Thursday, November 8, 2012

Specific Strategies to Boost Academic Language Skills of ELLs

If ELLs are to survive in mainstream classes, their teachers must employ specific instructional techniques to build academic proficiency into all classroom activities.  These same techniques also benefit English speakers, but are a must for ELLs.  If these approaches are not used, the ELL gets neither content or language.

Dr. Short identifies the major issue facing ELLs.  They must do double the work just to stay afloat and, at the high school level, they are struggling with this 6 periods a day.  So though the obstacles may seem immense, they are not impossible.  Key areas of language support must be addressed in every class regularly.

1.  All 4 language language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) must be integrated into every lesson for all English proficiency levels.  Teachers need to find a variety of on-going formative assessments to weave into every lesson to provide multiple opportunities for ELLs to use the academic content in a many different venues.

2.  Reading and writing skills must be directly taught. Teachers must employ scaffolding devices to assist ELLs in navigating academically challenging text.  They need to develop those key pre-reading skills which provide access to chapter content (ex.  looking at pictures, charts, sub-titles, chapter summaries, learning to use SQ3R, etc.).  Through a varied approach in delivering content, teachers can easily make such activities routine since everyone benefits from them.  Further, good reading skills lead to good writing skills.  Through activating reading skills at the higher end of Bloom's taxonomy, ELLs start to build the skills to write increasingly more sophisticated sentence structure within well-crafted essays.

3.  Academic vocabulary must be addressed.  Memorizing word lists is the probably the least effective.  Instead, teaching students how to use context of the text in which the word is found to provide insight to word meaning is far more beneficial.  Then, there are affixes.  If ELLs are provided with regular practice in analyzing words parts and applying this knowledge to new unfamiliar vocabulary on a regular basis, their vocabulary base grows.  In addition to this technique, there are visuals.  A picture is definitely worth a 1000 words.  Posting pictures of key concepts with accompanying word provides access to content while building vocabulary.  These are just some ideas.

4.  Never miss an opportunity to activate prior knowledge.  If students can connect a concept with a prior experience, they will benefit more from the lesson than if the teacher had not helped them make that connection.

5.  Use technology with ELLs.  There are many supports on educational sites that would provide ELLs with many options to hone their skill development in English.  Many are free (SEARCH WITHIN THIS BLOG FOR THE ONES I HAVE FOUND AND RATED).

There are many more suggestions in this article.  Share it with colleagues.




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