Do you know how to create a School Language Profile?

Assessing EAL students for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD)
Assessing EAL students for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD)
5th May 2014
Intermediate Language Learning Objectives alongside Curriculum Content Learning Objectives
Intermediate Language Learning Objectives alongside Curriculum Content Learning Objectives
22nd May 2014
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Do you know how to create a School Language Profile?

A School Language Profile is an invaluable tool!

In the previous article we looked at the thorny issue of EAL learners with specific learning differences (SpLD). We discussed how identification of SpLD in EAL learners could be a long and frustrating process. We looked at some possible non-language-based assessments and, at the end of the article, discussed using a ‘language profile’ to help identify possible concerns at an early stage.

What is a language profile? A language profile is basically ‘a picture’ of a new student’s language learning history. Such profiles can be used with all students (not just EAL students) and provide valuable information to inform good teaching practice.

A language profile builds a picture of a student’s:

  • Home language learning
  • Home language literacy
  • Language learning strengths and possibly, their language learning needs
  • Social, emotional and practical barriers to learning

Crucially, for EAL students, the language profile contradicts the notion that a student is arriving with ‘no language’. It’s an invaluable tool for teachers and TAs in determining where a student fits on a learning continuum and in deciding which teaching strategies to use.

There is a second important use for a language profile. Increasingly, data is being used to guide our teaching, as well as to determine ‘effective’ resource allocation and interventions. The onus is on schools to set up data collection that is useful and insightful. Creating a ‘School Language Profile’ is one such activity that provides teachers with information to directly guide their teaching, but also produces statistical data for the school to monitor its student body.

The school where this Language Profile approach was trialled was able to collect data on all of its students. This was used to inform teaching and learning and was also used to draw up statistical models to identify the need for additional EAL support in the school. Attached is an example of the data collected.

How do you set up a School Language Profile?

The following example is of an effective ‘rolling’ programme to build up language profiles in a school.

(The attached ‘Language Profile’ template is an example that schools can use to build a more relevant profile for their individual situations.)

  1. Agree the information you wish to collect in your school about a new arrival. For example:
    • Spoken language development – in English and first language
    • Literacy in reading and writing – in English and first language
    • SpLD indicators
    • Statistical data:
      1. How many bilingual/multi-lingual students in the school
      2. How many students in the school do not speak English at home
      3. How many students go to additional language schools after the school day
    • Notes:
      It is crucial that these questions are phrased in such a way that they are unambiguous, with clear answers (particularly for use in data collection).
      It was found to be more effective to collect this data after admission, as sometimes it was ‘creatively’ filled in prior to admission.
  2. Draw up the questions on a sheet (no more than two-sided) and trial them with parents to ensure that they are understood and are unambiguous. It is preferable to get parents to fill in the sheet either in a group situation (with someone guiding them through and explaining it, perhaps at a parents’ evening) or in a 1:1 situation with someone from school (and a translator if necessary).
  3. Start a rolling programme of data collection in one or two year groups (starting from the lower end of the school). Additionally, profile all the students on the EAL register.
  4. Thereafter, collect information on each new student as a rolling programme and on any new students who arrive further up the school.
  5. Store the profile in the student’s file so that all teachers working with the student can access the information.


Author: Jessica Tweedie, 2014.

Across Cultures

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