Challenge and opportunity: Supporting the transition for Year 7 students using EAL (2023)

The transition to 7th grade is a difficult time for all students, especially those for whom English is an additional language. Sarah Moodie offers ideas, tips, resources and advice for colleges looking to admit EAL pupils in September

Every September, a new cohort starts in seventh grade. Some come with a positive attitude, relatively self-confident and full of anticipation for a new, larger environment, new subjects and new acquaintances.

For others, the transition is terrifying. They are afraid of getting lost, difficulties at work and feeling lonely. And for many, it is a mixture of all these feelings.

Of course, teachers must try to harness the tension and remove doubts and fears.

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Lancaster investigated the language challenges faced by all students moving from Level 2 to Level 3 (Deignan et al., 2023). They illustrate the explosion of vocabulary as the curriculum is divided into disciplines taught by multiple subject teachers.

There is a sudden shift in tone from narrative to abstract, more complex grammatical structures are routinely used, and patterns of interaction also change as high school students listen longer to the teacher's directions.

Research has not yet proven that these language challenges are the cause of the often-reported drop in achievement in seventh grade, but they do appear to be a contributing factor.

Transition notes for EAL students

Students who use English as an additional language (EAL) are a very diverse group, including but not limited to those who grew up in the UK, those who arrive as children of migrants, asylum seekers, students from different socio-economic backgrounds, etc. Students with different SENDs and none. Common to them is the need to develop their knowledge of the English language, at the same time as they acquire the content of the curriculum.

In addition to the transition from Level 2 to Level 3, EAL students are at different stages of transition from using a second language as their primary learning tool to learning English. For this reason, the language challenges highlighted in the study cited above are likely to increase.

It can take longer to get used to the many subject teachers, each with their own mannerisms and accents, as well as polysemic words that can lead to misunderstandings. With the right mindset and support, students can use the changes as an opportunity to develop their English skills alongside learning in the curriculum.

Notes on asylum seekers

Another heterogeneous group is refugees and asylum seekers. Some may have had extensive age-appropriate education before moving.

For others, education may be seriously disrupted, or they may have periods when they cannot go to school at all. Some may already have experience learning English, while others may be completely new to the language. However, they have all been forced to leave their homes and homelands and seek safety elsewhere, and have undergone many unwanted changes as a result.

Having to change schools at the age of 11 can be culturally foreign and another unwanted expense is the need for new uniforms etc. Newly arrived families can find it difficult to make the physical journey to the secondary school which is often further away from the family home.

With these factors in mind, schools should ensure that translated information about school buses, uniform shops and any funding opportunities are available.

Keep in mind that exposure to traumatic events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been shown to negatively impact language learning (Furneaux, 2018). Although it is unlikely that all asylum-seeking students will be affected, a greater emphasis on well-being and the development of security and belonging in the new school is recommended.


School closures and lockdowns during the pandemic have left many EAL students unable to hear and speak English in social situations.

Research by the Bell Foundation found that school children using EAL suffered from "speech loss" in English, particularly in productive writing and speaking skills, while the level of student engagement with curriculum content varies depending on factors such as variable access to technology and quiet places to study (Scott, 2021).

On September 7, 2023, he was in 4th or 5th grade during the 2020/21 closures and partial school closures. Therefore, teachers should provide as many opportunities as possible to develop speaking and writing skills through scaffolding and modeling. The Bell Foundation has useful resources on prediction, scaffolding and modeling (see Resources).

What can schools do?Bbefore they pass?

Bring together EAL specialists from Key Stages 2 and 3 and give them time to exchange ideas and discuss:

  • Students' English skills (you can use an EAL assessment framework, such as those developed by the Bell Foundation).
  • Length of study in the UK.
  • Mother tongue, reading skills and preferred language for communication with parents/guardians.
  • The student's strengths and talents.
  • Areas of the curriculum they find more difficult.
  • Everyone knew SEND.
  • Leisure activities and sports clubs participated in the elementary school and possible offers in the high school.
  • The type of language support students currently receive and how this can be continued.

Multi-academic foundations and colleges with established post-secondary schools have already established links, but it is important not to neglect pupils who come from primary schools outside regular post-secondary schools.

