How to...Integrate Polish children

10th November 2006 at 00:00
For some schools it is routine to welcome new pupils who don't speak a word of English. Many others are learning fast, thanks to Eastern European - particularly Polish - immigration. Here is the expert advice.

When a child speaking nothing but Polish turns up with their mum, what should you do first?

Have an admissions policy, an initial diagnostic assessment focusing on English and maths. Using visual clues and images, see if the child can identify the alphabet, the days of the week, familiar pictures such as a bus, a telephone box, a toilet. Maths skills are very important, too.

What if they have absolutely no English?

Encourage them to use their first language initially, this helps them to keep trying to communicate. It lets them show what they can do and validates their previous education. And stock up on plenty of bilingual Polish-English dictionaries, such as the Milet Picture Dictionary: English-Polish (Pounds 9.99).

How do they cope with lessons?

Differentiate. Use lots of visual support for your teaching. Diagrams and pictures are your best prop. It really helps to break tasks down, too.

Clarify what needs to be done, but don't simplify.

How do you help them make friends?

Pair them up with a buddy. Ideally another Polish-speaker, but otherwise any nice, caring child will do.

I've done all that, and three months on, they are still not speaking.

Don't panic. Teachers of English as an additional language say it is not unusual for a child to take six months or even more to begin speaking English in school. They are assimilating the language during that time For further information The National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum (Naldic):

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