YCIS Beijing’s Expansive EAL Support Network

As an international school for foreign nationals from around the world, portions of the Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) student body is unsurprisingly made up of students with a wide variety of different language backgrounds. Cherie Andersen, the head of the English as an Additional Language (EAL) programme, explains how the school’s EAL practices differ from other Beijing international schools as well as how parents can help their children obtain fluency in the most efficient and expedient way possible.

Please introduce yourself as well as describe your teaching background and experience.

I’m a New Zealand trained teacher with 15 years of teaching experience in language and literacy in New Zealand and England. I’ve been with the EAL team here at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing for three years.

What sets our EAL department apart from other international schools?

I think the support isn’t always as comprehensive for a lot of Beijing international schools. While they have dedicated EAL teams, their structure is different in that they do small amounts of support in the classroom for shorts amounts of time rather than run a full parallel course for language and literacy. When it’s literacy time, we take the EAL students out of the class for a separate language and literacy class; we offer the same component of literacy as the normal class, but with additional time for language learning as well. This structure that integrates the two subjects means that we can really tailor these classes to kids’ individual levels much more closely. It gives them more confidence as they feel less like failures in class as everyone’s the same level in class.

What tips do you have for parents to help them increase their children’s English fluency at home?

I think the Internet offers the most benefits. At the Yew Chung International School of Beijing, we use Raz-Kids.com extensively. It’s a huge library of children’s fiction and non-fiction where students can read or listen to hundreds of different texts whenever they want. There’s also a comprehension quiz at the end. It’s also all leveled, so we’re able to match the kids to the resources they need. This resource alone offers ample opportunity to help encourage an English-language environment at home!

Please give some specific examples of student success in YCIS Beijing’s EAL programme.

We have two Korean kids in class who couldn’t speak a word of English or Chinese. Now, after a year, they’re reading at the same level as a lot of their classmates. It’s really incredible when we have these kids who come in with zero English or Chinese experience and are able to start communicating and engaging in class after such a short amount of time. While they’re still in the process of developing, these students are now able to independently interact with their teachers and classmates in the classroom.

What are some of the new initiatives that the department is working on implementing this year?

We’re really excited because this year we’ve expanded the EAL staff, which means we can offer even more targeted support for kids. In addition to Language and Literacy, we’ll be implementing a program called Curriculum Support as well, which will be a programme that identifies what the kids are studying and will help to learn vocabulary prior to the so they don’t feel like they’re at a disadvantage during the new unit. Having additional teachers will also mean that we will have the ability to take kids out during class time in the event that they need additional tailored support.

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