EAL: Language awareness in science

By FlashAcademy®

The DfE’s Schools coronavirus operational guidance, unveiled last month in light of the  full reopening of schools and colleges, highlights key areas for education leaders, including curriculum expectations. From the latest guidance, the Government’s advice is that the curriculum remains broad and ambitious for all pupils, especially disadvantaged and vulnerable learners. Teaching time should be prioritised to address the most significant gaps in pupils’ knowledge, with recommendations for modifications to curriculum planning if needed.

What can this look like for an EAL teacher? Teaching language is not purely the domain of the English teacher, as every subject contains their own language demands. Science can be the most challenging of all, especially for new arrivals in both primary and secondary who have low English proficiency levels (only 24% of new to English learners in KS2 meet expected standard, rising to 35% for early acquisition pupils). This is because much of the language in science is abstract and uses complex sentence structures and a lot of new subject vocabulary. In secondary school, all learners are required to write explanation paragraphs and draw conclusions, so a solid understanding of how language works in science is essential for success. 

Contextualising learning for EAL pupils is one of the key practices for helping them to make sense of new information and language, especially in any science topic. This why the FlashAcademy team, ASCL’s preferred supplier for EAL, have created a complimentary science resource pack – exclusive to ASCL members – which gives learners the opportunity to observe and talk about scientific processes before reading and writing about them. Here is a breakdown of each of the worksheets, and how best to embed them within your science lessons. 

Root words
Science requires abstract skills and so decoding subject specific technical words can hold particular challenges for EAL. Many words derive from Greek or Latin and have unfamiliar spellings and forms. Building a greater understanding of the structure and origin of words can support the learning of a new vocabulary and aid understanding of science more generally. Visual aids are key for helping EAL learners to get to grips with unfamiliar words; with the Science Root Words poster, this illustrates common scientific words as colourful puzzle pieces, helping learners to break them down into their constituent parts and link to vocabulary they may already be familiar with. Display them around your classroom or insert them into their exercise books!  

Lab chat
Promoting collaboration is also key for EAL development, and this is something which can be applied across all subjects. Sentence prompts are great for collaborative work and can be particularly useful in science lessons, where learners are encounter unfamiliar sentences that use modal verbs to hypothesise and express uncertain conclusions. As a solution, the Lab Chat poster offers different sentence structures for different types of talk, including evaluating, observing, and concluding. Again, displaying this clearly and/or giving individual handouts for them to refer to will help your learners to ask questions and develop both their classroom and social engagement. 

Talk like a scientist!
Exploratory academic talk activities are another great way for learners to talk about scientific processes before having to read and write about them. The ‘Talk like a Scientist’ discussion mats have been designed to improve disciplinary literacy skills and metacognition, using academic vocabulary relating to chemistry and astronomy. Pupils use the target vocabulary through a range of activities to encourage them to employ both within the subject context and outside of it. 

An awareness of the language demands of subjects like science can help to anticipate problems, plan for ways to support your pupils and increase accessibility of subject content. Let’s ensure that alongside lesson outcomes, we’re thinking about the language outcomes too! 

FlashAcademy® EAL is an ASCL preferred supplier.  Find out more about their resources and support here

Posted: 21/04/2021 15:03:49