Monday, November 19, 2012


If English language learners are to reap maximum benefit from any lesson, they must be provided with content embedded visuals frequently throughout the lesson.  This must occur not only at the elementary school level where it is done in every lesson, but also in the upper grades such as high school.

Though the success of using visuals has been proven again and again in the lower grades,  it is not done much at the high school level.  All too often, classes focus predominately on lecture.  More talk to ELLs does not provide access to content, but rather more confusion.  All too often teachers explain new words using words that are unfamiliar to ELLs so nothing makes much sense.  This language barrier can many times lead to ELLs going to sleep, being sent out of the room, talking to friends, note passing, etc.  and earning that eventual F.  Is it because they don't care or because they don't understand?  It is because the lack of visuals makes the lesson incomprehensible for them.


Teaching ELLs requires support above and beyond lectures supported by text. ELLs need to silently read material before the teacher lectures.  Reading a novel aloud to them every day is guaranteed to lead to their nodding off in class.  It is too much oral language to process compounded by the use of total alien vocabulary.  Then there are the oral directions.  With English not being the native language, ELLs often miss key parts of the directions.  This leads to misunderstanding the directions and that leads to no work being turned in or being incorrectly done etc.

So what is a teacher to do?  Here are some suggestions which assist ELLs in following a lesson.  Provide notes of what the lecture will be about.  If directions are detailed, put them under a document camera or hand out copies of the directions.  Without such directions, ELLs will be lost.  Use lots of visuals including but not limited to power points, charts, photos, diagrams, wall charts, etc.  Such resources must be in the class if the students are to succeed.

There are more tips in the article which will provide other tools to use which will not only make content accessible to ELLs, but also to students who are visual learners.



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