How does it feel to be a pupil with English as an additional language in the EYFS?

For many children with English as an additional language, starting in nursery or reception may be a difficult and sometimes traumatic transition from the home environment.  I think putting yourself in their shoes  for a moment helps to relate to the difficulties that children with EAL may face, in particular those that are new to English and may be new to the UK.

Just think for a moment ………..

  • The adults and children around me are speaking to me but I don’t understand what they are saying
  • I have books read to me, the pictures look nice, but I can’t make sense of the words
  • I need to go to the toilet but when I ask for help the adults don’t understand what I am saying
  • My mum doesn’t know what time to bring me or pick me up, because she doesn’t speak any English and all of the instructions are written in English.

There are some simple things that we can do to make the whole experience better.

A good daily routine means that children very quickly get used to what is expected of them, this can be helped by the use of a visual timetable, with pictures or even better, photographs of your actual setting. A child who is new to English will quickly get to know that when the teacher claps her hands 3 times and points to a particular photo then it is tidy up time.

We can read books that have a repetitive structure and are supported by good illustrations. Most high quality picture books are structured in this way. For example Dear Zoo and  We’re going on a Bear Hunt have repeated refrains that children that are new to English can pick up quickly and can become familiar with. If possible, send dual language copies of the books home. Dual language picture books are readily available in many different languages (one good source of books currently is https://uk.mantralingua.com/whats-new). Reassure parents that reading to their child in their home language is very important.

Fran Guy

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