Saturday, December 8, 2012


With English language learners (ELLs) in every content class nowadays, teachers are employing a variety of tactics to provide access to content to not only the native speakers but also the struggling learners who are often times ELLs of varying English proficiency levels.  Since textbooks are language dense, teachers often times employ out-of-the-box approaches in an attempt to motivate and educate their students thinking that is enough.  For ELLs, however, no matter what the content chosen, content teachers will still need to address language development.  This turns every teacher into a language teacher and that is a role that brings on quite a bit of anxiety for classroom instructors. 

With powerful content videos, language and content can be easily addressed.  Provide students with two note-taking graphic organizers.  One is geared to native speakers of English in that its format does not provide language frames and word banks though key ideas for students to take notes on are listed.  The other one for ELLs might contain sentence frames to build sophisticated sentences, word banks to provide practice in working with content vocabulary, paragraph frames to guide short paragraph writing, etc. 

Below are some educational videos on biology.  For a video to be a successful instructional support tool, it should be short, highly visual, include closed captioning (translations are sometimes an option also), contain specific details related to the topic, be free and easily accessed by any student via computers or smartphones. 

The first video offers a simple but also powerful description of cells.  This would be an excellent warm-up or pre-lecture video to use in a biology class.  It would spark interest and provide motivation to learn more.  Teachers could refer back to it as they went through the material.  For ELLs, this video would build a basic content foundation to follow the lesson. AN INTRODUCTION TO CELLS

The second video needs little in the way of an introduction since Khan Academy is world famous.  Due to its success in all levels of mathematics, it has branched out into other disciplines including biology.  His materials could be used in a flipped classroom where students would study at home through completing various assignments.  Assignment results would be accessed by the teacher in class where s/he would address problems students had in doing the assignments.  ELLs benefit here since they may take time processing material at home and not risk embarrassment at not knowing the answer if called on.  At home or in the school library, they interact with computers taking all the time they need to work out the problems assigned.  Have ALL students use the closed captioning feature to enable them to focus on use of key concept words presented in context.  Though this would immensely help ELLs, native speakers would benefit as well. KHAN ACADEMY ON THE CELL   

POWERS OF MINUS TEN BIOLOGY The third video is a definite crowd pleaser.  It could be offered at the end of lesson to have students do a quick write on or a build a classroom discussion around.  Every student should be able to either write about the main idea or draw pictures of key concepts or act out what they learned.  The more ways students can interact with material or be fully engaged in the learning process, the more likely they will remember what was taught AND enjoy the process:)



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