Jessica Clifton, marketing manager for elementary at LEGO Education, looks at how teachers can help pupils who find difficulty in reading, writing or generally verbalising their feelings, and provides an engaging method of communication, helping these pupils to gain confidence and develop a greater understanding of the English language.
Some pupils in the classroom may struggle with literacy, while for others such as English as an Additional Language (EAL) pupils, the language is new to them. In both instances, verbal communication can be a challenge, which can lead to isolation from peers and difficulty in comprehending lessons. Communication occurs in a variety of ways and doesn’t always necessitate speaking or writing, so what can be done to aid communication, provide a meaningful education and help every child feel settled in the classroom?
Building skills, rebuilding lives
Getting to know pupils is one of the great joys of teaching; understanding their interests, how they think and learn, and what makes them happy and inspired is crucial in the learning journey. But when a pupil is unable to verbalise these elements, teachers need to provide an alternative outlet that allows them to express their personalities.
Creative and hands-on activities are ideal, as they provide a valuable insight into how children see the world around them. For example, you could task pupils to build a scene or situation, helping them to create a representation of themselves, and then giving them the freedom to build things around it. This creation can then be used to identify certain features and link them to English words. This can be reinforced by using technology, such as iPads or other tablets, to take photos of the scene and then drawing or annotating it digitally to show the connection between images, actions and words. This can then be shared between pupils to start discussions within the whole class, and between teachers to keep informed of pupils’ progress.
This form of learning will encourage EAL pupils to create new elements and identify them, learning parts of the language in the process. As they continue in the classroom environment, they will start to immerse themselves in English and pick up more from working with their peers. Hands-on activities can even be done in pairs so that they can work with pupils their own age, forming friendships and developing knowledge simultaneously.
Developing the foundations
On the other side of this, many pupils in the classroom are likely to be aware of social conflicts or issues happening around the world; children in primary school are often more aware than they let on, but can find it difficult to process worrying information, so giving them an outlet that enables difficult discussions is important.
Why not have pupils communicate difficult subjects by asking them to build representations of their thoughts and feelings, or use mime to create a scene? This not only reveals their understanding of different situations, but also explores topics they’re interested in knowing more about, and perhaps didn’t know how to approach before. These activities promote discussion, encouraging children to ask questions, and developing their understanding of the world around them.
It’s important that every child in the classroom is given the chance to communicate with their teachers and peers and also to understand that, although some of their classmates may struggle with speaking English, communicating is still very much possible and encouraged. When pupils in the classroom are unable to communicate in the same way as everyone else, whether this be because they can’t speak the same language or struggle to verbalise thoughts and feelings, it can cause unnecessary distress for everyone. However, this needn’t be the case. Simply having pupils build or act out their thoughts, feelings or understanding communicates information that is not only important for pupils to develop friendships and their understanding of the language, but also for teachers to monitor progress. When it comes to encouraging children of every ability to communicate, often creativity is the key!
If you’d like more examples of activities you can provide for English as an Additional Language pupils (EAL), visit www.legoeducation.co.uk