Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Teaching the ESL Learner

I have achieved access to Educational Impact's online course, Teaching the ESL Learner. I feel like this program is going to present really useful strategies that can be used today in the classroom to teach English Language Learners (ELLs).

At this point they have presented six strategies of supported language:
  1. extra-linguistic cues- things like gestures and visuals
  2. linguistic modifications- repetition, slowing down speech and gestures
  3. interactive lecture with frequent comprehension checks-
  4. active learning strategies- opportunities to try out language with peers. This could be labs, group work, or cooperative learning.
  5. focus on big concepts rather than the details- what will students need to know as adults rather than for the test.
  6. strategies to develop thinking- advance organizers, graphic organizers and connecting what you know with what is being learned.

Many of these have been mentioned in other resources, but I have not seen them addressed as a core groups of strategies. The presenters point out that these do represent good teaching, but where a native English speaker needs only one or two strategies to learn content, ELLs might need 5 or 6.

My biggest concern is with number 5- focus on concepts not details. While I agree that big concepts are the critical information, teachers who are asked to prepare students for tests may be pulled in the opposite direction. Teachers who have differentiated, compacted or accelerated instruction will be familiar with this idea. Identify the big picture, important things that everyone needs to learn. The must knows, good to knows and nice to know information. Provide scaffolds for the struggling learners to access the must knows and deeper or additional work for gifted learners so they can access the nice to knows. Some details will need to be left by the wayside for some students. Teachers often instinctively know this.

So far the course has been well built. Lecture components are intermixed with classroom videos and panel discussion. I look forward to the modules which address each component of supported language.

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