Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to Provide Crucial Access to Academic Vocabulary to ELLs in Common Core Content Classes

Students have been in school now for a few weeks.  Among all the fresh new faces are several students who speak little to no English. These new students need special instruction to access the language and content tied to it.  For many teachers, this may be a new experience that they may feel somewhat inadequate to properly deal with.  In the recent past, ELLs used to be in ELD (English language development classes), but now they are in mainstream rooms.  Though every teacher puts intensive energy into delivering a quality educational program to each child in the classroom, an educator may feel a bit unsure as to what to do with students who speak very limited English.  Addressing academic vocabulary and providing meaningful continued reinforcement throughout the lesson of those words can sometimes pose a challenge.  Often times, teachers try to vary activities thereby offering many ways to access the words, but this approach, though varied, can be overwhelming and at times confusing for the ELLs.

A leader in the field of teaching academic vocabulary to ELLs is Dr. Kate Kinsella:  KATE KINSELLA ON EXPLICIT DIRECT INSTRUCTION TO BUILD ACADEMIC VOCABULARYThe 1 minute clip sets the tone for the article which follows.

TEACHING ACADEMIC VOCABULARY IN THE CORE CONTENT CLASSROOM   ELLs need explicit meaningful rigorous instruction in academic vocabulary if they are to succeed in English speaking schools.  In the article, Kinsella provides activities that boost and reinforce the use of academic vocabulary in the classroom.  Academic language must be practiced in all 4 language domains:  listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  Students need to see connections in the word family.  For example, look at the word INFORM from which INFORMATION, INFORMATIVENESS, INFORMATIVE, and INFORMATIVELY derive.  ELLs need to know that endings of root words change only the role of the word in a sentence and not its chief meaning.  Family Word Walls all around the room in easy to see prominent places help such students.  Also, in the article, notice the use of concept maps and double-bubble graphic organizers (I have blogged on all of these in earlier posts---just type in the term in the search window and click).  Model the use of the language regularly and have them engage in academic conversations using these words.  Frayer models come in here as well (see earlier blog posts on this one).  Use cognates if at all possible as well.  Linking back to the L1 is also an empowering experience for ELLs--their language has value.  Build a foundation and reinforce consistently.  Give students time to process and learn a few key activities that yield results.  Overwhelming them with too many may confuse them.  Take a less-is-more approach.  Have fun with it as well:)


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