ReflectionsEAL strategies

EAL strategies

I have two EAL students, Romanian and Spanish, in different classes. Out of class, the two students became friends, and they are communicating in Spanish. In class, they are both in the “silent” phase, where they are paying attention; they understand and are appropriate, but can’t express themselves. Both first languages being of Latin origin, I find it easy to relate to my own learning of English as a second language and apply some of my own learning strategies.

I use apps like Translator and Google Translate and advise students about Duolingo and to watch movies and videos with subtitles that are not dubbed. I also plan for specific activities.

As the English language is formed by 60% Latin and Greek words, especially in the scientific and technical domains, I ask my students to write down their learning intentions and underline which words they find familiar at the beginning of the class while I’m taking the roll and checking homework. They try a first attempt at translation, and by the time I get to them to check their homework, I reveal the translation. Many words, such as composition, art elements, texture, form, line, etc., are common to all Latin languages, and they are easy to recognise despite different endings. Eg., composition in English, composition in Spanish, composition in Ro. Usually the verbs are not similar, but I make sure that the verbs of the learning intentions are repeating themselves, such as understand, write, draw, and watch, which makes it easier to memorize. I was also planning to translate the Visual Art action verbs, as they repeat often.

In the Multiculturalism theme, I initiate keyword translation exercises for students to discover how similar sometimes the languages are. During the Multiculturalism theme, I wrote on the whiteboard the word culture, and I asked the EAL student, an Irish student, and students that are studying other languages to write under the word their versions. The students were extremely impressed to see the similarity across five different languages. Eg: Culture (Eng), Culture (Ro), Culture (Ire), Culture (Sp & It), Culture (Fr), Culture (Ger).

I also include the EAL students during discussion, especially with the Romanian student. I have the possibility to talk in Romanian and then translate for the others. They are very curious, listening, and maybe hearing their EAL colleague for the first time. During the Multiculturalism theme, I translated for the others the Romanian cultural identity as depicted by the student.

Nevertheless, the first language has to be celebrated as part of the student’s culture, and opportunities to maintain contact with and express themselves in it must be found and planned. I asked the Romanian student to write in Romanian if she felt more comfortable, while the Spanish student preferred to write in English in order to get used to writing. I also asked the EAL student involved in a group activity on the Gender Equality SDG to write the keywords equality, inclusion, and diversity in Spanish.

The possibilities of learning English as a second language and also celebrating the first language as part of the cultural identity in the art classroom are endless. Especially with the 1st years, when they are just stepping into post-primary, I would definitely plan for inclusive themes such as multiculturalism and create disciplines such as bilingual books, posters, and zines, creating a small library over time for other EAL students to discover. It is also very important to let the EAL student reflect and write annotations in their chosen language, be it their first or second language. Make sure that exam papers are translated and instructions are understood by the EAL student.

Image credit: 1st year student of Sacred Heart Clonakilty






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