How to Use Technology for Teaching English as an Additional Language (EAL)

student using an interactive whiteboard in the clasroom

Published: November 8th, 2023

As a teacher, you play a crucial role in modelling children’s use of the English language in written and spoken forms to benefit their academic achievement.

Putting this into practice and teaching kids a new language while attempting to bring them up to the same level of attainment as native speakers can be tricky, but it’s ultimately very rewarding.

One useful tool to have in your arsenal when teaching kids with EAL is technology, specifically interactive whiteboards. These can help you engage kids more effectively and efficiently, boosting their communication skills through games and interactive tasks.

This guide aims to help you enrich the curriculum for EAL students, make lesson planning easier and maximise your use of interactive displays in the classroom.

The challenges of teaching English as an additional language (EAL)

Learning a new language is difficult, especially for kids still getting to grips with life in a new country. As well as adjusting to a new language and life, here are nine common challenges you may face when teaching students with EAL.

1. Diverse language backgrounds

The languages spoken in EAL classes can vary from student to student. This can make it challenging to link English speech patterns back to kids’ native tongues as you have to cater to many different students.

2. Varying proficiency levels

Students in your class may not all have the same grasp of English. If this is the case, organising classroom activities and making lesson plans can prove tricky, as you’ll need to cater to the individual needs of the EAL kids.

3. Cultural differences

It’s essential that language teachers are aware of and respect the cultural norms and values of EAL students. Being conscious of these differences can reduce the risk of misunderstandings and make kids feel more welcome in the classroom.

4. Different learning preferences

Students learn differently from one another, whether they prefer to learn through visual, audio, reading and writing or kinaesthetic cues. Identifying these is beneficial, but it can be challenging to support children effectively simultaneously.

5. Social integration

After moving to a new school, students with EAL can find it challenging to interact with kids fluent in their target language. These language barriers can lead to feelings of isolation that affect students’ school experience.

6. Assessment and evaluation

Standardised assessment and evaluation methods may not be the best way to reflect the abilities of EAL learners. For these students, alternative assessment models may 

7. Parental involvement

Another factor affecting kids’ language learning ability is their parents’ language development. If a parent has limited English proficiency, this may hinder communication between you and them, and limit their ability to help their child.

8. Language development

All students will pick up their new language at their own pace. For example, reading skills take longer to develop in some kids than others.

9. Emotional factors

EAL students might experience frustration or anxiety due to the challenges they face while learning English they face. This may make it harder to motivate them during tasks and affect students’ willingness to participate in class activities.

The benefits of using technology for teaching English as an additional language

Using technology in lessons with EAL students has five key advantages – these are:

1. Appeal to all learning styles

With an interactive display, you can design lessons, plan tasks, and play educational games that appeal to all different learning styles and preferences. You can incorporate engaging activities suited to students who absorb information through reading, writing, drawing, discussing, listening, or doing, ensuring that they get the most out of your lessons.

2. Collaborative learning experiences

The prominent display of an interactive whiteboard allows you to plan activities that the whole class can participate in. Collaborating in this way can help students build relationships with one another and motivate them to join in with their peers.

3. Clearer revisions

It can be challenging for students to read your handwriting on written work, especially if they are unfamiliar or confident with reading English. Typing feedback and providing revisions on a computer can make it easier for students to understand the changes and why.

4. Interactive learning

Technology allows kids to take a proactive approach to learning English, boosting student engagement. Instead of sitting and listening to their teachers, they can get involved with tasks and learn at their own pace.

5. Multimedia capabilities

Interactive displays can be used to show audio and video clips, play educational games and record lessons for future reference – enriching the curriculum and engaging your students. To practice pronunciation, for example, you could play phrases and words from the display’s speakers and ask students to mimic them. 

Using interactive whiteboards to teach English as an additional language learners

Using interactive whiteboards to teach EAL can be highly effective and engaging, and is a great way to engage students using technology. Maximise the use of interactive displays in your lessons by utilising the following strategies:

Interactive vocabulary lessons

  • Flashcards: Use interactive flashcards to teach and reinforce students’ vocabularies. You can do this by asking kids with EAL to match words with corresponding images you display on the interactive board.
  • Drag-and-drop activities: Create activities where students drag words to match them with pictures or their meanings, reinforcing vocabulary understanding.

Language games

  • Word games: Play word games like hangman or word scrambles on the interactive display to encourage kids to participate and consolidate what they have learned.
  • Interactive quizzes: Design interactive quizzes with multiple-choice questions or fill-in-the-blank exercises to assess language comprehension.

Reading activities

  • Interactive stories: Use interactive storybooks that allow students to click on words to hear their pronunciation and meanings.
  • Annotate texts: Organise group text analysis sessions, where students collaborate to highlight specific words and phrases, identify main ideas, and discuss comprehension questions collaboratively.

Listening and speaking practice

  • Audio-visual exercises: Play videos and audio clips related to EAL learning and subjects and then ask kids questions about what they have watched and listened to.
  • Role-playing: Encourage students to speak English by engaging in interactive role-playing activities based on books you’re reading. You should also use the interactive display to allow students with EAL to drag and drop dialogue elements to create conversations.

Writing practice

  • Handwriting practice: Use the interactive whiteboard to practice writing letters, words, and sentences, focusing on proper formation.
  • Collaborative writing: Arrange collaborative writing exercises for students, e.g., let each student contribute a sentence or paragraph to create a joint story on the interactive whiteboard.

Cultural exploration

  • Virtual tours: Take virtual tours of English landmarks. Discuss cultural aspects, traditions, and language nuances using interactive maps and multimedia. Once kids with EAL are more confident speaking English, you could repeat the task but take virtual tours of their home country. This will encourage students to recall previously visited places and help them connect with their roots.
  • Podcasts and interviews: Play podcasts or TED talks from guest speakers to connect kids with EAL with native speakers.

Feedback and assessment

Providing feedback: Use websites like Kahoot! to test kids’ knowledge and provide instant feedback, challenging them to justify correct answers and allowing you to identify areas that need to be revisited.

Digital storytelling

  • Interactive story creation: Have students create interactive stories using multimedia elements like images, audio, and text, enhancing their language skills and creativity.

Collaborative projects

  • Group projects: Divide students into groups and assign them interactive projects, such as creating multimedia presentations or interactive posters about various English topics. Interactive whiteboards provide a dynamic and immersive learning experience, allowing ESL students to actively participate, practice language skills, and receive immediate feedback, enhancing their overall language proficiency.

More from Promethean

As you can see from the list above, there are lots of ways that interactive whiteboards can engage kids with EAL and help them learn new skills and get to grips with the English language.

Are you looking for more resources to boost engagement? You’re in the right place. The Promethean blog features guides for classes and cohorts of all ages, from encouraging public speaking in children to accommodating different learning styles in higher education.

For tips on maximising the use of your interactive display, check out our blogs on engaging students with ADHD and experiential learning for differentiated students.