Monday, March 10, 2008

Techniques to support English Language Learners (ELL)

The information below comes from New Visions for Learning, pages 14, 15, and 16. It can be accessed at: and was adapted from:

Short, D. & Echavaria, J. (1999). The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol: A Tool for Teacher-Researcher Collaboration and Professional Development. Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence.

Another useful resource can be accessed at:

Thompson, G. (2000, Winter) The real deal on bilingual education: Former language-minority students discuss effective and ineffective instructional practices. Educational Horizons, p. 128-140.

Although the focus of this information is about helping the English Language Learners (ELLs), these suggestions will help teachers become more effective in helping ALL students learn.

Supporting English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom
Teachers should use/provide:

Context cues and supplementary materials such as
-visuals, props and body language;
-Speech modifications such as repetition and pauses during speech;
-Sufficient wait time for student responses;
-Interactive lectures with frequent comprehension checks;
-Cooperative learning strategies;
-Emphasis on central concepts rather than details by using a thematic approach;
-Development of reading strategies such as mapping and writing to develop thinking skills;
-Authentic, meaningful learning opportunities;
-Ample opportunities for students to develop metacognitive strategies

Scaffolding of content and materials to reach learners at all levels. Use supplementary material like visuals, props, gestures and body language or speech modifications such as repetition, pauses and increased wait time for student responses. Enunciates and avoids use of idioms and slang.

Students are engaged, able to identify lesson content, express reason for learning it and know how work will be evaluated. Lesson’s objectives and activities announced and instructions listed step-by-step.

Interactive lectures with frequent comprehension checks. Does not ask, “Do you understand?” but asks student to demonstrate their learning. Frequent summation of salient points and emphasis on key vocabulary words

Classroom is print-rich. Walls display student work, posters with key concepts and vocabulary, learning strategies. Desk arrangement fosters cooperative learning strategies and group work.

Prior knowledge
Learning opportunities have a connection to real life. New information presented in the context of known information to augment vocabulary development. Metacognitive skills Emphasis on metacognitive strategies like mapping, KWL charts and note-taking skills.


Lesson Plan Checklist
This checklist, adopted from the Sheltered Observation Protocol (SIOP), serves as a useful tool

I. Content (Learning Objectives and Materials)
1. Write content objectives clearly for students.
2. Write language objectives clearly for students.
3. Choose content concepts appropriate for age and educational background level of students.
4. Identify supplementary materials to use (graphs, models, visuals).
5. Adapt content (e.g., text, assignment) to all levels of student proficiency.
6. Plan meaningful activities that integrate lesson concepts (e.g., surveys, letter writing, simulations, and constructing models) with language practice opportunities for reading, writing, listening, and/or speaking.

II. Process (Delivery and Organization)
Building Background
7. Explicitly link concepts to students’ backgrounds and experiences.
8. Explicitly link past learning and new concepts.
9. Emphasize key vocabulary (e.g., introduce, write, repeat, and highlight) for students.
Comprehensible Input
10. Use speech appropriate for students’ proficiency level (e.g., slower rate, enunciation, and simple sentence structure for beginners).
11. Explain academic tasks clearly.
12. Use a variety of techniques to make content concepts clear (e.g., modeling, visuals, hands-on activities, demonstrations, gestures, body language).
13. Provide ample opportunities for students to use strategies (e.g., problem solving, predicting, organizing, summarizing, categorizing, evaluating, self-monitoring).
14. Use scaffolding techniques consistently (providing the right amount of support to move students from one level of understanding to a higher level) throughout lesson.
15. Use a variety of question types including those that promote higher-order thinking skills throughout the lesson (e.g., literal, analytical, and interpretive questions).
16. Provide frequent opportunities for interaction and discussion between teacher/student and among students about lessons concepts, and encourage elaborated responses.
17. Use group configurations that support language and content objectives of the lesson.
18. Provide sufficient wait time for student responses consistently
19. Give ample opportunities for students to clarify key concepts … with aide, [or] peer….
20. Provide hands-on materials and/or manipulatives for students to practice using new content knowledge.
21. Provide activities for students to apply content and language knowledge in the classroom.
22. Provide activities that integrate all language skills (i.e., reading, writing, listening and speaking).
Lesson Delivery
23. Support content objectives clearly.
24. Support language objectives clearly.
25. Engage students approximately 90-100% of the period (most students taking part and on task throughout the lesson).
26. Pace the lesson appropriately to the students’ ability level.

III. Products (Assessment)
27. Give a comprehensive review of key vocabulary.
28. Give a comprehensive review of key content concepts.
29. Provide feedback to students regularly on their output (e.g., language, content, work).
30. Conduct assessments of student comprehension and learning throughout lesson on all lesson objectives (e.g. spot checking, group response).