Although Australia is a linguistically and culturally diverse country, participation in many aspects of Australian life depends on effective communication in Standard Australian English.
In Australian schools, learning is accessed through English, and achievement is demonstrated through English. Each area of the curriculum has language structures and vocabulary particular to its learning domain, and these are best taught in the context in which they are used. All teachers are responsible for teaching the language and literacy demands of their learning areas.
Students for whom English is an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) require specific support to build the English language skills required for effective communication and access to the Australian Curriculum.
The purpose of this advice is to focus on how teachers use the flexible design of the Australian Curriculum to meet the individual learning needs of students for whom English is an additional language or dialect. This section builds on the general Student diversity advice.
EAL/D students are those whose first language is a language or dialect other than English and who require additional support to assist them to develop proficiency in English. EAL/D students come from diverse multilingual backgrounds and may include:
- overseas or Australian-born students whose first language is a language other than English
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose first language is an Indigenous language, including traditional languages, creoles and related varieties, or Aboriginal English.
EAL/D is the educational acronym that refers to those students whose home language is a language or dialect other than Standard Australian English (SAE) and who require additional support to develop proficiency in SAE, which is the variety of spoken and written English used formally in Australian schools. The acronym EAL/D foregrounds the English language learning needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait creole, or a variety of Aboriginal English, as their home language, as well as those who speak a traditional or heritage Indigenous language; and of migrant and refugee students who speak an English-based creole, pidgin or dialect as their home language, as well as those who are learning English as a second or additional language (ESL/EAL).
It is important to consider that students with EAL/D have diverse educational backgrounds. They may have:
- schooling equivalent to their same-age peers in Australia
- limited or no previous education
- little or no literacy experience in their first language (or in any language)
- excellent literacy skills in their first language (or another language)
- learnt English as a foreign language and had some exposure to written English but need to develop oral English
- already learnt one or more languages or dialects other than English
- good academic language skills but struggle with the social registers of English.
EAL/D students are generally placed in Australian schools at the year level appropriate for their age. Their cognitive development and life experiences may not correlate with their English language proficiency. As part of the process to personalise learning for EAL/D students the student and parent must be consulted.
EAL/D students and their learning needs
Effective teaching of EAL/D students is informed by an understanding of the characteristics of EAL/D learning, including students’ learning needs and typical pathways of development. The particular challenge for EAL/D students is that they need to concurrently learn English, learn through (or in) English, and learn about English.
ACARA has developed the English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher Resource to support teachers as they develop personalised teaching and learning programs in the Australian Curriculum: Foundation to Year 10 with EAL/D students. The EAL/D Teacher Resource contains detailed information about EAL/D learners, specific advice about cultural and linguistic considerations, and useful teaching strategies to support the teaching of EAL/D students.
Identifying a student’s level of language proficiency using the EAL/D learning progression
Teachers may use the EAL/D Learning Progression to identify where the student is in their English language development and what instruction is required to move them to the next stage of language development. A student may be at different stages in writing, reading, speaking and listening.
Using EAL/D students’ cultural and linguistic resources
It is important to recognise that EAL/D students (and all students) bring a range of cultural and linguistic resources with them into Australian classrooms. These resources can be:
- used to build EAL/D students’ English language learning and their curriculum content knowledge
- shared in the classroom for the benefit of all students; when the curriculum directs teachers to consider cultural and linguistic knowledge and attitudes, teachers should look first to the students in their classrooms to make use of the cultural and linguistic resources already present.
Building shared knowledge
Effective teaching and learning practices are those which build on shared knowledge and understandings.
- While EAL/D students bring many valuable cultural and linguistic resources with them to the learning context, their experiences, understandings and expectations are often different from those that are assumed as ‘common knowledge’ in Australian classrooms.
- The curriculum often refers to the familiar and the everyday; however, the ‘everyday’ is determined by our social and cultural contexts. It is important to check whether EAL/D students possess the ‘everyday’ and ‘real-life’ knowledge assumed by many curriculum tasks. To build shared knowledge around the concept, the class might view films, make visits to a bank or do role-plays.
- Teaching in context is vital to aiding communication and comprehension. EAL/D students require explicit teaching of all aspects of language in all curriculum areas. However, it is important not to study language in isolation.
Sociocultural factors to consider when planning for learning
EAL/D students are bilingual learners, and they are already language learners in at least one other language. They are an important resource in developing the language awareness of all students in the classroom. The maintenance of the home language of EAL/D students is important for their English language learning as well as for the preservation and development of their cultural identities and family relationships. In addition, research indicates that bilingual speakers have significant learning advantages over monolingual speakers.
Linguistic factors to consider when planning for learning
EAL/D students require specific support to learn and build on the English language skills needed to access the general curriculum, in addition to learning area–specific language structures and vocabulary. This learning must occur across the four macro skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Importantly, ‘language’ and ‘literacy’ are not the same. ‘Language knowledge’ is an important foundation skill for building competency in ‘literacy’. EAL/D students have the same capacity to understand the content of the Australian Curriculum as other students; however, they require support with the English language required both to access the curriculum and to demonstrate achievement. Therefore, it is important to identify the language requirements of tasks while still maintaining the integrity of curriculum area content.
