main ideas. This may, where appropriate and manageable, include the use of first language
  • provision for oral 'rehearsal' of written tasks in order to focus pupils' attention on the language required
  • probing understanding through targeted questioning and discussion
  • extending active reading tasks, for example directed activities relating to texts (DARTS), by helping them to rework content and ideas in their own words.
These strategies can inform aspects of MFL teaching and learning; at the very least, MFL teachers will be helped by knowing about them. They also need to exploit the fact that MFL can provide a unique context in which pupils with EAL can work on a level footing with their fellow pupils and sometimes outshine them, with subsequent benefits to their self-esteem.

The role of support staff
The role of specialist or language support staff will inevitably vary according to circumstances. However, it is essential that mainstream staff benefit from their expertise in order to provide an inclusive learning environment for pupils learning EAL, whether they are isolated learners or part of a larger group within a school.
For schools with few pupils learning EAL, support from specialist staff may be geographically remote, but the Framework objectives can provide the focus for liaison. EAL specialists will have a clear sense of the language demands upon pupils both within English lessons and across the curriculum. They may need help from MFL staff to get a clear view of specific language demands in MFL. However, if this can be provided, planning documentation can be annotated by specialist staff to indicate the specific language support required and to suggest appropriate teaching interventions.
Where specialist staff are available within the school itself, it is essential that they act in an advisory role as well as leading whole-class sessions or providing individual or small-group support to particular pupils.
The recent Ofsted report Raising the attainment of minority ethnic pupils (1999) noted that the most effective work by EAL staff involved a clear curriculum focus and a strong ethos of partnership between EAL and mainstream staff.
Where EAL teaching and support staff are available within lessons, they will play a crucial role in the provision of advice and resources.

The place of languages other than English
Pupils learning EAL who are already literate in another language and understand principles of phonology, spelling and grammatical conventions in that language will be able to bring that knowledge to bear when acquiring language skills in English and MFL. Pupils need to develop speaking and listening skills in order to develop language skills. However, language skills also help pupils to develop speaking and listening skills.
Like all learners of MFL, pupils with EAL need to hear good examples of the spoken target language and also to refer to their first language skills to aid new learning. Knowledge of their home language enables pupils to draw on existing subject knowledge and to develop English and MFL language skills in context. For example, a group of pupils might draw on their knowledge of words in their mother tongue to develop their grasp of objective 7W7: '... the spelling, sound, meaning and main attributes of words'. The fact that pupils learning EAL can draw upon both their mother tongue and their developing competence in English can only enhance their learning in MFL. However, MFL teachers need to be aware of and sensitive to the language context in which pupils with EAL are working and be prepared to help them build on the full range of language they bring to the classroom.