Supporting English as an Additional Language

EAL board

EAL boardThe majority of the pupils at a one form entry school in Newbury, Berkshire, have English as an additional language, with families from all over the world, making this a very special and unique educational setting.

Holly was a teacher in year 3 in the Autumn term, with a class of 32 children. While most of the ‘EAL’ pupils did not appear to have a language barrier as such in this particular cohort, there was one pupil who stood out more than the rest, who would slip behind but not reach out for help, who was kind and caring but quiet. For the sake of this blog, she will be referred to as Pupil A.


We used Makaton to sign ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’ every day in class. Pupil A picked this up very quickly, leading her to be more responsive and confident during the register. Signing just these two concepts daily made a significant difference to Pupil A, who would gradually start to contribute a little more in class, start conversations and make links, building on her comprehension and inference skills.

Makaton symbols were used to support story maps of the text we were using in literacy and I would sign the story to the class, which all of the pupils enjoyed joining in with. Using the symbols with the signs further helped Pupil A to sequence the stories, creating her own story maps and innovating ideas in order to write her own version.

Communication boards

Holly’s teaching assistant and school ELSA, Sian Howard, worked with Pupil A in year 2 as well as year 3. After speaking with Sian, it became clear that since introducing Makaton signs and symbols, Pupil A has made significant progress with reading and writing as well as her making links through the movement of gesture as the connections were being made with her speech and recall.

Since returning from the Christmas holidays Pupil A continues to sign 'good morning ' and 'good afternoon'. It has been noted that her spoken English has become clearer and more confident. Makaton is used for Pupil A as much as possible in the classroom setting, for example, during a Spanish lesson on animals the sign for each animal was demonstrated to Pupil A in both Spanish and English. Pupil A finds Spanish challenging but did her best to follow the new vocabulary. After the lesson Sian went through the signs with her in English, Pupil A joined in with the signing, finding it easy to communicate using both her hands and her speech, and after felt confident enough to tell Sian a story about a cat she stroked.