CEC Blog

So, let's talk about EAL...

One of the biggest challenges in international schools is the high number of language learners. In many schools, the number of students who do not speak the school language as their dominant language is often higher than the number of students who do. While it can be easy to focus on the new arrivals; students with little to no school language, in fact this approach does not provide adequate support for language learners. We have know for many years that students can acquire conversational fluency (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, or BICS) within a year or two, acquiring academic proficiency (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, or CALP) can take much longer. There is no fixed t

Promoting home language use: How do we make a difference?

When I was in Hong Kong last week and meeting with parents and teachers, the subject of discussion was often the issues raised in my previous blog post about HK parents choosing to speak English with their children rather than Cantonese. Inevitably, someone would ask how we can change this pattern of choosing the higher-status English over the natural mother tongue of Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong families. It’s certainly not a problem unique to Hong Kong, I’ve had similar discussions about Arabic in the UAE, Kiswahili in Kenya, and Dutch in international schools in the Netherlands, just to name a few. Although these languages and situations may seem unrelated and distant, in fact the pathway

What I learned this weekend from Cummins, Krashen, and Genesee

"Why are we using the terminology ESL and mother tongue, when for many students English is not actually their second language and they have multiple linguistic identities? How does this term reflect the multilingualism of many of our students?" J. Cummins, ECIS ESL/MT conference, 2017 (Originally published on LinkedIn, March 2017) It's not often that one gets to spend a weekend listening to, and meeting, the textbooks from your bookshelf. And yet that is what I spent the weekend doing. At the ECIS ESL/MT 2017 conference in Copenhagen, I opened the textbooks of my undergraduate and graduate studies, and I heard them tell me their stories. From Stephen Krashen I first learned about comprehensi

Privilege and Paradox in Bilingual Education

A few weeks ago I sat down with Donna Bardsley at Amsterdam Mamas, to record a podcast on bilingualism and bilingual education. The topics ranged from my own experience raising three kids with three languages, to the more complex, and compelling, issue of how language status affects children who are becoming bilingual. I've written about language status here before but in this podcast we get a chance to go in depth on a topic that is often overlooked in discussions about bilingualism. Many of you may have heard me speak over the years at different events, but for those who haven't, here is a chance to hear me live, on the Web! Click on the logo below to link to the podcast. Interview starts

Identity language - what's that? (Spotlight on Good Practice series)

To reject the child's language in school is to reject the child. Jim Cummins First language, home language, mother tongue, family language... all these terms are used in international education, to try and talk about the languages students bring into schools. But what is implied by all these terms, and how does that affect the language possibilities of students in international schools? When international schools offer programmes designed to support the other languages their students speak they generally designate the mother tongue of the child as the language to support. They may use any of the terms I listed (and they may even have found another term that I didn't list!) but the bottom lin

Spotlight on good practice: Multilingual Poetry

"With respect to ELLs, there is undeniable and growing evidence that the home language of ELLs is of considerable benefit to their overall academic success." (Fred Genesee (Professor of Psychology Department at McGill University, Montreal and recipient of the Canadian Psychological Associate Award for Distinguished Contributions to Community or Public Service) This is the first post in the new "Spotlight on Good Practice" series. The goal of the series is to get teachers and schools talking about critical issues in supporting language learners in their schools. This first profile spotlights Jennifer, a Grade 3 teacher at the European International School Ho Chi Minh City. I visited the schoo

Top 5 tips for learning about your new students when you can't talk to them...

Every year, all around the world, teachers welcome into their classrooms students that they can not communicate with at all. While it's obviously extremely difficult for the students, it's also hard for the teachers. Every teacher wants to make their new students feel comfortable and happy and ready to learn. And that's really hard to do when you can't communicate with them. Over the years I've developed systems and resources for schools to use to structure the process of getting to know new students, but schools and teachers can do this themselves as well. Here are my top tips for getting the new school year off to a great start, for all your students (and for you!). Ensure that your school

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