Meet elsewhere with external services such as family liaison officers or educational welfare officers who may have worked with the student and/or family.

Consider creating your own EAL database or student profile system to collect and compile useful data about students using EAL and share it with staff to sit alongside or within existing school systems for integration.

The Ministry of Education's Common Transfer File (DfE, 2022) does not contain all this information. Please note that some information may become known gradually as schools and students get to know each other better. The Bell Foundation offers free guides on how to create a student profile (see Resources).

How can schoolsall go out to my parents?

Like their children, parents of EAL pupils will be a diverse group. Some may not make contact because they fear language barriers, are reluctant to contact authorities due to previous negative experiences, or are simply reluctant due to work commitments. For many this may be their first encounter with a UK secondary school and there may be misunderstandings or concerns about the expected role of parents in school life.

Building positive home-school relationships is likely to influence student engagement, participation, and achievement. Once you have established a good relationship with your primary school, try to strengthen it by initiating a parent meeting with key staff at both schools. If not, take this as an opportunity to increase parental involvement.

Find out what the families' preferences are for communication in the home (email, phone, text, etc.) and what language to use for translation. Consider coffee mornings/evenings where parents can access interpreters, meet staff at the new school and perhaps be shown around the school.

The Bell Foundation has some useful parenting guides, translated into 21 languages, including Ukrainian and Dari, that explain how the school system works in England (see Resources).

If you are organizing induction camps/summer schools/welcome parties for Year 7, ensure that families with EAL children are invited with translated information and preferably the opportunity to ask questions in their mother tongue. These events may be culturally unfamiliar to some parents, but can be a useful way to increase social inclusion.

ideas fortransitionN

If the pupil received support from an EAL specialist in primary school, consider inviting this specialist to attend transition days in secondary school. If this support is to continue among secondary school professionals, care should be taken to introduce it.

Use young interpreters (see the Hampshire sample program link for more information), language ambassadors or other student representatives to speak to newcomers in their native language. This will help facilitate the social integration of EAL students, particularly students who are in the early stages of English language acquisition. It also emphasizes the school's positive message about multilingualism.

When September comes

Avoid making too many judgments in the early stages. If CAT4 tests are used, give EAL students more time, make the instructions as clear as possible or translate them.

Look for "top profiles" of EAL students where non-verbal grades are significantly higher than verbal grades, as this suggests that the overall grade is indicative of the student's level of English proficiency rather than their innate cognitive ability.

Keep the grouping flexible. Irrevocable decisions based on short-term assessments are not helpful for EAL learners, as many of them make rapid progress in developing their language skills.

Ensure teachers are trained to welcome EAL pupils and provide them with the best pedagogy. The Bell Foundation runs a series of training courses on welcoming new arrivals and adaptive learning.

Rola Ssubject teacher

Try to spend short periods explicitly teaching vocabulary. A useful aspect of vocabulary is polysemy,association of a word with more than one meaning, which can cause confusion for language learners.

For example, it is possible that seventh grade elementary school students have become familiar with the word "concentration," meaning mental focus. They may not know the scientific meaning of either the geographical term or the term "concentration camp".

If you know a specific polysemous word in your subject, spending a few minutes explaining it can be beneficial for all students, but especially for those using EAL (see Huntingdon Research School, 2021).

It is also worth checking that you understand the most important everyday concepts you use in class. A student may be familiar with the term "subtraction" in math, but not "subtraction," "minus," or "subtraction."

In addition, students will be exposed to and use more academic language at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. For most subjects, their proficiency level will be at least partly based on this competency.

A great way to teach and learn grammar is context. So if a task requires a specific structure that is complicated (eg using "could" and "should have" when thinking or analyzing), take time to emphasize this, show some example sentences, and students can practice by creating their own examples (The Bell Foundation runs "Language for Learning" courses.)

advice for fTeachers/priests Orm

  • Make sure you can pronounce your child's name correctly and tell the rest of the staff. Hearing her name pronounced differently at her new school can add to the sense of confusion.
  • Be aware of which students are refugees or asylum seekers. There are guides from the Bell Foundation with links and resources.
  • Explain that the students' mother tongue will continue to be valued in upper secondary school. Reference to any existing post-secondary schools. The development of the mother tongue is important not only for the learner's sense of identity, but also allows them to build on existing linguistic and curriculum knowledge. If GCSEs are available in their mother tongue, please inform your students of this option.
  • Identify clubs or activities outside of the school's special interest that may interest students and allow them to expand their friendship networks. A sense of continuity from elementary school as well as expansion (eg continuing to play on the soccer team and starting to jump on a trampoline) can help build a sense of security while opening up new opportunities.
  • Sarah Moody is a lecturer at the Bell Foundation, a charity dedicated to overcoming exclusion through language

More information and resources

Bell Foundations ressourcer


What is the best way to support EAL students? ›

EAL Teaching Methods & Classroom Tips
  1. Use visual learning. ...
  2. Sit them near the front. ...
  3. More group work. ...
  4. Adapt your teaching style. ...
  5. Let them use their first language. ...
  6. Allow preparation before each lesson. ...
  7. Don't force them to talk. ...
  8. Learn about their name and their culture.
Jan 4, 2021

What are the challenges for EAL D students? ›

The particular challenge for EAL/D students is that they need to concurrently learn English, learn through (or in) English and learn about English. academic language proficiency in English, especially if they have had disrupted schooling or limited literacy backgrounds in their first language. dialect.

How does EAL affect learning? ›

Children will start to speak English and any other languages they may be learning, in different ways. Some children will enthusiastically copy what they hear around them right from the start. Children may start by verbalising single words and 2 or 3 word phrases.

How you are going to support English language learners in your classroom? ›

Strategies for increasing language output include:

Provide multiple opportunities for structured and unstructured talk. Opportunities for students to collaborate with each other. Include open-ended questions in your lessons. Provide daily low-stakes writing opportunities in all content areas.

How will I accommodate students with limited English skills? ›

Keep Up With Education Research
  • Cultivate Relationships and Be Culturally Responsive. ...
  • Teach Language Skills Across the Curriculum. ...
  • Emphasize Productive Language. ...
  • Speak Slowly—and Increase Your Wait Time. ...
  • Differentiate—and Use Multiple Modalities. ...
  • Incorporate Students' Native Languages—and Don't Be Afraid of Technology.
Apr 12, 2019

How can educators encourage children to use language in different ways? ›

The best way to encourage your child's language development is to do a lot of talking together about things that interest your child. It's all about following your child's lead as they show you what they're interested in by waving, babbling or using words.

How can educators support children's language development? ›

Talk about what children are interested in at the time they are interested in it. Use specific labels (say “I like your car” rather than “I like that”). Model good spoken language yourself. Remember to add a word or an idea to what the child has said to really help extend their language learning.

What is EAL learning support? ›

EAL (English as an Additional Language) Support is provided to help students whose first language is not English. This is to enable them to be successful in the academic programme of the grade level classroom where English is the language of instruc- tion .

What are the goals of EAL language? ›

The aims are to develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills along with word power and grammar.

How should children with EAL be assessed? ›

Top tips for assessing pupils who use EAL
  1. Build up a profile of the learner to gain a broader picture. ...
  2. Adopt and embed an EAL assessment framework. ...
  3. Develop tailored support strategies. ...
  4. Carry out assessments in an environment that is familiar to the EAL learner.

What are the five biggest challenges in teaching English? ›

The 10 biggest challenges for language teachers
  • Languages are complicated. ...
  • Language teaching is hard work! ...
  • Classroom management. ...
  • Supporting students. ...
  • Handling parents. ...
  • You're in charge. ...
  • Classroom resources. ...
  • Support and assistance.
Dec 7, 2021

What are the main challenges facing educators of exceptional students in today's schools? ›

What are the Challenges of Being a Special Education Teacher?
  • The Widespread Misperception That Teaching is Easy. ...
  • Non-Instructional Responsibilities. ...
  • Lack of Support. ...
  • Dealing With Multiple Disabilities. ...
  • Handling Death. ...
  • Handling the Problems of an Inclusive Classroom. ...
  • Professional Isolation. ...
  • Lack of Support From Parents.
Nov 14, 2022

How to help if English language learners are struggling in school? ›

5 Ways to Help Struggling English Language Learners
  1. 5 Ways to Help Struggling English Language Learners. ...
  2. Use Visuals and Sketches During Presentations. ...
  3. Develop a Slower Rate of Speech. ...
  4. Use SWIRL (Speak, Write, Intonation, Read, Listen) ...
  5. Give Both Verbal and Written Instructions. ...
  6. Get to Know Each Student.

