The cornerstone of the project was the engagement of a 0.4 FTE EAL/D specialist teacher who was completing post-graduate studies in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Coniston Public School engaged the specialist teacher to provide differentiated models of support to students, staff and the culturally and linguistically diverse community.
Analysis of the EAL/D School Evaluation Framework identified program priorities to implement a sustained and systematic whole school approach.
The initiative started with a Stage 1 and Early Stage 1 collaborative planning day, where the specialist teacher guided a session about planning an integrated writing unit using a backwards mapping approach. Teachers looked at student data, including student English language proficiency using the EAL/D learning progression, and analysed writing samples.
The specialist teacher modelled (using the EAL/D teaching and learning cycle) how to plan for language and cultural demands of the curriculum, and how EAL/D strategies work in the classroom, with demonstrations that supported classroom talk. This was followed by team teaching and co-teaching to support the classroom teachers in their implementation of the strategies. Confidence and general excitement in the classroom increased.
Shoulder to shoulder support and reflective dialogue in classrooms provided contextual ‘on the job’ professional learning, further building the capacity of all teachers to effectively adopt EAL/D pedagogies. This was enhanced by whole school professional learning focused on programming that reflected the needs of EAL/D learners.
Reflective discussions with Stage 1 and Early Stage 1 teachers identified an effective process for future collaboration between EAL/D and classroom teachers. The initiative then expanded to the rest of the school, with collaborative planning occurring every five weeks. Collaborative planning and co-teaching between the specialist teacher and classroom teachers developed teacher capacity to effectively identify and meet the needs of their EAL/D students within integrated units of work.
The second component of the initiative was engaging interpreters through Wollongong City Council. Interpreters were used to develop relationships with linguistically diverse parents/carers and ensure inclusivity of whole school literacy initiatives.
Relationship building with parents and carers started with one-on-one sessions with the parent/carer and interpreter and the specialist teacher. This was followed by weekly parent/carer workshops where participants were assisted to use Seesaw, an app that creates a learning loop between students, teachers and families, to engage in their children’s learning journeys.
The third component of the initiative was engaging a designer to create a visual poster with a focus on reading to help build EAL/D parent/carer understanding of reading comprehension strategies to support their children’s reading comprehension journey at home. This occurred simultaneously with a whole school home reading initiative to ensure cultural and linguistic inclusivity.
In workshops, parents/carers were taught the meaning of the icons on the poster and they practised with each other. Comprehension strategies that could be used at home were modelled by the specialist teacher, executive and interpreters. Parents/carers implemented the strategies in home language during home reading, and students recorded their reading on the Seesaw classroom app.
To complement the initiative, improved point of enrolment processes ensured a positive transition to the school for newly arrived students.