In recent weeks, our Help Desk has received many enquiries from schools asking what resources we have that will help them support the Ukrainian children who are coming into their schools and host families who are welcoming Ukrainian families into their homes.

First and foremost, we must remember that these children and their families have been through an extremely turbulent time. They have left their home country and all the things that they know – this could be including their family, their friends and even their pets. Arriving in a new country, where they may not speak the language, must be incredibly stressful for them, so it is important that they maintain their link with their home, their homeland, and their home language. Their well-being is absolutely paramount at this time.

For children who have English as an additional language (EAL) and who are proficient in their first language, developing a second language should happen quite quickly as they can use their first language to map the second language onto it. Nevertheless, it is important that we give them time to absorb the language that’s around them without pushing them in any way.

How can we help them along their journey?

From a speech and language therapist perspective, I would suggest:

Augmenting the spoken message with signs, gestures, pictures or symbols. This will help the children to pin meaning to the words and the actions that they are seeing, and to start to learn those meanings in a more dynamic way. Some examples of this could be: gesturing to what you are talking about, using non-verbal communication such as pointing, or using pictures with the words underneath. You might put pictures on the fridge to indicate what is inside or place images on drawers to show the contents along with the correlating word underneath the picture to provide constant reminders of what these things are.

A formal picture system isn’t necessary. When a child hasn’t understood a word correctly or fully, a quick sketch or doodle on a sticky note along with a gesture to the meaning can be very useful. The child will be able to create a memory out of the moment which will help with the retention of that vocabulary – they have seen the picture being drawn and the action that goes along with it. Having multiple layers of learning the vocabulary will only increase the retention of the word.

Alphabet is another thing that we must bear in mind. The Ukrainian alphabet is a 33-letter Cyrillic script alphabet which is very different from the English alphabet. So, phonic teaching is going to be a bit of a challenge and it might be quite tempting to jump straight into reading a book together. However, learning what those phonic sounds represent and how they correlate with their own alphabet is something that is really important to look at first.

If you are a Speech and Language Link subscribing school – which I’m sure you are – then you will have access to our EAL section on your platform. Here you will find lots of information and resources that can help you and these children with their journey including: a checklist for new EAL pupils, an EAL learner profile creator and a guide to supporting EAL children in the classroom. Our Speech and Language Help Desk is just a call away if you need any guidance using these resources.

The Infant and Junior Language Link programme will also help you identify when an SLCN language assessment may be necessary if you feel that there might be a more underlying difficulty with language.

If you need any more support with EAL or SLCN, please get in contact with our Speech and Language Help Desk who will be happy to answer any questions.

Do you want to know more about EAL? Read our selection of EAL articles in The Link magazine below:

The Link magazine Issue 1: EAL Pupils Second Language Development

What should you expect? Sarah Wall outlines how a second language develops and what you can do to support this process.

The Link magazine Issue 3: How EAL friendly is your school?

SaLT, Heather Stevens looks at the importance of considering the emotional and social well-being of new EAL pupils.

The Link magazine Issue 8: SLCN Glossary – EAL versus EFL

Join speech and language therapist, Heather Stevens, as she discusses the differences between EAL and EFL.

The Link magazine Issue 22: Celebrating Bilingualism

In recent years the number of learned speaking English as an additional language in UK schools has seen a huge increase. How do you celebrate bilingualism in your school?

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