February 12, 2022 | 12months | Case Studies
GEMS (Gwent Education Minority Ethnic Services) supports pupils whose first language is not English or Welsh by working closely with schools and parents to help students improve their language skills. The service supports about 500 learners across five local authorities ranging from Nursery to Year 11.
The GEMS team is made up of 52 members of staff including a senior achievement leader, four achievement team leaders, 17 teachers and 28 bilingual teaching assistants.
- Literacy support for EAL (English as an Additional Language) learners.
- Advice, support and guidance on race equality for schools and governing bodies.
- Bilingual assessments and support.
- Home visits to ensure effective communication between parents and school is established. Essential school information is passed to parents in their home language and their concerns and questions are passed back to the school.
Due to limited vocabulary, reading comprehension is one of the major challenges for GEMS’ EAL learners.
We hoped to provide our supported EAL learners with an easy to navigate tool that supported learners’ reading skills. While we support schools on a regular basis, the time spent with the pupils is often limited, therefore, we looked to find a tool that could stretch the time of support and be accessed from home. Using Giglets provided a great opportunity to increase parental engagement. The fact that Giglets features a wide range of texts across 37 different languages was a key factor.
Engaging EAL Learners
It was the visual nature of Giglets that GEMS staff found the most useful for engaging their EAL learners and targeting reading comprehension.
The GEMS team used the theme music, illustrations and animations to draw readers in and identify key vocabulary. From this the learners could access texts more readily.
When most learners were at home during the Covid‐19 pandemic, GEMS continued using visuals to engage learners. They created a step‐by‐step visual leaflet explaining how to access Giglets.
Training and building confidence
Five staff members volunteered to be Giglets Champions.
Our Giglets Champions were able to support the rest of the team with queries both technically and pedagogically. They gathered evidence and helped us self‐ evaluate our confidence using the resource. They then used this to tailor training to individual needs. Moreover, they shared practical ideas on how to use Giglets with EAL learners. An example session was delivered to show how easily it could be adapted to suit different levels of English.
Using Giglets for Writing
GEMS staff were confident using Giglets to support EAL learners with reading and so they turned to writing skills.
Inspired by the Network Leaders Event run by Giglets, we turned to focusing on how to use Giglets to improve the writing skills of EAL learners. Our Giglets Champions within the team conducted small group trainings where we focused on practical tasks and developing EAL‐ friendly writing resources. We mainly focused on sentence level work using Giglets sentences as stem sentences or developing vocabulary. We then shared these across the team. We’re keen to build on this further by using Giglets texts as a model.
Giglets has been enjoyed by everyone.
We included Giglets at each meeting and regular sharing of ideas and strategies has made sure that staff are sharing best practice. We’ve found it has brought the team closer and created greater consistency across the board. It had a positive impact in supporting our EAL learners’ oracy, understanding, reading and writing. Pupils are well supported within the resource, with audio and accessibility options, but also by our staff who are confident using it to develop English language skills. We have developed a shared understanding of what good practice looks like.