Monday, August 6, 2012


It never hurts to have several instructional strategies at a teacher's disposal at the start of the school year.  With this approach, a teacher doesn't have to scramble to try to find effective ways to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse classroom with a sizable percentage of ELLs of varying English proficiency levels.  So, with this as the goal, here are some additional powerful, highly effective, and easy-to-implement instructional strategies for mainstream classes with ELLs in them. 


1.  Provide many opportunities for ELLs to interact with peers in structured group interactive activities.  This approach will require that ELLs use English to explain concepts.  With an understanding of the concepts, they can become productive members of the group enabling them to develop their language skills while mastering content.  Further, as the ELL interacts with peers on assigned tasks, the teacher can easily monitor language used as s/he moves from group to group.  This type of assessment tells the teacher what, if any, assistance the ELL may need to access the content or follow the language.  One additional point here that the article makes is for the teacher to include measurable goals of having the ELL demonstrate his/her verbal abilities at lease 3 times a week.  Unless the teacher creates settings where the ELL can use English risk-free, s/he will be quiet and leads to no progress.

2. English language and vocabulary must be explicitly taught and reinforced throughout the lesson in a variety of ways addressing the different learning modalities because ELLs are individuals first each with his/her own learning style and English learners second.  Some content teachers might not feel comfortable in teaching English language, but they can.  After all, every teacher has at least one degree (most 2) so every teacher knows English.  Do they have to teach English in the same fashion as an English literature/language arts teacher?  No.  Content teachers assist students in expressing themselves in ways suitable for their discipline.  Again, with the implementation of the new common core standards, writing will be a key focus across all content areas thereby making all teachers English teachers.

As for vocabulary for any given discipline, teachers must teach the vocabulary.  A glossary will not work.  Content words must be explicitly taught.  Mind maps, concept maps, word walls, etc. are all tools that teachers can use to help ELLs master the vocabulary tied to the key concepts.  How many content words are suitable for a content class?  Ideally the number of words should not exceed 7-10 per week and those words need to be reinforced in many activities throughout the week if students are to internalize them.  Frayer models help here (index cards 3 X 5).  Once the cards are complete, have students hold them together with binder rings.  Just before a test, have students pair up and quiz each other with the weaker students testing the stronger partners first.  Once the stronger one is done being quizzed, the weaker student would be quizzed.

3.  Activate prior knowledge.  See how much a student may already know on the subject of the lesson.  How can prior knowledge be assessed?  Short video clips, realia, brainstorming, journal writing, anticipation guides, etc. are all effective.  The benefit in checking for prior knowledge is that if the students are totally unfamiliar with the topic, the teacher can fill in some of the gaps before the actual teaching of the lesson.

4.  Involve parents as much as possible.  Parents do not have to be experts in the subject areas.  Their goals should be to support their children in learning.  Provide a place for their children to do homework.  If their child is having academic difficulties, parents should contact the bilingual parent representative on the school campus to join any parent teacher conference.  Further, teachers should try to find bilingual support personnel to make any parent contact beneficial for both parent and teacher.  Google translate does not solve the problem.

5.  Increase writing opportunities as much as possible.  Though practice does not necessarily make perfect, it does make better:)  ELLs need to write often on the content if their use of English grammar is to grow.  One approach is the inclusion of learning logs ("Today in geometry, I studied.......).  Done regularly, the ELL has a record of activities s/he successfully completed and this tool could assist him/her in taking a test.  Another quick writing activity (to assess for understanding) is the EXIT SLIP.  Give it 5 minutes before the period ends (or use them as admittance slips).  Great quick assessment that provides teacher with a clear picture of how well the ELLs and others understood the major components of the lesson.

Hope these suggestions help:)



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