Things to Consider When Teaching Students a Course Material
Common standards must be met by every American student in classes like mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts. English language learners are held to the same standards and given the same assessments in these different content area classes. Are these assessments a true measure of what an English language learner knows? How can teachers prepare English language learners for the rigors and expectations of the American educational system? Teachers who are prepared can help these students to succeed in both their learning of the new language and the content of the academic classes in which they are enrolled.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Danita O. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
ITTT website suggests six strategies to help classroom teachers understand their English language students and to help their students to succeed in both academic classes and the system that leads to higher education and a successful future. The first of these strategies is to identify the objectives for each lesson. The content objective for every class must be analyzed and translated into a language that the English learner can understand. It is also important to communicate with your English language learners to know if the students have met that class objective and if they did not, to find the stumbling block for them. English language learners may have their language objectives as well. These can help the students develop an understanding of the particular specialized vocabulary.
A second strategy suggested is to connect the new vocabulary and class objectives to something in the English language learners' background. Any link to the personal, cultural or world experiences of the English language learner makes a bridge available to the new vocabulary. It can also help connect the English language learner’s culture to a new culture through contrasts and comparisons.
The third strategy suggested helping English language learners face new and difficult vocabulary is to assess whether or not the new student is understanding the new input. English language learners must feel safe to ask questions and to answer questions from their teachers and classmates. Ideally, language is learned best if the language level is just above their current usage level.
A fourth strategy is to use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic aids to help students get the comprehensive input they need. The use of graphs, photos, maps, computer simulations, laboratory experiences, and dramatic simulations will help augment the new vocabulary. Use of graphic organizers which help the student focus on the individual words needed without the pressure of the right use of articles etc. also help our English language learners organize the academic material necessary for success. Project-based learning is also useful for the connections that learners must make, especially if the English language learner is paired with a native speaker for the activity.
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English langue learners who are mainstreamed into classes with native speakers will feel like outsiders unless the teacher makes an effort to include the students. These learners should not be isolated in the classroom or taught to separate side lectures. Allowing English language learners to work in small groups becomes especially helpful. These students will have an authentic reason to use the new academic vocabulary with their peers who learned it at the same time. The English language learners will see in this small instance they are no more disadvantaged than any other class member. Their position or job within the group should give them the ability to experience success and access to other learners in a meaningful way. Teacher’s feedback to the group will then not be focused on the individual new learner and the new learner will feel part of the mainstream learning with the others.
Lastly, classroom teachers may feel it necessary to modify vocabulary instruction for English language learners. Because these new students need to be explicitly taught new vocabulary for them to understand the new concepts, textbooks, laboratory manuals, and supplemental reading materials, they will be exposed to many new or confusing words. Science and Language Arts will be especially difficult because they will need to learn cognates, prefixes, suffixes, and root words that the native language students probably already know. Teachers must be cognizant that picking up on context clues available in the close reading of a text may be too difficult.
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Overwhelming students with too many new words will be counter-productive. Teachers must judiciously choose new vocabulary that is essential in each unit. It is best to introduce the vocabulary first and then reinforce this new terminology within a meaningful context and then again in a content-specific setting.
One great way to provide essential vocabulary is the use of a word wall. Jennifer Cronsberry of The Curriculum Foundation defines a word wall is a group of words that are displayed on a wall, bulletin board, chalkboard, or whiteboard in a classroom. The words are printed in a large colorful font so that they are easily visible. These words are referred to by both teacher and students continually throughout a unit or chapter.
Word wall activities actively encourage student participation especially if the students are responsible for its construction and maintenance. Pointing to these essential vocabulary words during a lesson, offers an easy visual cue and passively looking at these words continually will help aid in spelling as they become sight words.
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