04 August 2020

Personalizing EAL Support in the Virtual Classroom

Published by Stamford American School Hong Kong
Renovation-and-refit-projects

As the school year fast approaches parents face beginning another school year online, which for many parents brings a level of anxiety. Worries over children being able to achieve academic success while learning online affects parents of children that require English as an additional language or EAL support. Online learning is different from in-class learning but that doesn't mean we can't achieve the same results. In order to be successful, Stamford has modified our approach to fit online platforms to ensure personalized support.

How are Students Supported?

When students are physically in school, Stamford follows a three-part support model, push-in, pull out, and homeroom teacher modeling. During online learning, the approach will be very similar and require close collaboration between English and EAL teachers to ensure the EAL strategies support the in-class content while helping students gain essential language acquisition skills. Planning lessons as a team embeds the correct strategies from the topic introduction stage to address individual student needs, Online learning has made us even more mindful of the need for collaboration to make best use of the push-in time during live classes. Contact time with students, even virtually, is invaluable, and we want to be sure each second counts.

Push-in support allows students to be part of their regular classroom activities, learn language from their peers while knowing that their teachers are there to help them at their level when challenges arise.

Personalizing Learning

In addition to planning and supporting live English classes, EAL teachers will also be working virtually in small groups and if needed one on one. This targeted approach will help students gain the English skills to boost their confidence and prepare them for the rigorous IB Diploma Programme. The smaller group sessions aim to take specific skills from the broader topic and go into greater depth. For example, this could be specific reading comprehension strategies for non-fiction texts or proper verb tense usage in descriptive writing. Making the sessions engaging while online means revamping many lesson plans and an excellent opportunity for experienced teachers to integrate new activities and approaches. The faculty are also working closely with the IT department to make the platforms easily accessible to both students and parents to ensure the school day is easy to navigate.

Any advice for parents?

Close communication and honesty! Providing personalized learning online provides a challenge for teachers, students and parents.  When communicating virtually, it is harder to read non-verbal cues; therefore, don't be afraid to be transparent and honest when challenges arise. Don't forget to share what worked well so we can all be sure to continue to head in the right direction-fostering student growth. With all the screen time, it is an excellent opportunity to find books for your child to build their English skills while spending time offline. If your child is older, you might read the same book as a family and start your book club!

About the Author: Adrianne Wilson, Head of Student Support

Ms. Wilson comes to Stamford with twelve years of teaching experience in the US, Paraguay, and Colombia. Living abroad has allowed her to grow as an educator by learning about and embracing different cultures and beliefs. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Special Education. To further develop her strong leadership skills, she recently obtained her Principal License which will help her lead Stamford’s learning support team.

As both a general and special education teacher, Ms. Wilson is passionate about differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all learners. She has actively helped to develop policies and procedures to support inclusion in all the school communities that she served.

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