Sunday, July 29, 2012

Common Core and ELLs--Practical Suggestions for Mainstream Teachers To Offer Support For These Students

The common core standards will also be transforming the ELD standards (still in draft form).  These new standards will provide more direction for teachers in identifying their ELLs and their levels.  With this information, it will fall on teachers to address language and content in their classes. 

So what is a teacher to do?  Well, some of the strategies that have worked in the past will also transition here:  visuals, scaffolding, graphic organizers, lots of class interactions with their English peers, accommodations in assessments, structured cooperative learning activities, sentence frames, word walls, concept maps, etc.  All of those approaches and many more like them do work; however more is needed.

Teachers will need to be very focused in the delivery of their lessons.  Clear content standards written in student friendly language will especially clarify for ELLs what they will be expected to learn.  If there is no mystery behind the content standards, teachers can expect full class participation.  Next, the learning objective must be read by all and dissected by teacher into comprehensible chunks with a few random checks for understanding to ensure that everyone knows what s/he will eventually be held accountable for learning.  Then there is the need to identify academic vocabulary (words that are used in all content areas) and key content vocabulary for the immediate class.  How many words should a teacher bring in here?  Typically, no more than 7 per lesson for academic words and they are used repeatedly in all language areas thus allowing the ELL time to process and retain the words.  With key vocabulary, students need to be made aware of them and allowed time to work with them through highly supported venues.  Word walls, concept maps, frayer models are just some of the tools that can be used to provide the ELL with ways to remember those 5 or so words.  If there are more words, teachers will need to decide what words are crucial to their understanding of the concept and which words can just be talked through by the teacher in delivering the lesson.   In addition, teachers will need to do a variety of checks-for-understanding:  whiteboards, games, random call-ons, problem solving, structured cooperative groups with each student holding a role, jigsaw, numbered heads together, skits, posters, etc.

Once the lesson is done, teachers will want to try one more quick check-for-understanding called the exit ticket.  The students will be given a 3X5 index card on which they will respond to a few questions designed by the teacher based on the content the class studied that day.  Typically this tool only takes about 5 minutes for students to do and less than 5 for the teacher to assess the effectiveness of the lesson.  If 80-90% have the right answers, they will be fully capable of doing the homework assignment.  For the 10-20% who are still struggling, the teacher can pull them aside and provide some guidance while the rest of the class possibly starts on a more challenging assignment based on the day's work.

If time is spent effectively delivering solid content to every student and academic language in addition to the ELLs, 90% will be fully prepared to complete assigned homework.  That 10% who are still having difficulty can be given adjusted assignments with the understanding that the teacher may give them the more difficult assignment when the teacher feels that they have fully demonstrated their ability to now do the work that they found impossible only a couple of days ago.

COMMON CORE AND ELLS--SUGGESTIONS FOR MAINSTREAM TEACHERS TO SUPPORT ELLS  This site offers a more detailed layout on this area.  You may wish to bookmark it.  It is a good source to go to when you need some inspiration:)



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