Supporting Multilingual and EAL Pupils in the Classroom

Supporting Multilingual and EAL Pupils in the Classroom

In recent years, the number of people immigrating to the UK has increased, and as a result, there are a growing number of children in UK schools who speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). In fact, latest figures show that 1 in 10 primary school pupils and 1 in 7 secondary school pupils are EAL learners (NAHT, 2018). This has created a new set of challenges for schools and educators as they try to meet the unique educational needs of EAL pupils.

With so many competing demands placed on classroom teachers and head teachers today, we understand that it can sometimes be difficult and time-consuming to develop tools and resources that are geared toward helping EAL students succeed. We’ve compiled a list of tips and resource ideas from experienced EAL teachers to help teachers who are working with multilingual pupils.

  1. Use Simple Language and Short Sentences: When speaking to EAL pupils, it is important to use language that is simple and hopefully easier to understand. One thing that we need to be especially careful of is using too many colloquial English phrases and idioms. These can be very difficult to understand for pupils who are first learning the language.

We’ve found that using resources such as “Word of the Day” posters can go a long way in helping to improve vocabulary. Any resources that include images and visual aids are extremely helpful as they help demonstrate a common visual language that can easily translate to the spoken and written language. As pupils become more advanced, resources such as sentence scaffold posters can be very useful. They can provide a lot of structure, as pupils have to start filling in the words.    

  1. Repeat and Rephrase Questions: Repeating key words and concepts using different words or rephrasing your explanations of difficult concepts altogether can be very helpful in reinforcing pupils’ understanding. And again, keep it short and simple.  
  2. Give EAL Pupils Time to Respond: When calling upon EAL pupils in class, giving them a little extra time to formulate their responses can be very helpful. Sympathy and patience can go a long way in helping to improve their confidence over time. Gauge their confidence level and don’t force them to talk or respond if they don’t seem ready.
  3. Encourage Them to Participate In Classroom Activities: Encourage participation, but don’t force it. Being put on the spot in class can be daunting for EAL pupils. While we want to encourage them to be involved, we don’t want them to become embarrassed in front of their classmates if they make a mistake. These experiences can be detrimental.

Facilitating small group activities through which EAL pupils work with other students can be one strategy for encouraging participation. Pairing them up with an English-speaking “buddy” might be helpful, but of course, you have to be mindful of who they’re paired up with to make sure personalities are suited for this type of situation.

Insight From the Classroom

As someone who has worked with many EAL students across my career in maths classes, I developed a number of strategies for helping to facilitate their success.

In some ways, I had an advantage in teaching maths as a subject because it is so reliant on symbols and methods that are used universally all over the world. However, what I found to be more challenging is when I had to communicate the English words for mathematical terms or explain why something worked the way it does.

I found seating EAL students near the front of the class so it was easier for them to see as I was drawing diagrams to be a beneficial strategy. But you do have to be mindful about who you sit them next to.

Speaking slowly and clearly whilst visually illustrating concepts was helpful in connecting key words and phrases to that concept. For instance, highlighting keywords clearly on the board and pointing to them as you are speaking them. Sometimes before the lesson, I would also give the EAL students these words or show them what the lesson was going to be about. This was a helpful strategy as it gave them time to become confident on the topic beforehand.

Resources to Support EAL Learners and Their Teachers

Pango has a huge range of pedagogically rigorous resources, including helpful diagrams and images which can benefit EAL students in particular. We offer loads of posters and displays that are easy to print and use in lessons and around your classroom.

Having these resources at your fingertips can help reduce time spent planning and searching for effective resources, which means that you have more time to spend tailoring their lessons and providing support for EAL students.

If you follow a scheme of work for a particular subject, it might be the case that some of the resources don’t meet the particular needs of all your pupils. In these cases, because Pango partners with multiple award-winning publishers, you can easily browse our library to find a supporting resource that better caters to your EAL learners.

What’s more, Pango’s resources are great for sharing with colleagues. The teams feature makes it easy to share resources between EAL departments and subject-specific teachers.  

Additional Resources:

The Bell Foundation and EAL Hub have some very useful resources for effectively teaching EAL learners.


Taking steps to support EAL pupils in the classroom is vital for their academic success and social integration into school life. In addition, it helps to bolster their self-esteem as well as create positive relationships between home and school life. We’d love to hear about some of your strategies for supporting EAL learners!