Basket Ball: Extending Language during EAL to explain Invasion Games

After reading Implementing Gibbons’ Intellectual Practices During Invasion Games, I saw an opportunity to support the children during EAL classes in extending their language for PE.  Ben’s post gave me insight into the type of language needed to explain a strategy in PE and to work with the children on building language for it.

As a class, we first reflected on the type of language we used when explaining the strategy using the BasketBall CoachNote App. We looked at the words we used when we had something hands-on there to explain it and this is a funny example of how little language we actually need!

In order to build language, we looked at a text which explained the rules of basket ball and we built word banks. We categorized under red (participants), green (processes) and blue (circumstances). I like to use these categories because I find that children are able to respond easily to questions such as what, who?; What is going on here?; How? Where? Who with?. This is a functional model to grammar which focuses on meaning and communication.  Here is an article I found useful in helping me understand this approach. The other reason I find this useful, as opposed to the traditional approach to grammar that focuses on surface structure and not meaning, is that words never make sense in isolation. They are almost always grouped together to make meaning. For example, two teams with five players each try to score by shooting a ball through a hoop. I have to say that I have never found success with teaching grammar to children using terms like ‘predicate’, ‘present perfect tense’, but if I can get them to see that we can always answer these questions and that clauses contain these three parts, they are beginning to understand how language works.

The Lesson

First we looked at a few examples together and then I got the children working in pairs to make word banks themselves.


Here is one student reading out his strategy after carefully selecting the words he needed to explain it.

Certainly not all students got to this point during this lesson, which made me realize the time we need to give students to build language. For the beginner EAL students I probably also needed to provide a few specific models and starter sentences of how to explain a strategy, instead of using a text about basket ball rules in general. It was clear that the more advanced students were able to do draw from the word banks and create their own texts, but the beginner students needed more scaffolding.


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