Let’s not forget the EAL parents

Keeping up with the lessons and activities being set by teachers for your children is hard enough when instructions and guidance are in the language you are most proficient in. For parents who are English learners themselves, the challenge is multiplied. In this post Joanna Borysiak suggests some ways to keep academic learning going using L1s and some English learning activities that children can do largely independently.

As we settle into the third week of school closures, I am reminded that the so hotly discussed home-schooling is particularly challenging for parents of our EAL students who themselves don’t speak English very well. They experience the double-whammy their children face at school every day: the challenge of language and subject knowledge. So how can we ease the pressure and support both the parents and the children? 

Content. And Language. Disintegrated. 

For once it might be a good idea to separate out language and content. Desperate times – desperate measures. As one of Parents may well be able to help their children with maths, history or science – except not in English. So make sure that parents know what topics children will be covering, drawing either on the translation skills of your students and other teachers or with Google translate. 

Let them learn stuff in their languages

The parents will then be able to explain concepts or find resources in their home languages. With schools out in so many countries across the world, there has been a huge rise in free online resources which are now flooding parents’ Facebook feeds. 

Projekt Alpha is one such resource. It is a Polish-language pop-up live streaming YouTube channel, set up by scientists and science communicators working at some of the top universities in the world. Topics covered include: 

How to keep bees on your balcony

A private army inside your body (or your immune system)

Virtual robotics using Design Thinking Method

When the kids come back to school, they may not be able to tell you all about what they learnt on day one, but they will have learnt stuff – and that’s good enough. 

Take a leaf out of the ELT playbook

When it comes to English language learning, a lot of the EAL parents have done it themselves. Some may be fluent in English and able to teach and support their children. Others will have done English at school and can communicate, but are in no position to advise if a sentence their child has written is correct – or what is wrong with it and how to correct it. But they do know what language learning exercises look like (grammar/vocabulary/ the four skills, etc.) and they will have a general understanding of the level descriptions (e.g. A1 – Beginner, A2 – Pre-Intermediate, B1 – Intermediate, B2 – Upper-Intermediate, C1 – Advanced). 

Luckily, a lot of English language teaching organisations already offer a lot of resources for free, and are making more available free during the school closures around the world. It would be rude not to!

Many of the exercises provide automatic checking, and if a student makes a mistake, they can choose to  try again or reveal the correct answer. Activities for younger learners involve a lot of animations, songs and stories. That means students can learn – and have fun – with limited support from their parents. 

Note that some of them use Flash technology, so you may need to adjust your browser settings for them to work correctly on your machine. 

Cambridge Assessment English: Activities for Learners

LearnEnglish Kids (British Council)

LearnEnglish Teens (British Council)

ESOL section of onestopenglish.com starting at Absolute Beginner including suggestions for activities for students who cannot use Roman script (all resources on the site are free to access until 30 June 2020).

Oxford Parents (OUP)

Rainbow Bridge Student’s Site for young Beginner learners, includes CLIL videos, songs, animations and fairy tales

I’d love to hear if these ideas are useful – and which of them you felt worked particularly well – or not at all!

If you have an activity that you would like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Posts should be no more than 500 words and should describe one activity (if you’d like to write more than one post on different activities do feel free). Send your post to h.chalmers@naldic.org.uk or submit it through the website here.

EALJournal.org is a publication of NALDIC, the subject association for EAL. Visit www.naldic.org.uk to become a member.