EAL - Supporting Your Child

This article is designed to provide short, topical and achievable ideas for parents to support young learners at home, whether it is or isn’t related to what they do at school. We recommend that you keep these examples at your side when supporting your child. In order to understand how to approach learning English as an additional language, let us first review the stages a child would go through when introduced to a new environment:

1. Listening and absorbing (this is what we call the silent period)
2. Responding to instructions
3. Imitating and copying
4. Trying out ½ word phrases
5. Naming words
6. Action words
7. Putting names and actions together
8. Trying to say whole sentences with mistakes
9. Correcting mistakes themselves

Here are some things that you can do to support your child in learning English:

Vocabulary Activities
These entail working on the learner’s vocabulary as well as broadening their horizons. They are easy to perform at home; most of the resources can be found online and the possibilities here are endless.

Example A: Show them a picture (e.g. that of a farm) that you found in a book or online. Invite your child to study the picture and jot down all the words and expressions they think they would need in order to describe it. They don’t need to write complete sentences: just single items. You can make a list of your own. Upon completion you can compare your lists and find all the items either one of has missed.

Example B (works well with groups of children): Write on a paper a base expression like, ‘You can break…’ Invite the children to suggest what objects might come after this, and add them like this:

Tell your child/children they have three minutes to fill in as many possible objects as they can. After three minutes, call out stop! And tell them to share the ideas. Repeat with different phrases (e.g. You can eat… or You can listen to…)

Dialogue activities.
These are great because they not only develop the child’s ability to speak in coherent sentences, but also because they can learn to use different grammatical constructions in speech. Finally, the more a child speaks a foreign language, the more confident they will be in it.

Example: Write up a short dialogue with your child and practice it until they have learnt it off by heart. Ask them to stand up and find some space. Ask them to try out the dialogue again with you calling out some, or all, of the different ways of performing it from the list below. You may need to mime some of the situations yourself.

  • You’re playing tennis
  • You’re working in the garden
  • One of you is washing up and the other one is drying up
  • One of you is cleaning the windows and the other one is reading the newspaper
  • One of you is cleaning your shoes and the other one is cooking dinner
  • You’re dancing
  • You’re talking across a busy street
  • One of you is driving and the other one is sitting behind
  • You’re whispering because there’s someone asleep in the same room
  • You’re having dinner

Much of the dialogue that children enter into in non-classroom settings takes place while they are involved in other activities. Sometimes encouraging a child to focus on action as well as words can help to make what they are saying more meaningful and memorable, and add a new level of interest each time it is performed.

Being a parent/caregiver of an EAL student can be challenging, especially when one is trying to learn a new language and understand new cultural situations along with one’s child. But bear in mind that all parents can be helpful in their children's literacy development.