For English language learners and students with special needs to do well with common core based lessons, they must develop critical skills in the use of academic language both in academic discussions and reading/writing academic tasks. Since many of these students (not all) are operating far below grade level proficiency in reading and writing, they must not only be exposed to academic scenarios where both key content vocabulary and academic language are used regularly, but also be held accountable for integrating this language into their vocabulary base. After all, without multiple opportunities to use such language in all 4 language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) scenarios, they will not be able to grow in the language skills needed for life beyond high school.
A great tool to build confidence in identifying academic language and using it to defend or take a position on controversial issues is fishbowl. In life beyond school, taking a position or defending it occurs regularly and for students to survive in this setting, they need practice and reinforcement here in school. Common Core lends itself naturally to this. With fishbowl, the teacher creates two circles of students-one inner and one outer. The inner set could be composed of students with a stronger background and grasp of the concepts initially. This group would discuss key questions in a debate-like setting. While they are doing that, the students in the outer circle (ELLs should start out here until they become more familiar with the activity) are taking specific notes on what they heard and whether or not the comments made are valid or not (by citing evidence from the text to support or refute the oral arguments). Once the class has been through the routine a few times, the teacher could mix up the inner circle with ELLs since the routine by then would be routine one for the class.
With the instructional demands of common core, ELLs will require more than handouts to bridge that learning gap and this is a great start:)
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