Supporting Higher Level EAL Learners (pt. 1)

higher level EAL

How can schools support higher-level EAL pupils who are further along on their English language learning journey? If you tuned into the latest webinar we spoke about common struggles, strategies for ambitious vocabulary, and much more! Here’s part 1 of the webinar summary.


A high-level EAL learner can be defined as working within the upper part of band C or in-band D on the DfE proficiency scale. These students have usually been speaking English at school in the UK for around five years or more and use another language at home. Reports suggest that by KS4 85% of EAL learners are considered ‘competent’ or ‘fluent’ in English and that these students often outperform their monolingual English peers in GCSE grades. Accurate and timely assessment is essential in order to ensure that we can identify learners’ proficiency and provide appropriate support to allow them to succeed. So, how can we support high-level EAL learners to achieve greater competency in English?

higher level EAL


Support learners to develop academic language, including subject-specific Tier 3 vocabulary and Tier 2 vocabulary which is usually encountered in extensive reading. When teaching Tier 2 vocabulary, ensure that shades of meaning are discussed, as well as words’ connotations and the variety of contexts in which they can be used. Recycle the vocabulary in different situations and sentences, and link words to their synonyms and antonyms to help create a richer understanding and allow learners to manipulate the words in multiple ways. For more ideas on how you can implement a whole school vocabulary strategy, you can download the Wow Words resource pack and intervention guide which accompanies the Wow Words lessons within FlashAcademy®.

Idiomatic and figurative language

The ability to understand idiomatic language is a skill
usually developed in the higher level proficiency bands. Idioms don’t usually translate directly between language so can seem illogical and difficult to learn. However, their bizarreness can make them enjoyable to study and appeal to students’ creativity. There are many myths behind idioms and researching these can enhance learners’ cultural capital as well as help to make idioms more memorable, which in turn can increase learners’ range of expression.

higher level EAL

Inference skills

Developing inference skills is key for high-level EAL learners as these apply in both reading and listening. Scaffold reading and listening activities to build up from identifying key information and asking comprehension questions to higher-level thinking questions regarding what may be implied. Learners will need controlled practice and specific examples as they build this skill. FlashAcademy®’s curriculum-related reading comprehensions include questions aimed at developing these reading strategies. In addition, encourage learners to read texts of appropriate difficulty; consider using graded readers of classic texts and using audio/e-books to increase learners’ access to these. Learners may also benefit from the use of visual support and glossaries.

Click here for Part 2!

Helen Shelton

Helen Shelton is an EAL specialist and consultant for FlashAcademy. Helen has hosted many webinars including Language Awareness for EAL, Supporting Higher Level EAL Learners & more! Free recordings are available over on our Events page.

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