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21st September 2023 - Is Catch Up® suitable for EAL Learners?

This question is often raised in our Catch Up® training sessions, and is an interesting one to answer! As with all learners, the individual circumstances are key.

Let’s first consider the learners we are thinking about.

EAL (English as an Additional Language) students are those that are learning English, but already speak one or more other languages, although not necessarily fluently. They may well need support to understand and use the language of the curriculum. When asked whether the Catch Up® Literacy and Numeracy interventions are appropriate for use with EAL learners, the answer is yes – for many reasons.

The Catch Up® interventions target individual need:
It’s important to remember that EAL learners don’t come as a homogenous group. Their backgrounds, prior experiences, and levels of competence with language will vary, as will their skills, knowledge, maturity, motivation, learning styles etc. So, when planning support for an EAL pupil you will need to take account of these individual needs - which is exactly what the Catch Up® interventions are designed to do.
The Catch Up® interventions begin with careful assessment of a learner’s individual strengths and needs so that the 1-to-1 sessions can be pitched at the right level, build upon what the learner already knows and target any gaps in knowledge and understanding. So, in a Catch Up® session you will be able to work at the right level of language for your EAL learner and target the specific language skills that they need to develop.

The Catch Up® interventions are language-based:
Catch Up® sessions provide lots of opportunities for speaking and listening where the adult can model language at the learner’s level of language development. During the 1-to-1 sessions language can be scaffolded, models provided that can be copied, language use can be unpicked and made explicit, and vocabulary is introduced and explained. EAL learners at all levels need opportunities to develop their English vocabulary range and to develop the more formal language needed for academic study. In Catch Up® sessions you can provide opportunities to focus on more formal vocabulary and language in the context of meaningful tasks.

The Catch Up® interventions encourage learning through success:
EAL learners are trying to learn new content through a language that they may not feel confident with. The 1-to-1 Catch Up® sessions offer a safe environment for the learner to explore and take risks with language without worrying about making mistakes. Sessions are cumulative, activating and consolidating prior knowledge, and the content is pitched at the correct level for the individual learner to facilitate understanding. There are lots of opportunities to consolidate and revisit learning to ensure over-learning. This will all help an EAL learner to develop confidence, independence and motivation both with their learning generally and with their language development.

The Catch Up® Interventions offer immediate and explicit feedback:
In the 1-to-1 Catch Up® sessions immediate constructive feedback is offered to the learner which research shows is key to successful learning. Throughout the 15-minute session you can offer positive feedback and focus on what the learner has done well. For EAL learners that feedback can focus explicitly on language; we can check in on language understanding and give direct feedback on language use and understanding. All the opportunities for praise will help to develop confidence for an EAL learner, and, of course, the plenary at the end of a session is another opportunity to reflect on and discuss their use of language.

Why Catch Up® Literacy meets the needs of EAL Learners:

While both Catch Up® interventions will support the needs of EAL learners,
Catch Up® Literacy is particularly appropriate as an intervention for pupils for whom English is not their first language. As a book-based intervention Catch Up® Literacy provides exposure to different text types and genres, and opportunities for exploring literary meaning in text, which will support the language development of the EAL learner.

In the Catch Up® Literacy sessions the learner reads a text, at the right decoding level, with opportunities to focus on the two interrelated skills involved in reading: word recognition and language comprehension. Like all learners, EAL pupils need to develop both these skills. However, the EAL learner will be further towards the beginning of the language continuum, so opportunities to focus on the language comprehension aspects are going to be particularly helpful, and you can place more focus on those language comprehension aspects to ensure that you are supporting your EAL learner.

The 15-minute session overall offers a wealth of opportunities for focusing on speaking and listening, modelling language, providing language examples, developing vocabulary, and making language use explicit - all of which can be targeted to meet the specific language needs of your learner.

Prepared Reading: The 3-minute Prepared Reading, where the text is introduced and key vocabulary is drawn attention to, is particularly helpful for EAL learners for whom pre-teaching is an important strategy. It allows the EAL learner to access the overall meaning of the text before they are asked to focus on elements at the sentence or word level. It is an opportunity to check on prior knowledge and to build background in the text so that links can be made to what is familiar and known. Language use can be made explicit; so we can point out key forms and structures and talk about grammar points and parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc). And vocabulary is focused on and explained, which could include drawing attention to the difference between academic and informal vocabulary, for example.

The Learner Reads and the text is discussed: The middle 6-minute, when the learner reads to you, offers yet more opportunities to focus explicitly on language development for your EAL learners. You can work on intonation and use of punctation to support both their fluent reading and their understanding of the text. You will also be asking your learner to reflect on what they have read, at a literal, inferential, and personal level, by asking them questions about the content. You can pitch these questions to the language level of your EAL learner and ensure that you target their particular comprehension needs.

Linked Writing: In the 6-minute linked writing section of the individual session, a word that your learner has not read fluently is picked up and consolidated through learning to spell it. The learner explores the word through a range of multi-sensory techniques to ensure that they understand the meaning, they can use it in a sentence, and they can spell it either by understanding the grapheme phoneme correspondences and phonic patterns, or by creating an accurate visual image of that word. This detailed and multi-layered (phoneme, word, sentence, text) exploration of a word will be immensely useful for your EAL learner. By enabling them to learn a word by linking the oral sound (phonology) with a visual representation (visual) and the meaning (semantic) you will support that learner to successfully develop an automatic sight vocabulary which is important for reading fluency.

Putting the target word into a sentence at the end of the Linked Writing creates an opportunity to focus on aspects of language such as grammar points, idioms and parts of speech (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc). You can also talk about how time is marked or how conjunctions are used (eg before, after, etc).

The Plenary: Each 15-minute session ends with a brief plenary where the learner is asked to reflect on and evaluate their learning which is recorded in the Comments Box. For the EAL learner this is another opportunity to explicitly focus on language and to consolidate and extend the vocabulary, phrases or aspects of comprehension and grammar that have come up during the session.

The Catch Up® interventions are designed to support struggling learners, with the process and structure providing a secure scaffold to also support additional needs. If you have any further questions on how the interventions can aid your work with EAL learners please contact us via or explore our website

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