Show-and-tell: 5 ways to make it work with EAL students

Covid-19 has undeniably changed the educational landscape. Whether that change is short- or long-term is to be seen, but being stuck at home and teaching online has been difficult in many ways for many teachers. However, it’s also had its advantages. One advantage is that our students are in their own homes too, which creates new opportunities for teaching. For the first time, we are reaching our students in their homes where they are in their element and where all their favorite things are. So why not use this as an opportunity to engage them?

Show-and-tell is a great way of engaging students, especially young learners, and with virtual learning, it’s never been easier. It’s been a big hit with both teachers and students in my school during the lockdown. The students enjoyed showcasing parts of their lives outside of school and finding out more about their friends, while the teachers found it a highly motivating activity that allowed them to ease the kids into virtual learning.

show-and-tell favourite toys
Show-and-tell favourite toys

Show-and-tell requires the students to actually have something to show and to be able to talk about it. For instance, use the camera to show your room and tell the class about it. It sounds like a simple activity, however, it might be a problem for students who don’t speak English fluently. Here are 5 ways to make show-and-tell work well with EAL students:

  1. Pre-teach the target language: Plan for, model and teach the target language needed for the show-and-tell. If the topic is favourite toys and you want your students to describe the toys, make sure they know enough adjectives to do that. Or if you want them to tell you why that is their favourite toy, teach them functions to give reasons. You can provide a glossary, use a substitution table or provide a model, just to mention a few ways to do this.
  2. Sentence starters: I give my students some sentence starters as a way of scaffolding the speaking activity. For instance, if I want them to talk about their favourite toy, I might give them these: 1. This is a/ an …. 2. I’ve had this for … 3. I got it from/at … 4. It can … 5. I like this because … In my experience, EAL students get overwhelmed by speaking tasks if they are open-ended. The sentence starters give structure to what the students have to say and make the task less threatening for them.
  3. Let them prepare: It’s generally a good idea to tell students exactly when they will be presenting so that they can get prepared. Always give advance notice to EAL students. The more preparation time they have, the better. In your Monday lesson, let them know that it will be their turn to present on Wednesday. That should give them enough time to rehearse and ask you any questions they might have.
  4. Provide a model: Demonstrate what you want your students to do. This is useful even for the non-EAL students as it helps them understand the instructions better. If you want your students to bring their favourite books to show-and-tell, be prepared to talk about your own (just make sure it’s age-appropriate).
  5. Ask follow-up questions: Telling others about your room during the show-and-tell is only halfway there. You would hope your classmates show interest and have some questions. Otherwise, it can be a disappointing experience. As a teacher, you have to ensure two things. 1. Make sure that your students know you expect them to ask questions from each other and 2. Make sure they know how to ask questions.

Do you use show-and-tell with your students? What’s worked for you so far? I’d be interested to hear about your experience, so please leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *