How often have you had students who had a difficult time trying to figure out what was important in your lesson? This issue pops up quite often in mainstream classes where ELLs are hesitant to expose their limited grasp of a topic in a room full of English only or more proficient speakers of English. This weakness is reflected in poor test results due to what may be more a result of limited understanding of the lesson than of poor English abilities.
One way to provide better access to core content and academic language is through the use of graphic organizers. These learning tools offer ELLs many opportunities to become familiar with academic language BEFORE they take a formal assessment. With these tools and lots of regular checks for understanding, you will see their confidence grow.
Graphic organizers build reading skills through note-taking organizers. Such tools lay out what to look for in the textbook and how to take notes on what they have just read. Let us not forget language graphic organizers such as outlines where students learn how to follow the English linear system of writing.
The organizers here are for all content areas: science, math, English, and social studies. One is particularly geared to vocabulary development (FRAYER MODEL) and is back in vogue in the US of late. It can be used in any content area. I had students use a modified version of this on 3 X 5 index cards held together with a binder ring. This was a way for them to build their own dictionaries!
GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS FOR ALL SUBJECTS (don't feel limited to this---create some of your own and share them with colleagues).
ELLs need all the help possible to succeed in English speaking schools. This is not an impossible or overwhelming task. It just takes some different approaches:) Add some academic and language scaffolding to your lessons and you will see quite an improvement on their part:)
ELL TEACHER PROS