Top 5 tips for dealing with challenging behaviour in EAL learners

EAL teachers discussing how to deal with challenging behaviour in EAL learners

It is completely normal for newly arrived EAL learners to feel lost and scared in a new setting. Often, these children can’t express their concerns in words as they do not have the vocabulary to express it. This can lead to challenging behaviour in EAL learners, to which teachers don’t always know how to respond.

We asked some primary and secondary teachers what their top 5 tips for dealing with challenging behaviour in  EAL learners are. Here are their best tips:

Challenging behaviour in EAL Learners

Peer support

It is extremely helpful and comforting for EAL learners to be supported by someone who speaks their own language. This way they feel understood and can express the way they are feeling to someone. This person can then help the pupil to integrate well into the class and demonstrate correct behaviour.


Hobbies and interests

Finding out what newly arrived EAL learners’ hobbies and interests are, can allow the teacher to set up rewards adapted to each EAL learner. For instance, an EAL learner who can perform magic tricks could be allowed to present one to their peers, if they complete a certain task.


Match set with ability

In order for EAL learners to feel at ease, teachers can divide the classroom into different language ability groups, which match the children’s proficiency. The aim is to support EAL learners for them to learn English without feeling overwhelmed.


Visuals for rules

Having visuals to express certain rules, such as “no chewing gum allowed in the classroom” can be very beneficial because pupils actually ‘see’ these rules every day. A fun activity for EAL pupils would be to make them draw and write these rules on a piece of paper, which can then be used in a display.


Celebrating newly arrived EAL learners’ heritage/culture

The most important way to make EAL children feel valued and special is to recognise and celebrate their heritage and culture. This can be done through tasting some of their country’s typical foods, through listening to some of their home country’s music or even through letting EAL learners show their peers a traditional outfit they wear in their home country.


Pupils’ behaviours are often directly linked to their well-being in the class. The best and most efficient way to deal with challenging behaviour in EAL learners is to make them feel confident and the as at ease as possible. This can be done through creating opportunities for them to express their feelings, their personality and through letting them share and embrace their cultural heritage.

Register Here: 

We’d like to thank the teachers who attended our EAL Birmingham 2018 conference for sharing their tips with us. Click here to register for the EAL Success Roadshow 2019 for more ideas and strategies to unlock the EAL challenge at your school.

If you have any more ideas, please drop us a note on Twitter at @FlashAcademy_HQ!

Interested in all things EAL? Check out our suggestion on activities to try with new EAL learners! Are you looking for free EAL resources for your school? Why not visit our resources page?

Annika Rahf

Annika is our Marketing Assistant and loves languages. She speaks French, German, English... and a little bit of Spanish and enjoys watching Netflix shows in their original languages! You can contact Annika and the rest of the Marketing team on Twitter @FlashAcademy_HQ.

Let's Stay in Touch

Sign up to our newsletter and we'll send you free resources, exclusive discounts and language learning tips. Just add your email below.


  1. Top 5 tips for successfully motivating EAL learners - FlashAcademy

    May 24, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    […] Interested in all things EAL? Check out our top 5 tips for dealing with challenging behaviour in EAL learners! […]

  2. How can a EAL Baseline Assessment benefit pupils? - FlashAcademy

    June 21, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    […] integration, building trust between teacher and pupil, engagement in the classroom. See our Top 5 tips for dealing with challenging behaviour in EAL learners for more detailed […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *