Saturday, October 17, 2015

Strategic Oral Language Instruction in ELs with LD

Teaching children who are English Learners (ELs) and also have a learning disability (LD) is challenging to teachers. ELs with LD tend to struggle with learning English, leading them to be identified as Long Term English Language Learners. In order to advance students to success in both English and school, we need to implement effective instruction. The limited research available has demonstrated that effective instruction for ELs is also effective for ELs with LD.

Connie Williams and Dorothy Roberts wrote Strategic Oral Language Instruction in ELD: Teaching Oracy to Develop Literacy. Oracy is the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech. Linguists and reading specialists believe that oracy is critical to development reading skills. Developing oracy in ELs is critical to developing reading skills. The nicest thing about this pamphlet is that it offers specific strategies for intervention.

The first strategy they recommend is sentence frames. These are sentences with blanks to fill in. For example:
In order to round _____________ to the nearest tenth, you first _______________. Then you __________________. So the answer is ___________.

Before using them in such a complex situation, easier ones not related to content might be practiced with in order to develop oracy. Such an example might be prompted with a fruit basket. The _____________ and the ________________ are similar because _______________ and different because __________________. Multiple uses of the sentence frame would help develop oracy.

Think-Pair-Share is a familiar technique to many. It is highly supported in the English Language instruction community. It allows extra wait time and increased use of language which helps ELs develop language skills.

Picture This, also known as See It and Say It, centers conversation around a visual. It encourages repetition of vocabulary. The teacher presents a visual and makes a statement about it. Students repeat the statement. Students take turns making statements about the visual. Pairs or small groups continue the activity. When I think about the demands that CCSS put on students I think this is an activity that could be incorporated into the curriculum. For example, a historical picture or cartoon is introduced. Students are given a few minutes to discuss just what they see in the image in pairs using the frame, "I see _______." Students could then share out, perform a chalkboard splash, or create a list of items. Then the teacher leads a discussion about what we can learn from the image. What does it tell us. This allows vocabulary practice for the ELs, increases focus for students with ADHD and encourages close examination of images for all. If a teacher has a series of images, a gallery walk might be useful. Student pairs or groups would go around and write what they notice about an image on a chart. As they rotate through the images, they need to read previous notices, locate them in the image and look for more details. Being in groups would allow an EL to have support in knowing the vocabulary used.

Each One Teach One is another structured language activity. It involves pairs of students. Each part of the dyad is given a role, either "teacher" or "student." The "teacher" looks at a visual and using a sentence frame makes a statement. The "student" repeats it. After a few turns the roles are reversed. This one might be more difficult to implement in the general education classroom. Perhaps it could work like this. Given a series of polygon images use the sentence starter to label them. Sentence starter: This is a _______________ because it has ___________ sides.

Language Relay Talk. Students are broken into two groups and form parallel lines. A visual is presented. The teacher models a sentence using a sentence frame then the students try to create another statement about the picture. Creative, thoughtful sentences are encouraged, but simply repeating a previous statement is acceptable. Students in one of the lines rotate to another partner and are asked to share another statement. After three partner exchanges, students are redirected to their seats and are asked to share. If the student is repeating a statement make by someone else, they should give credit with the phrase, "My partner said..." or "[student name] said..."

3-2-1 Go is another active language learning activity. Groups or pairs discuss the answers to the following questions:
  • Name 3 things in a category
  • Discuss 2 ways they are different and 1 way they are the same
  • Decide which is most/least ____
After groups have had a chance to discuss the statements the groups share out. This is a strategy that could be used in a general education class with little work. For example:
  • Name three characters from the story To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Discuss 2 ways the characters are alike and 1 way they are different.
  • Which character is the most honorable? Why?
Answering these questions would take about five minutes. Sharing out could take another five. After the first question, the questions are higher level and can involve citing textual evidence if that is an objective of the lesson. (If students need to cite text they will need longer to complete the activity.)

The last activity listed is Cell Phone Chatter. Student pairs are given A and B roles. A visual is given and the students are asked to talk about the image as long as they can. ELs could be given sentence frames to help with this activity. Students could even be given fake cell phones for the activity. After a given time student pairs are asked to share one interesting statement that was made. I think I would modify this so that A makes the statement and B echoes it back, perhaps adding to it. Then roles are reversed. Here, for example, the first speaker is an EL and the second is more sophisticated:
  • Volcano.
  • The volcano is erupting.
  • The volcano is erupting. Lava flowing.
  • The lava is flowing down the sides of the volcano and spurting out of the top.
  • Smoke in the air.
  • The volcano is burning things and smoke is in the air.
A game of add a word would be similar. Students sit in rows. Each student writes a two word sentence. The paper is passed to the person behind them. The first person passes the paper to the first person in the row. Each person rewrites the sentence with an additional word and the paper is passed again until everyone gets their paper back. Then the rows get together each person reads their final sentence and the group tries to add one more word to each sentence. Share out. For example:
Dog walks.
The dog walks.
The dog walks quickly.
The dog walks quickly away.
The brown dog walks quickly away.


I eat.
I eat hamburgers.
I eat three hamburgers.
I never eat three hamburgers.
I never eat three juicy hamburgers.

This could be done orally in groups that form a circle and each participant takes a turn. It is a great way to talk about modifiers. Students who cannot think of something to add may just repeat the sentence in its existing form.

Some of these ideas are useful in the general classroom. Others would work better in a separate setting. Either way, the key features they share are lots of verbal work, visual stimulations and sentence frames.

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