Bilingual story telling

This is a reprint of an article from 2008.  Musselburgh Burgh Primary still organises bilingual story time for P1 pupils.

Unfortunately this  example of best practice should be happening more often in our schools as there are so many benefits for pupils, schools and parents.

Story time at The Burgh











Last year when her daughter was in Primary 5 the EAL teacher helped to arrange for a Polish mum to support our Art Specialist on a weekly basis. This was a great help to both the teacher and the pupils and the mum really enjoyed the experience. She is a qualified teacher and although she speaks very little English was able to communicate with the children through their artwork.

This year the same lady asked if she could help out again. She is now attending college so does not have as much time as previously.

I asked if she could come into my Primary 1 class to read stories in Polish once a fortnight. I have a Polish pupil in my class who often finds it difficult to focus during story time. We purchased bilingual story books and the mum read the Polish version and I was able to echo in English. When she heard the story in Polish, my P1 pupil was really excited and the rest of the class were fascinated. Now that they are a regular event the other children also enjoy these sessions and are beginning to predict what I am going to say based on what has been read and they are able to pick out some Polish words if they are repeated a lot within the story.

The bilingual books also go home with my pupil and she reads them with her parents who can both speak English.

We are working on Personal Account writing at the moment and I asked the pupils to draw a day out they had enjoyed. I asked the P6 Polish pupil to pop down to explain this task to her mum and my pupil. The mum then sat and supported her with her drawing and discussed the details of her picture encouraging her to add more detail when appropriate.

This collaboration has been of mutual benefit to everyone involved.

Alison Elgin. Musselburgh Burgh Primary School

Rich, Cross-Curricular Tasks and Outreach Support

I am very impressed with the cross-curricular tasks being developed in many schools. The thinking behind this type of learning fits well with the process of acquiring English through immersion in mainstream. It offers the chance to revisit language and ideas in a variety of situations, which can only be of benefit to all pupils with additional support needs.

In light of this development the involvement of Outreach teachers may have to change. With increased emphasis on group and peer support it will become more difficult to work pupils individually. The Outreach Teacher should instead be involved in the initial planning stages to suggest appropriate strategies and identify possible areas of difficulty e.g. provide glossaries for key vocabulary, adapt / simplify worksheets, use teacher materials to produce additional support such as listening practice, explain cultural issues. It is more appropriate for Outreach Teachers to be deployed as group leaders than always being linked with one pupil.

Not only do pupils benefit from having more meaningful tasks but there will be increased joint working between schools and outreach staff.

EAL News

Please go to the website to see recent postings relevant to support for pupils acquiring English as an Additional Language.

Recent topics:

Using dictionaries in secondary school

Teachers support bilingualism in the classroom

Great resource for children in the early stages of learning English

How to assess EAL pupils in Science


How does it feel for teenagers newly arrived in Scotland?

A friend told me about an interesting television programme which they had watched recently. I was able to find and view it thanks to the marvel of the Channel 4 replay service.


The short film “Parliamo Glasgow” which is part of the “Coming Up” series for young film makers,  deals with the difficulties faced by a Polish teenager, after moving into a high rise flat in Glasgow. I feel that in 23 minutes it clearly presents the pressures which young people experience and how they are forced to rely “on the kindness of strangers” – often assuming responsibilty beyond what would have been expected in their home country. 


Some of you may find it rather “naff” but I would thoroughly recommend it everyone.


Click on this link to view the programme on line.