The essay requires discussing the teaching of bilingual children that were observed in the classroom in an educational practice. The essay will discuss policies and how the theories are applied in the practical setting. It will use the recommend strategies in the Dfes document as guidance and will refer to the observation that was done and use recommendations how to improve on work.
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In the observation, the observer was given the chance to look at two classrooms setting with two different environments. They were year two and year six. Although on that particular day there was snow, it will be acknowledged that there could be some elements and teaching strategy that could not be there due to small number of children was absent and they could have changed the plan. In regards to the essay, the main observation will be about the year two as there were more (EAL) English as addition language students compared to the year six class. There was good interaction between both of the teachers and yet both classrooms had different atmosphere when being observed. Because of the snow there was quite a small amount of the children so, the teachers may have changed some of the teaching style for that day.
Also there will be references to the appendix for more detail about certain areas that may not be mention in the essay.
The primary school was in Redbridge and well mannered and well looked after. The school itself looked very welcoming and friendly and all the staffs were quite happy to answer any questions that were needed to ask.
The stagiest from the Dfes document that were implemented in the year two classroom were that the children had the opportunity to speak in their own languages and the teacher was also speaking to them in their language as well. This helped the children to communicate more efficiently as they could understand the task and activity they had to do. This encouraged the children to approach the teacher and to ask them what they did not understand. Almost all of the children in the table came up to the teacher in her group. However, the issue was that the main teacher was able to communicate more effectively then the EAL teacher, as the main teacher was able to speak the Asian languages whereas the EAL teacher spoke English
Although both groups were doing the same task there was friendlier atmosphere with the teacher’s group and the other group looked more professional. In future, it might be better to employ a teacher who can speak several languages. Or the school can provide training courses where staff can have the opportunity to learn a different language.
The theory that was seen was Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) where context embedded was seen. The teacher was using facial expressions and was using body language by using hand gestures to help understand what was happening in the task. (Baker 2006 p178) explains that BICS is split for the student to understand and to help them to communicate, however in regards to context reduced; this was also seen on the class as well. In the EAL’s group, children were seen doing work from the book. However, the problem that had arisen was that even though one group had visual aids while the other used books it felt if the classroom was split in two parts and that there was no interaction between the two groups. It can be argued that, to some extent, this cannot be judged as they may be interacting together daily but just not on this particular day.
BISC and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)(ibid) discusses that BISC is said to occur when there are contextual supports and props for language delivery, face to face context embedded situation such as non verbal feedback for example eye contact or head nodding whereas, CALP on the other hand is said to occur in context reduced academic situation where higher level of thinking is required.
The other strategy that was seen in the year two class was, children felt proud of their linguist heritage as there were display of different pictures of books of different religions and had meaning (see photo 1) it made teacher’s classroom more colourful and inviting and more child like. However compared to year six, the classroom felt more professional and made it more of young adults instead of children. Also there were posters in different languages such as numbers in French and months in different language as well. There was identification on different cultures shown through pictures done by the children as stain glass in the wall as well.
During the observation, it was asked that if there were any parental interaction in that schools? The teacher replied that parental interaction happened in the lower parts of the school, where the teacher would ask the parents to help them out. Parents were to aid student whose mother-tongue was not English and would be given dual books to help them read. This can be applied to Threshold by Cummins 1977 theory, which said bilingual needs was required to achieve high level of linguist proficiency before bilingualism can promote cognitive development. (Lina 1992) the theory could be used in the classroom in relation to the children, because according to the threshold theory, it seems that the children were at level two as they were age appropriate where they were able to cope with the curriculum but still needed some assistant. With this the parents could help improve the children’s ability by reading with them daily and helping them to understand the words that they do not know, also the parents are allowed to take dual books which can be provided from the school to help with the children’s ability to understand.
However, there are some parents whose English may not be that good, so in the case like that what would be recommend could be to get someone an assistant who is able to translate and then get the children to help the parents as well.
Cummins report 1986 explains that parents working together with the child will be able to support them and communicate more effectively. Thus, help build better partnerships between schools and parents.
Although children being bilingual are quite common, it has to be noted that certain policies and expectation from the government cannot be fulfilled or be able to reach the target. For example, in the criteria of assessment, it was told that they were preparing for year six exams and that teachers were more focused on getting the marks compared to making inclusive education. Children from smaller ages are being prepared for exams, the teacher told us that if a student with EAL came into year six, the main focus would be SATS exams and getting the results, then the student that needed the ability of help, however in the year two group, there was more support as the teacher told us that assessment level and students learning to speak English were both considered to be equal and needed same amount of help.
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Another strategy that was seen during the observation was the children were using their first languages as well as English for learning. They were code mixing and code switching their languages and were talking with their friends in both. Code mixing and code switching is when children use both of the languages to help them learn and to help them to understand the words that they are being taught. With this it will help the children to understand what they are learning and also it was noted that the teacher was also code mixing to help encourage the children to understand what the task was requiring. However, the problem that could have arisen was that the class had two children that were non- Asian and because of that those two children were sometimes bit confused as they only understood English and did not know whether the teacher was talking to them or the children next to them. In the appendix, it explains that the children were speaking and switching their languages while they were talking amongst themselves or with the group. However, what also was noted that the teachers were encouraging them to speak in different languages so that it would help them to understand what they are speaking.
What other skills that could be quite useful in relation to helping the children could be that the teacher could try to encourage those children that do not seem to be able to speak well English is by getting them a partner who is able to speak more effectively and to help them encourage their vocabulary and speaking. This would then mean that the children would be able to help each other out and would also encourage peer interactions.
Also judging the way the teacher was teaching, it was noticed that she seemed to be more maternal like, she was making the children feel more at home by giving them hugs and encouraging them whenever they did something right. This approach had a positive impact and those that were in the teacher’s group were extroverts. However, the other group were more serious were the students were just talking to the teacher, the teacher seem to encourage them by verbal feedback by saying well done. Nevertheless, the facial expression was more professional and there was less touching and encouraging.
Another issue that had been noticed was that the teacher was planning on preparing for the task that needed before hand. From the observation the teacher and the EAL teacher were planning out an activity by talking to each other, they were discussing the posters about the task that they did in front of us. This gave us the opportunity to understand the planning process and what they require and consider in planning activities.
Because of the policies enforced by the government, the teachers are expected to reach a certain level of the curriculum. Sometimes this cannot be possible, because children have different ability to learn and they would then find it hard as there are assessments happening all the time and the children find it hard to understand what is going on and how to develop the languages.
In conclusion, it seems that children who are bilingual have many opportunities to learn when they are in the younger setting of the class compared to those in the upper level of schools. Children are now given more opportunities to learn as schools provide books like dual books where the children have the opportunities to take them home with them so that their parents can also help them to learn, and those parents themselves can teach themselves if they cannot speak English as well. Using visual aids and facial expression on the children seem to encourage them to understand what the teachers are requiring of them and that it is also helping them to understand what the task is asking for. Another issue is that because of less parental interaction happening in the upper years the children do not get the benefit that they may want. This meant that the children would then need to look for more support from the teachers, whereas if there was parental help it would then decrease some of the teacher’s responsibility and then the child would be able to get more one to one support. It needs to be considered that there are many things taht happen during before and after the class, so it needs to be considered that this is a snapshot of what happens in the classroom and that the teacher and the support staff have more information to cover.
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