Throughout UK schools, there are more than 300 languages spoken as a first language.

While proportionally ESOL students account for just under 7% of pupils, in inner cities this percentage can often be as high as 75%, as is seen in various schools in London.

One in six primary school pupils in England – 612,160 – do not have English as their first language. In secondary schools the figure stands at 436,150, just over one in eight. Once special schools and pupil referral units are taken into account, the total rises to just over a million at 1,061,010. These figures have more than doubled since 1997.

The challenge of ensuring that all students, no matter the pupil’s mother-tongue, advance and progress at the same rate of learning is not to be underestimated.

Here are some ideas for streamlining learning and ensuring that all students progress together.

Collaborate with your English department

There’s no such thing as a typical ESOL student, and where a learner is significantly less able when speaking or writing English (such as when they may not as yet be forming full sentences), there will be a need for additional English work.

Working with the English department and your fellow professionals who deliver English lessons to your students is a critical part of understanding how advanced your students are, and how to create lesson plans to help further their advancement.

This collaboration can also help your ESOL students in cementing any core concepts that they may be focusing on across their subject areas.

Regular assessments and tailored lesson plans

Regular tests or assessments are essential if you’re to be certain that your ESOL students aren’t being left behind.

What’s more, this not only applies to your subject matter, but also to their English skills; you should use the entry English test that the student completed on application to the school to assess their rate of progression.

Be open with your students about their assessment results and progress, and tailor their learning pathway to incorporate lesson plans that will help them achieve their goals.

There are a number of helpful websites that can give you ideas for lesson plans, for example:

Many museums and art galleries also offer ESOL resources:

Appreciate the spectrum of ESOL students and cater to their needs

ESOL students can hold vastly differing skillsets; whilst some may have a formidable grasp of English, others may hold no English skills at all.

This complicates your job, however it’s really no different to tiered teaching in the traditional sense where you’re teaching more and less gifted students – you must simply adapt the exercises provided to cater for the full spectrum.

If you’re assisted by a teaching assistant you may want to consider how they can help you manage this complexity. (How teaching assistants can help manage large classes)

You may discover that some ESOL students are accustomed to rote learning – with classes in their native country based on repetition and memorisation.

By contrast the UK classroom is starkly different, and you may need to help your student in taking charge of their own learning – especially as they’ll effectively need to ‘catch up’.

Make your teaching visual

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then visual learning aids should be your best resource when teaching ESOL students.

Visual tools such as displays, slide shows, posters and video clips can enrich the learning experience, while putting images to words and concepts.

It’s also worth understanding that ESOL pupils will each have a set learning style – FluentU have written a really useful blog on the subject, stating that visual learners are, perhaps surprisingly, detailed note takers, amongst other helpful pointers.

EDLounge and EDArcade

You can use our EDLounge platform to create unique learning pathways for your ESOL students using the thousands of resources available to subscribers.

We have also developed EDArcade, which offers a range of games for learning English at KS1/2 level.

Contact us for more information.