Cultural factors to consider when planning for learning
- All students, including EAL/D students, have cultural resources that give them alternative perspectives on issues and phenomena, as well as experiences and knowledge. Drawing on these resources will add to the learning and experiences of all students in the classroom.
- Contextual and visual information that we often assume is supportive of learning is often culturally loaded. EAL/D students may not have experience with the cultural context or images of some books
- EAL/D students may have additional or alternative understandings that need to be considered when teaching aspects of the Australian Curriculum. These may include knowledge and understanding of ethical actions, historical viewpoints, family relationships, mathematical problem solving, currencies, and measuring time and temperatures.
- Body language, ‘personal space’, eye contact and gestures are linked to culture, and some EAL/D students will use and interpret body language and gestures differently. Teachers must be mindful that students schooled in one culture may take years to ‘retrain’ themselves to different conventions of gesture and body language. Explicit and sensitive assistance in this area is recommended.
For more detailed information please refer to the EAL/D Teacher Resource below.
While the objectives of the Australian Curriculum are the same for all students, EAL/D students make progress towards these objectives while simultaneously learning a new language and learning content and skills through that new language.
As a result, EAL/D students may require additional time and support, along with teaching that explicitly addresses their language learning needs. Students who have had little or no formal schooling will need additional time and support in order to acquire skills for effective learning in formal settings.
Personalised instruction to support EAL/D students
EAL/D students require systematic and informed teaching which is mindful of the student’s English language proficiency, in order to build English language skills while simultaneously delivering the content of the Australian Curriculum.
Teachers can achieve this by:
- identifying a student’s level of language proficiency using the EAL/D Learning Progression
- teaching explicitly
- using students’ cultural understandings
- building shared knowledge.
Planning from age-equivalent content
The Australian Curriculum content provides the starting point for developing the teaching and learning program for all students. Access to this content is made possible for students who have English as an additional language or dialect by identifying a student’s language proficiency using the EAL/D Learning Progression, and delivering content in ways which both acknowledge the student’s current English language proficiency and simultaneously build their English language learning skills.
The following points elaborate on the process outlined in the flowchart using the Australian Curriculum to meet the learning needs of all students, found under the "Meeting diverse learning needs" menu. The process starts with learning area content that aligns with students’ chronological age. For example, in Year 5 Science, students learn about the solar system [Year 5 Science Understanding ACSSU078] and the important contributions made by scientists from a range of cultures [Year 5 Science as a Human Endeavour ACSHE082].
The Year 5 Science content provides the starting point for developing the teaching and learning program for all students. The program can be personalised in relation to individual student language needs. The EAL/D Learning Progression allows teachers to locate EAL/D students on a progression of English language learning and to deliver the Science content in a manner that is cognizant of the student’s current English language skills and continues to develop those skills.
- Using the EAL/D Learning Progression to identify the student’s language proficiencies to personalise age-equivalent learning area content.For example:
Learners in the Beginning and Emerging phases may be able to access information about advances in science via texts in their home language, or from family members. Family members and bilingual assistants may be used to interpret and translate this information. With this content knowledge in place, English language can then be mapped onto known concepts; for example, bilingual glossaries may be developed. The use of images and timelines will also support students’ comprehension of this science content; for example, connecting images of scientific advancements to locations on a map, or identifying the names of the advancement in the original language.
Learners in the Developing and Consolidating phases will be able to access the texts and materials provided to their first language classmates but will require scaffolds into those texts. Vocabulary will need to be built, with attention paid to scientific terminology (for example, ‘telescope’ or ‘astronomy’) as well as terminology that is culturally located, for example, ‘the heavens’. Talking about the past will require noticing and modelling appropriate use of tense and voice, such as providing sentence frames and key vocabulary for students to use. For example, model the sentence (‘The first telescope was invented by…’) and provide sentence and vocabulary prompts (‘telescope’, ‘improve’, ‘Galileo’) that students can use to write new sentences.
- Using the general capabilities learning continua to personalise age-equivalent learning area content.
The science program may be personalised by focusing on the cultural assets of EAL/D students and drawing from the general capabilities of Intercultural understanding and Critical and creative thinking. Many EAL/D students will be able to share knowledge from their own cultures in the exploration of this Science content.
Through the exploration of Earth and space sciences, students can understand the different ways in which Earth and space sciences are understood and used by different cultural groups; for example, the use of the lunar calendar in agricultural communities in South-East Asia; the significant contribution and long history of scientific endeavour of scholars from different cultures (particularly in the area of astronomy) [Intercultural understanding: Recognising culture and developing respect Level 4].
Students can reflect on what they have learned about other cultural perspectives on scientific innovations and uses of scientific understanding, for example by writing reflection journals and recording both original assumptions and new learning which encourage critical and creative thinking [Critical and creative thinking: Reflecting on thinking processes Level 4].
- Using the cross-curriculum priorities to personalise age-equivalent learning area content.
Teachers may draw from the cross-curriculum priorities to make connections between a student’s cultural background and the Science content. EAL/D students from Asian backgrounds may have knowledge which contributes to scientific understandings from a range of urban, rural, historical and contemporary Asian contexts. Similarly, EAL/D students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds may be able to contribute to understandings of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have historically explained astronomical phenomena and used them in their understandings of the geography and use of their lands.
Detailed Illustrations of personalised learning have been developed to promote equity and excellence for diverse learners, including students for whom English is an additional language or dialect. The illustrations demonstrate access to age-equivalent learning area content from the Australian Curriculum. There are many sources of advice about planning quality teaching and learning programs that are inclusive of EAL/D students. The websites of state and territory education authorities are a good starting point.
Considerations when using the general capabilities to personalise learning
It is important to consider that:
- the general capabilities are an integral part of the Australian Curriculum
- the general capabilities are not an alternative curriculum to the learning areas but can support access to and progress through the learning areas
- all the capabilities need to be developed in EAL/D students if they are to learn to manage their own wellbeing, relate well to others, make informed decisions about their lives, become citizens who behave with ethical integrity, relate to and communicate across cultures, work for the common good, and act with responsibility at local, regional and global levels
- the general capabilities can be drawn upon to ensure that the substantial assets of EAL/D students are used in the delivery of Australian Curriculum content to enrich the learning of all students.
Using the cross-curriculum priorities to personalise learning
It is important to consider that:
- cross-curriculum priorities are embedded in all learning areas
- the cross-curriculum priorities will have a strong but varying presence depending on their relevance to the learning areas
- the cross-curriculum priorities can be drawn upon to provide the opportunity for the substantial assets of EAL/D students to enrich the learning of all students.
ACARA has developed the English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher Resource to support teachers as they develop teaching and learning programs in the Australian Curriculum: Foundation to Year 10 with EAL/D students.
The EAL/D Teacher Resource includes several related publications:
- EAL/D Overview and Advice
- EAL/D Learning Progression
- EAL/D annotated content descriptions: English Foundation to Year 10
- EAL/D annotated content descriptions: Mathematics Foundation to Year 10
- EAL/D annotated content descriptions: Science Foundation to Year 10
- EAL/D annotated content descriptions: History Foundation to Year 10
The EAL/D Teacher Resource has been developed to:
- advise teachers about areas of the Australian Curriculum that EAL/D students may find challenging and why
- assist classroom teachers to identify where their EAL/D students are broadly positioned on a progression of English language learning
- help teachers understand students’ cultural and linguistic diversity and how this diversity can be used in the classroom
- provide examples of teaching strategies supportive of EAL/D students
- complement existing state and territory resources for teaching EAL/D
- provide an overview for teachers who may not have specialist training in the area of EAL/D or access to specialist EAL/D teachers.
Council of Europe. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR) from: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/elp/elp-reg/cefr_EN.asp
Cummins, J. 2008, ‘BICS and CALP: Empirical and Theoretical Status of the Distinction’, in Street, B. & Hornberger, N. H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd edn, Volume 2: Literacy, pp. 71–83, Springer Science + Business Media LLC, New York. http://www.wisd.us/campus/whs/social_studies/edd/Fall09/8344/Articles/CumminsBICSCALPSpringer2007.pdf
Gottlieb, M., Carnuccio, L., Ernst-Slavit, G., & Katz, A. (2006). PreK-K English language proficiency standards. Alexandria, VA (USA): Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
McKay, P., Hudson, C. and Sapuppo, M. 1994 ‘National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia English as a Second Language Bandscales’ in McKay, P. (ed) English as a Second Language Development: Language and Literacy in Schools, National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia, Canberra.
New Zealand Ministry for Education. ESOL online - The English Language Learning Progressions from http://esolonline.tki.org.nz/ESOL-Online/Student-needs/The-English-Language-Learning-Progressions
Thomas, W. P. & Collier, V. P. 2002, A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students’ long-term academic achievement, Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA. http://crede.berkeley.edu/research/llaa/1.1_final.html
State and Territory Resources
Curriculum Corporation, 1994, English as a Second Language scales.
Department of Education and Children’s Services South Australia , English language and literacy Reception –Year 12
Department of Education and early Childhood Development Victoria, English as a Second Language Developmental Continuum P–10
Department of Education and Training Western Australia, 2010, English as a Second Language/English as a Second Dialect Progress maps (early childhood, middle childhood, early adolescence)
New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2004, English as a Second Language Guidelines for Schools.
Northern Territory Department of Education and Training, English as a Second language framework for English as a Second Language Secondary.
Northern Territory Department of Education and Training, English as a Second language framework for English as a Second Language Primary.
Queensland Department of Education and Training, Curriculum Guidelines for English as a Second Language learners
Queensland Department of Education and Training, English as a Second Language Bandscales for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Learners: http://www.education.qld.gov.au/students/evaluation/monitoring/bandscales/
Queensland Department of Education and Training, Language for English as a Second Language learners.
Queensland Studies Authority: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives https://www.qcaa.qld.edu.au/k-12-policies/aboriginal-torres-strait-islander-perspectives
SACSA, English as a Second Language scope and scales http://www.sacsa.sa.edu.au/eslevidence/esl_keyfeatures.asp