PAVE the way to success with your English Language Learners…

As I was writing the Un-Scary Differentiation series, I was reminded of this great piece on supporting English Language Learners.  It was previously published by our novice teacher development program, Teaching Excellence, and has been used by many teachers on our campus.  

Preteach parts of your unit/lesson before diving into the content

  • Vocabulary will be a major stumbling block for many of our students, so make sure they are comfortable with key terms before reading or working with the terms in context.  Word walls and explicit vocabulary instruction are a must for your ELL’s.
  • Preview any content reading you’re doing.  If you want the kids to read a chapter of the textbook for homework, go through that chapter in class together to make sure they’re okay with all the vocabulary, charts, graphs, etc so they don’t get overwhelmed by it.  SQ3R is a great strategy for this.  Also, help keep their reading focused by giving them a reading guide to work through as they read.
  • Activate prior knowledge before introducing new content.  This could be an extensive KWL chart or simply a 5-minute quick-write about what they know about a topic; anything that gets that prior knowledge in the front of their minds so they can connect to the new information.

Act it out!

  • As you talk through the directions for a lesson or the procedures for a lab, literally act out the steps as if you’re actually pouring the solution, getting the supplies, searching the map, setting the microscope, etc.
  • Have the kids act out major concepts or give them hand signals to use for big ideas.  They can be the electrons in the atom or the lines of longitude or give a salute when an important leader is discussed.

Visuals & Vocabulary

  • Pictures and models are a huge help to kids when they’re being introduced to a new idea.  They also bring on a flood of background knowledge (or show you the lack thereof).
  • Graphic organizers are essential for helping ELL’s organize the important content and how all the details relate to each other.  Guided in-class notes are a great visual organizer as well.
  • VOCABULARY!  It’s so important, it should be the first and last thing you think about it before starting a unit!

Emphasize Effort over right or wrong answers

Things to keep in mind:

  • It takes 7 years to achieve fluent, academic English.  Given this truth, many of your ELL’s may be fluent English speakers, but still struggle significantly in reading, vocabulary, and writing.
  • If students use incorrect English with you, model proper English in your response instead of correcting them overtly.
  • It takes 24 practice tasks to achieve 80% mastery.  That’s a lot of practice, so if they are also struggling with the vocabulary and language, they need plenty of scaffolding and support.
  • When assigning homework, stick with practice tasks they can complete without help to build confidence and competence while minimizing frustration.
  • Instruction that supports ELL’s is good instruction for ALL students, so don’t be shy, pack it into your lessons!

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