Implementing Effective Strategies for English Language Learners - Part III

Thursday, October 17, 2013 -- Shari Rios

A couple months ago, I began a series, Putting Theory into Practice: Implementing Effective Strategies for English Language Learners.

In Part I, we met Mr. Boyd, an 8th grade science teacher, and learned how he focused on vocabulary strategies to ensure his English Language Learners (ELLs) were able to access the academic vocabulary in his class.

In Part II, we met Ms. Finch, a 7th grade Texas history teacher. By providing background information prior to introducing a new topic, Ms. Finch set her ELL students up for academic success. She found additional resources to support the information being taught in order to let students experience the material in various contexts.

As we continue to explore effective strategies to help ELL students, we meet Mr. Greer. Mr. Greer is an ESL teacher and supports students in 5th and 6th grade. His students come to his class for 45 minutes a day and he is their English Teacher of Record. However, many of Mr. Greer’s colleagues come to him for ideas and help with their ELL students. Because of this, Mr. Greer decided to put together an “ELL Tool-Kit” of strategies to share with his colleagues.

Let’s explore some of these tools and discuss how to implement them.

Audio Support: Mr. Greer recommends his colleagues provide audio support for their ELL students. For novels in reading, he suggests providing a downloadable audio book to partner with the print text. Allowing ELL students to hear the text read aloud, while they follow along in the text, increases fluency and vocabulary development. Audio support also allows ELL students to access texts that are at a higher reading level. For other content areas, Mr. Greer recommends providing audio support by allowing ELL students to follow along while text is read aloud in a group or 1:1 setting. If feasible, he recommends teachers record themselves reading the text and providing that to ELL students so they can utilize the recording during homework, review, and can work at their own pace.

Providing audio support models fluency and helps ELL students grasp the information without getting tripped up with unfamiliar words.

*When providing ELLs with audio support, it is also important to ensure they have uninterrupted time. It is more beneficial to allow them to listen and follow along than it is to stop the audio to discuss. This helps with fluency building.*

Visual Support: Mr. Greer recommends providing illustrations and graphics for ELL students to support their understanding of the concepts/material being introduced. In addition, Mr. Greer recommends that when ELL students are assigned vocabulary, the teacher provides a picture that represents the meaning, and has ELL students illustrate their understanding by producing a picture of their own.

Chunking Material: We all are familiar with the design of typical textbooks. They are divided into units and chapters, and the chapters are broken down into topics/sections. The chapter usually has an overview to identify key ideas, and key vocabulary is highlighted in the text. Each section has some type of summary or review questions at the end to reinforce key ideas. The chapters culminate with a test over the entire chapter. This is a decent example of chunking material. When we teach ELLs, we need to think about this concept.  Mr. Greer recommends applying this strategy in order to help ELL students digest the material one chunk at a time. Some recommendations include:

  • Provide ELLs with an overview of key concepts and key vocabulary (defined and used in context).
  • Provide text that is accessible to ELLs and focuses on the main concepts.
  • Provide ongoing assessment throughout to ensure ELLs comprehend the material before moving on.
  • At the end of the lesson, review key concepts and ask ELLs to summarize the information in 1-2 sentences. Use that as an exit-slip for the day.
  • Review the exit-slips to assess for understanding and to identify areas of struggle/re-teaching needs.
  • Prior to introducing a new concept, Mr. Greer emphasizes the importance of reviewing the previous material and showing the connection to the new material. Each time the material is reviewed, ELL students have additional reinforcement of the material, which furthers comprehension.

Mr. Greer encourages his colleagues to implement as many of these strategies as possible to assist ELLs with comprehension and success.

There are additional tools in Mr. Greer’s “Tool-Kit for ELLs”. Next month, we will explore some of these in more detail.

In the meantime, how can you implement these strategies with your ELLs? Making a few changes in the way you deliver the material can make a huge impact for your ELL students!