Category: English as an Additional Language

This is Elmarie’s class blog. She has embedded a Wallwisher page as a way of collecting her students’ thinking. She is asking parents to speak to their children about school and get them to tell them what they enjoyed most about school this week. Then, the parents “post a sticky” on the wall to share what their kids said. How cool is that?


Kids are kids, and many adults are kids too. One of the things that struck me when I spent some time down in Early Years was the power of play in learning, and particularly the power of role-play. Early years classrooms have dress-ups and role-play areas where the kids can immerse themselves in the contexts of their units of inquiry. Teachers may, during a unit about transport and travel, create a travel agency where the students buy and sell flights, bus journeys and ferry crossings. Why do we stop doing these things as our students get older?

I decided to ask my students to start collecting clothes and props so we can have a role-play area too, I decided to make drama a regular part of what we do in the classroom, I decided to give my students more opportunities to develop their ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes though acting. The students have responded really well to this.

I’ll video some of the role-plays that we put together this year and share them on this blog.

Technology is great. But, there’s only a few technology innovations that really do open up a myriad of possibilities that cannot be done easily on a bit of paper or with other, more traditional methods!\

Voicethread is one of them.

Click on the image above to read an outstanding article about Voicethread and to get loads of ideas for how Voicethread could be used in your teaching.



I find it really exciting to walk into a room – even when the students and teachers are not there – and be able to get a real sense of what the students of that class are thinking about, and how they are thinking. Recently, when walking around NIST, I was really impressed by the amount of visible thinking I found, and the variety of ways that teachers are “extracting” that thinking from their students and then displaying it so that the walls do actually speak.

How wonderful for students to be immersed in their own thoughts, interacting with displays and surrounded by relevance at all times!

What visible thinking strategies have worked well for you?

OK, so winning/losing is not the most PC way to refer to anything that happens in education. But, the ESL Team were the unanimous, outright, landslide winners in the vote for the most effective visual summary of all of our language arts presentations. Here they are enjoying their reward!

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The presentations were kicked off this time by the Early Years team and a variety of guest performers. They had made a very professional video in the form of a breaking news story about the recent high demand for teaching positions in Early Years! The video was extremely funny but also set out key points about how language is taught and learned. Viewers were challenged to complete a puzzle in order to have a chance of working in EY and the main message of the puzzle was “It’s all about language”. The team feel very strongly that everything they do is about language development, there are no moments in Early Years teaching and learning that do not involve language enrichment.

Here is their video:


Year 4 shared the work they have done for the presentations by using Glogster. This is a very visual, online tool that is designed for reading on the screen, so it was difficult for the Year 4 team to present it formally.I think it’s probably best, when presenting in the form of a website, blog or Glogster, if the audience view it on their own laptops. I don’t think the team wanted it to be a formal presentation and had more of a chat in mind. But, the audience all sat so far away from them it became much more formal!!!

Year 4 clearly place a heavy emphasis on constructivism and believe that exploratory talk, collaborative inquiry and metacognition really underpin that philosophy. They base much of their thinking on the First Steps Oral Language Developmental Curriculum and the work of Vygotsky.

This quote from David Bohm, in particular, seems to sum up their shared beliefs:

“For our classrooms to become true language labs, we must immerse all children in motivating , meaning -based experiences that will engage them at the edge of their linguistic competence.”

How do you use “purposeful talk” in your classroom?

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I went down to Early Years this morning, hoping to pop in to some classrooms and learn about how language is taught and learned with those tiny kids! They were having their break when I first arrived, so I sat down and caught up on a few emails. Twenty minutes later, they were still at break.

“Hmm… they do have a long break don’t they?” I thought to myself and started to head off to another year group.

Luckily, though, I overheard a conversation that was going on between three girls in the little house by the front of EY. They were pretending to bake a cake and were discussing the ingredients of a cake, the process of how to bake a cake and the workings of an oven. They were also negotiating turns at doing each task and giving each other instructions to pass on their skills!

The time that these kids have to play gives them time to immerse themselves into their games and to set up scenarios that call for all sorts of communication and social skills to be used.

Another group of kids had set up the giant bowling pins and were being taught how to throw the bowling ball by one particularly confident boy. He had also organised a system for putting the pins upright again and collecting the bowling balls for the next person.

All around me were little social situations in which the kids were developing and applying social and communication skills. Language in its purest form.

But, what of the teachers? What about assessment? Is it really learning if the teachers aren’t teaching?

Well, the teachers on duty were watching, observing and guiding the students when situations arose that the students needed guidance or extension in. That is teaching, isn’t it?

Then, just before I left, I came across something very exciting. Four girls sitting together and sharing a book. Four girls who now, as Bonnie Campbell-Hill’s continuums put it, “see themselves as readers”.


Conceptual understandings from IB Language Arts Scope and Sequence Document

Speaking and Listening:

Viewing and Presenting:


Glenn has created one Reading & Writing Continuum Book for his class. He uses this book as his focus for regular conferencing by writing anecdotal notes and ticking continuum descriptors as it becomes clear that they are true for his students.



Chad also uses a simple book to record movement along the continuums and to write anecdotal notes. However, he has gone one step further in order to increase student involvement and awareness of the continuum. As you can see in the pictures above, 5CW have a large, interactive version of both the reading and writing continuum on display in their classroom. They monitor their placing and movement along the continuum by placing a laminated photograph on the continuum itself.This is a fantastic idea as it “destigmatizes” assessments, creates a culture of academic honesty and helps students to see how assessments are all about where you’ve come from and where you’re heading.

I was chatting with Kyla and Cassie about setting this up in 6SS and we thought it would be amazing to have two sets of photos for each student, one that shows where they are with English and another to show where they are in their mother tongue. We’ll let you know how that goes!

I had a great time when I dropped into Eva’s classroom. What I was immediately struck by was a sense of happiness, a sense of enjoyment and a relaxation about communicating. The room was full of kids from different nationalities – Spain, Holland, Japan (and more – Eva, can you make a comment and tell us the nationalities?!). These kids are all at various stages in their understanding and use of English and they were all working on tasks that matched their developmental levels. However, the room was buzzing with chat, laughter and risk-taking. These kids felt very comfortable in this environment, and because they felt comfortable they were ready to push their boundaries. It reminded me very much of an ESL teacher I worked with in Bangladesh, a wonderful woman called Rupa Chakravarti, whose approach to ESL was so relaxed, child-centred and joyful that kids begged to be “put into ESL”!