Language made fun: supporting EAL students in primary education
Acquisition of English language skills is vital for the successful integration of children into English-medium Education. Newcomer children who are not proficient in the language of instruction may be left vulnerable to exclusion in the classroom and long-term educational failure (McEachron 1998, Paradis 2005). Targeted linguistic support can increase access to education by prioritizing the development of core linguistic skills such as vocabulary and grammar. ‘Language Made Fun’, is a joint Ulster University-Barnardos initiative that was developed to investigate English vocabulary and grammar development in a group of newcomer children from various language backgrounds. To address the needs of these children, we developed an individually tailored language intervention programme to facilitate English language development as part of a wider Barnardos family support programme for newcomer pupils and their families. Trained undergraduate student volunteers from both Linguistics and Speech and Language Therapy delivered the interventions for the children. We used formal and informal assessment tools to measure language progress. Main positive outcomes included improvements in receptive vocabulary, morphology, receptive and expressive syntax including an increase in sentence length and complexity. These findings indicate the potential value of an intervention programme such as 'Language made fun', which could be implemented more widely in educational contexts to help support newcomer pupils and their families and teachers.