How can you help students with language difficulties? ›

What Teachers Can Do
  • Move kids closer to you. ...
  • Make sure kids understand and write down assignments correctly to help avoid confusion.
  • Be patient (and encourage classmates to be patient) when students with language disorders are speaking in class.
  • Give extra time to complete tests or assignments when needed.

How can teachers help students with language impairments? ›

  • Develop a procedure for the student to ask for help.
  • Speak directly to the student.
  • Be a good speech model.
  • Have easy and good interactive communication in classroom.
  • Consult a speech language pathologist concerning your assignments and activities.Be aware that students may require another form of communication.

How can you support multilingual learners in the classroom? ›

Strategies for teaching international and multilingual students
  1. Clarify expectations for communication and encourage a variety of modes of communication:
  2. Provide extra visual and oral support while presenting information:
  3. Use written materials to supplement classroom communication.

Why is it important to support English language learners? ›

However, at the heart of ELL stands the same goal — to prepare students to speak English as quickly and proficiently as possible. The objective is so students can not only excel in academics, but they can also partake in social activities and have the ability to communicate with their peers and teachers.

How do you accommodate students with speech and language impairments? ›

  1. Note takers to allow for full attention to speaker or interpreter.
  2. Use of an interpreter if appropriate.
  3. Use of Real-time Reporting if appropriate.
  4. Use of an amplification system if appropriate.
  5. Front row seating to maximize the intake of visual cues.

How do you accommodate learners who speak different languages? ›

Five Strategies to Support Language Learners in the Classroom
  1. Establish a welcoming learning community. ...
  2. Make learning accessible through a wide range of activities. ...
  3. Frame diversity as a strength. ...
  4. Incorporate creativity and movement through music. ...
  5. Communicate regularly with families.
Feb 9, 2021

What are three 3 accommodations modifications strategies that you will use as a teacher to assist English language learners in your classroom? ›

A Guide to Classroom and At-Home Accommodations for ESL Students
  • Allow extra time on tests.
  • Provide a quiet space to work.
  • Explicitly teach language objectives.
  • Simplify the language used in instruction.
  • Give additional instruction including reviews, drills.

What are 4 activities that can be used to develop children's spoken language? ›

Games like Scrabble, Pictionary or a round of Charades also encourage vocabulary development and communication skills. Jokes. Telling age-appropriate puns will also help foster good humour and creativity in children. This also encourages wordplay and imagination.

How do you effectively support children to develop their communication and language skills? ›

Ask open-ended questions (which are difficult to give a yes/no or one word answer) and ask children to elaborate on and explain their response. This helps develop strong communication skills. Talk about what children are interested in – let them talk first and let them lead the conversation.

What are five 5 ways you can demonstrate and model positive communication with children? ›

Try these nine tips to practice your verbal and nonverbal communication skills:
  • Active listening. Listening actively helps children to feel heard and understood. ...
  • Reflective listening. ...
  • Speaking clearly. ...
  • Avoiding bribes. ...
  • Explaining feelings. ...
  • Using 'noticing' statements. ...
  • Having fun together. ...
  • Focusing on behaviour.

What are three strategies to support speech language and communication needs? ›

Praise and reward good speaking and listening. Give specific feedback to make it clear what you are looking for e.g. “well done for speaking clearly” etc. Establish turn-taking rules, perhaps using a bean bag to pass around the class. Allow an increased length of time for students to respond to questions.

How reading can be supported for students with EAL? ›

EAL learners benefit greatly when a more proficient language user models effective reading. Read alouds happen where a teacher reads a text aloud to model reading. The teacher can model skills such as predicting, clarifying, summarising and questioning.

What is EAL program in Canada? ›

Open to domestic and international students, the English as an Additional Language (ESL/EAL) program offers a full range of English skill-building courses to build your English Language Proficiency (ELP) to meet prerequisites for academic, personal and professional goals.

