As an instructional coach for teachers of ELLs in mainstream classes, I am always trying to find effective and easy-to-implement strategies that will make the reading and writing processes a bit clearer for their ELLs. Many of these students have been in school in the U.S. for only a few years. Their speaking abilities are fine for everyday interactions with peers and teachers, but their skills here do not transfer over into academic reading and writing skills. So what is a teacher to do with a class size of 32 and only 3 students are ELLs?
One approach has its origins in elementary school---sentence frames. Here is an example: The dog ______ his meal quickly. Students have just had a lesson on simple past verbs and are now being asked to select one of them to put in the sentence. The ANSWER is ATE. Though the entire class would be doing this activity, the teacher would provide the ELL with time to reread the sentence strips with a partner to practice reading and fluency skills. Students could also write them in notebooks to practice grammar. For the ELLs, they would now have correct samples of sentences to refer back to when required to write their own sentences for homework or other class activities.
Sentence frames can be created by the teacher for any discipline or grade level. Here is a video from a social studies lesson for ELLs using sentence strips USING SENTENCE FRAMES IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (VIDEO) Notice how the students are using recently acquired academic language in the sentence frames. This type of context embedded vocabulary practice makes the text more accessible which leads to improving reading skills. Further, good reading skills lead to good writing skills. Dr. Krashen, a leader in the field of instructional theory for ELLs, is a firm believer in the connection between the two.
For the teachers I will be assisting, I will be creating multiple strips using laminated sentence strips, cut-up paper strips, and then composition paper to complete the classroom teacher's assignment. Everything will be done in collaboratively with the teacher since we will be co-planning throughout. This might take 2 days to complete, but if it boosts student confidence and eases teacher's concerns, it will be worth it!
Give it try. Your students will love it!
ELL TEACHER PROS