Thursday, August 9, 2012

Teaching English Language Learners

About 50% of my school population are students who are learning English as their second language. Many of them started at the school with little or no English proficiency. Therefore we have to not only focus on teaching the academic content, but also the basics of the English language. This is a huge focus at my school, which is why we are extremely fortunate to have an on-site training by an expert on the topic. Margarita Calderon is presenting a workshop on strategies we can use to help our ELLs acquire English while still focusing on academic content. Her book is pictured below.

A major focus is vocabulary acquisition. She discusses the three different tiers of words.

Tier 1 - basic words, usually words that you can associate with a picture, i.e. book, school, teacher
Tier 2 - everyday words and phrases, homophones, homonyms, idioms, metaphors, transitional phrases, multiple meaning words, etc.
Tier 3 - content specific vocabulary

It is crucial that we teach all 3 tiers of words, but focus on tiers 2 and 3. By explicitly teaching vocabulary we are giving students the words that will help them learn the language as well as the content.

All of the strategies that we learned/practiced today gives the learners several opportunities to interact with the text as well as with their classmates. It is also very important that students, especially ELLs, are given the opportunity to practice using the language so we were given several examples of sentence frames that we could use in our classrooms. I have used sentence frames in my classroom before, but I will make sure I use them more often.

Today was a learning experience. Tomorrow is day 2 and the focus will be writing. I am looking forward to tomorrow. I will be back tomorrow to discuss how it goes.

If you have ELLs in your classroom, I highly recommend you read Margarita Calderon's book. There are a lot of good strategies to use that will benefit all learners.

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