What is the role of a EAL specialist teacher? ›

Specialist teachers of EAL work with class and subject teachers by drawing on their specialist knowledge and understanding of second language learning and bilingualism to develop the English language skills pupils need for social interaction and for learning.

How is EAL a barrier to learning? ›

The Teaching of Different Sounds

15% of the English Language isn't pronounced as it's written or written as it's pronounced. Often this makes it very difficult for EAL children to grasp the concept of new letter sounds and understanding the principles of phonics.

What are the goals for English language learners? ›

Expand academic vocabulary. Develop confidence in speaking/listening and reading/writing, including formal and informal registers. Learn to monitor and self-correct their linguistic output. Develop fluency in the use of higher-level grammatical structures.

What is the impact of EAL? ›

On average, EAL pupils catch up with their peers by age 16. At age 5 only 44% of EAL pupils have achieved a good level of development compared to 54% of other pupils. By age 16, this gap has narrowed significantly with 58.3% achieving five A*- C GCSEs including English and maths compared to 60.9% of other pupils.

How do you communicate with a child with EAL? ›

Strategies can include:
  1. Use gestures, visual prompts and props to accompany the spoken word.
  2. Speak clearly and not too quickly but do not shout.
  3. Model target sounds or words and use lots of repetition.
  4. Make sure names are pronounced correctly by all.
  5. Avoid correcting children, rephrase and model speech instead.
May 12, 2020

How does EAL affect social development? ›

It can enhance a child's self esteem and identity, as well as developing and enhancing cognitive and thinking skills. Some children will learn to speak two languages from birth and other children may learn one language first and then a second language.

How can we support first additional language learners? ›

A great place for teachers to start is by making classroom lessons more EAL friendly and ensuring the language input students receive is accessible.
  • Give Written and Spoken Instructions. ...
  • Introduce Vocabulary in Context. ...
  • Offer an Extended Glossary. ...
  • Teach Sight Words. ...
  • Be Patient.

How to support students with exceptional learning abilities? ›

Teaching Tips for Students with Special Needs
  1. Keep your classroom organized. ...
  2. Remember that each child is an individual. ...
  3. Give your students opportunities for success. ...
  4. Create a support network. ...
  5. Keep things simple.

What are 5 Teaching strategies for supporting dual language learners? ›

Here are five simple, authentic strategies to support language learners in the dual language classroom.
  • Establish a welcoming learning community. ...
  • Make learning accessible through a wide range of activities. ...
  • Frame diversity as a strength. ...
  • Incorporate creativity and movement through music.
Feb 9, 2021

How can a teacher support language development in the classroom? ›

In your classroom, use pictures, labels, objects, and real events to link the language the child knows to the language he or she is learning. (This literacy and vocabulary-building strategy benefits every child.) Invite the child and his or her family to share their home language and culture in your classroom.

How can teachers best support students in their learning? ›

'Take the Time to Listen'
  • Be Patient. ...
  • Make Time to Listen. ...
  • Modify, Modify, Modify. ...
  • Rapport Is Key. ...
  • Support Students Dealing With Change. ...
  • Review, Review, and Review Routines. ...
  • Implement Strategies to Assist With Focusing. ...
  • Help Students Stay on Track.
Sep 2, 2021

How can teachers encourage and support each student? ›

One way to encourage students and teach them responsibility is to get them involved in the classroom. Make participating fun by giving each student a job to do. Give students the responsibility of tidying up or decorating the classroom. Assign a student to erase the blackboard or pass out materials.

How can teachers help students with learning disabilities? ›

Whenever possible provide student with visual cues by writing on the board, using the overhead, or providing the student with a brief written outline of the material to be covered in that class session. Provide student with written copies of your lecture. Give instructions/directions orally and in writing.

What are 3 strategies to support speech language communication? ›

Speak clearly to your child. Model good speech. Repeat what your child says to show that you understand. Add on to what they say.

How do you accommodate students with language barriers? ›

When a New Student Has Language Barriers: 7 Tips for Teachers
  1. 1) Pair a student with a knowledgeable buddy. ...
  2. 2) Conduct a language inventory among the staff. ...
  3. 3) Learn and model how to properly pronounce the student's name. ...
  4. 4) Don't wait for the student to ask for help. ...
  5. 5) Visuals aren't just for lessons.
Aug 29, 2017


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