Without a system to identify G&T potential, it can take up to two years international new arrivals’s language to develop enough to surface in formal written English. This issue, part of our occasional series on inclusion, shows how you can tell an EAL G&T student within six weeks of their arrivaldoc-3931039

G&T 1,000 wd test.jpg

Many more classrooms now include learners with English as an additional language (EAL) who are relative beginners in English or recently arrived in the UK. Conventional means that we use to identify G&T pupils cannot be easily applied to these pupils, for example if we do not have access to information about their education and achievement, or their ability to communicate their thinking in English does not match that in their first language.

Lack of proficiency in English does not reflect lower cognitive development or academic potential. The REAL Project has produced an initial assessment framework which will help schools to assess all learners as being potentially gifted and to assemble sufficient evidence to support/justify a positive picture of the child and strengthen the case for their inclusion.

No one piece of the jigsaw is enough, so the framework provides a range of instruments and information to help colleagues to look for signs of potential and to strengthen the voices around the child.

Through a range of reading, writing and speaking tasks, the initial assessment process focuses on building a picture of the student’s past formal educational and other learning experiences, his or her current knowledge of the 1,000 highest frequency words of English, and his or her ability in mathematics. The assessments are scaled to provide opportunities for the learners from Key Stages 1-4 to demonstrate higher order skills. The student’s first language is drawn upon in mother tongue assessment as a further indicator of their ability to think, reason and express ideas in complex language.

For younger learners the key element is a speaking and listening assessment which provides visual stimuli in various familiar contexts, eg the home, travel. These provide a context for assessing thinking as well as the ability to use specific language functions, such as prepositions.

The 1,000 word level test – beginners in English

The 1,000 most frequently occurring words in the English language are a fundamental resource for a beginner in English. Familiarity can be measured using online tests, which use a multiple choice format and visual clues which emphasise the word with which recognition is being tested.

(The answers are ‘true’, ‘not true’ and ‘I don’t understand’)

The test takes about 20 minutes and is marked automatically by the website. Research shows that learners who score less than 80% require a specific intervention to support their learning of these words.

The assessment should take place over the course of four to six weeks. Reading and writing tasks are done as soon as possible, as these serve to provide an initial snapshot of the pupil’s ability. Within two to three weeks the literacy coordinator should follow up on the assessment in terms of how the pupil performs in lessons and responds to ongoing tasks. Other baseline measures, such as the 1,000 word level test, can be re-tested within six weeks to provide a sense of progression and further evidence of potential.

Initial assessment process

On arrival: After 4 – 6 weeks:

1. Initial interview2. Initial indicators checklist (1)3. Reading, writing tasks4. Maths assessment5. 1,000 word level test (1)

6. Mother tongue interview

1. Initial indicators checklist (2)2. 1,000 word level test (2)

3. Progress checklists for mainstream teachers

All of these materials can be downloaded from www.realproject.org.uk/newarrivals.

The initial assessment framework provides a picture of the learning history and needs of all new arrivals, whilst being inclusive of G&T learners. This is not a bolt-on model that requires duplication of effort. Our experience is that the framework can be adopted in its entirety where appropriate, or with some elements used or tailored to suit.

Two further issues need to be to be taken into account in developing a framework that will work in individual schools.

  • What is the pattern of new arrivals in your context in terms of the pupils’ backgrounds? The REAL initial assessment framework should allow you to identify potential in those who do not have a history of formal education across the key stages, using speaking and listening assessments.
  • What is the balance between September and mid-term arrivals? In settings where there is a high volume of mid-term arrivals, there are pre-screening tools that can be used to identify those who require more detailed assessment.

What are the classroom signs?
One of the key tasks is to provide evidence of positive behaviours that allow us to see potential. The indicators list below was developed by Hounslow schools to provide readily observable behaviours in recent arrivals, which when taken together, might indicate potential. Which of these do you see in learners new to your classroom?

Classroom indicators of potential
Any new arrival with the potential to be identified as gifted and talented is likely to show some of the following readily observable characteristics:

  • High level of motivation
  • Rapid acquisition of English (evidenced by oral/written work)
  • Good memory
  • Sustained initiative, eg use of dictionary
  • Well organised
  • Monitors own learning
  • Signs of disaffection, disruptive behaviour, withdrawn
  • Asks questions
  • Keen to do homework and ask for help
  • Readily applies previous learning
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Very good concentration
  • Demanding and anxious, wanting to learn too fast
  • Curious and observant
  • Developed interpersonal skills
  • Prepared to do extra-curricular activities or commit to hobbies

REAL Project Toolkit

Identification is not an end in itself, but is central to raising positive expectations and aspirations in relation to the individual. Even with additional support they may take time to show their potential in formal written English, but once the bar has been raised it is difficult to argue that it should be lowered.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

About the author: Ian Warwick is Senior Director of London Gifted & Talented, a branch of London Challenge. Matt Dickenson is Equalities and Achievement Director with London Gifted & Talented, leading the REAL Project (Realising Equality and Achievement for Learners).