Guest Blog: The Art of Teaching Second Language Learners

The 4 D’s: Demographics/Definitions/Decrees/Development

Demographics: Did you know that English language learners (ELLs) comprise approximately 10% of the students in the United States? That’s over 5.1 million students!

Definitions: Although each state creates its own exact definition, the federal government gives us this general definition: An ELL is a student who comes from a language background other than English and whose limited comprehension of English is sufficient to create academic difficulties.

Decrees: According to NCLB ELLs must meet two criteria: 1) learn English and 2) meet grade level content requirements.

Development: It takes two to tango! Classroom teachers are responsible for the content learning of their ELLs. English Language Development teachers are responsible for English proficiency. More specifically, ELD teaches the English that students need to be successful in schools but will not learn during the rest of their school day.

Here are some tried and true strategies from both the content teacher’s and the ELD teacher’s point of view:

Student Interaction: Kids need to talk!

Content teacher: Provide authentic opportunities for your student to express their learning.

ELD teacher: Provide structured language practice that practices specific structures in English.

The 4 Modalities: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Content teacher: Reading and writing provide the bulk of instruction with speaking as the culminating event: a speech or presentation

ELD teacher: Speaking provides the bulk of instruction with writing as usually the culminating event.

Classification: Our brains are pattern seekers.

Content teacher: Graphic organizers are the best of the best practices. Use them as often as you can!

ELD teacher:  Organize your instruction by function, form, and classes (vehicles, bathroom vocabulary, prepositions).  When the classification is built in, students have a framework for the new vocabulary and grammar structures.

Routine: Create a learning environment.  Students are ready to learn when they know the schedule.

Content teacher: Be predictable!  Set a schedule and stick to it.  Teach routines and procedures.

ELD teacher:  With routines and procedures well rehearsed, your students will be ready to learn and you will make the most from your precious ELD time.

Visuals and Manipulatives: Concrete and image based teaching makes the content accessible to ELLs.

Content teacher: Use math manipulative materials, word walls with pictures, real objects (realia), provide pictorial cues along with word cues, graphics, maps, photos, word banks,

ELD teacher: Make it visual.  Oral language development and visuals go hand and hand.

Native Language: Use native language when possible.

Content teacher: Partner same language students to help with translation, send homework in the native language when possible to connect school and home.

ELD teacher: Cognates, cognates, cognates.  Also see which idioms occur in both English and the students’ native language.

Educating English Language Learners is a team effort.  When the classroom teacher and the ELD teacher collaborate great things happen.

Happy Teaching
Lori Wolfe

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2 Responses to Guest Blog: The Art of Teaching Second Language Learners

  1. markmolloy says:

    Thanks Lori. What a great post for content teachers and ELL teachers. Some very practical advice. We are so happy that you can share your knowledge with us!

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