Inclusion Department News
Starting life in a new country and at a new school is inevitably a stressful period for anyone (adult or child) but this is an even more poignant a transition for students who arrive at our school without speaking English.
Imagine having to get used to life in Hong Kong, keep up academically, make new friends and learn an entirely new language at the same time!
This term I have had the pleasure of establishing the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Team at DBIS to help students do all of these things. I am joined by Mrs Samarakkody and Mrs Gamaleldeen and between us we have been working with students in small groups and individually to help them best access the curriculum and the language needed to participate fully in school life.
Our work thus far has included the establishment of assessment systems that describe communicative ability in English from an absolute beginner to one who is an independent speaker of the language. Our approach to assessment focuses on our students’ successes in starting to communicate in English, using a common attainment scale. We have also been busy working with class teachers, subject specialists and educational assistants on how best to support children new to English in class and the language acquisition methodologies being applied in our approach to EAL.
The first term has been an incredibly rewarding one. I am constantly awed by the speed at which children acquire English and the confidence they show, both in class and on the playground, in a language that seemed so alien a mere four months ago. To all of our new EAL students who started in August, congratulations!
As the EAL Coordinator, new parents often ask me how best they can support their child’s acquisition of English at home. Below are some of my most common pieces of advice:
Learning a new language is exhausting
Being surrounded by a foreign language all day is absolutely exhausting. Give your child time to relax when they come home from school and make sure they are getting enough sleep.
Listen to your child’s experiences and encourage them to talk to you about their day and what they have learnt in your home language – this encourages them to form a deeper understanding and make links between content vocabulary in the two languages.
English is in addition to your home language
Make sure your child still has plenty of rich, authentic material in your home language such as books, films and music. When you are reading books from school with your child, ask them comprehension questions in your home language. This will greatly help with their understanding of the text.
Keep it fun
In order to be successful acquirers of English, children need to be motivated and find the process enjoyable. Play into your child’s interests by providing films, TV series, games and printed material in English that link to their hobbies and interests. Setting aside some time for enjoyable activities in English is a far more effective way of supporting your child than adding additional hours of lessons with an outside tutor.