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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Two vital approaches to teaching ELL students

In response to some questions regarding the issue of SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) following the parental involvement article of yesterday, Dr. Isma has decided to make some pertinent remarks. The following article is part of some comments he made yesterday in Jacksonville during a teacher’s meeting at the Shultz Center. He made these remarks while keeping in mind readers’ comments regarding parental involvement in schools, and his comments of yesterday geared specifically toward our immigrant parents trying to keep up with their children’s school obligations as well as trying to deal with the hectic life in America.

It is wholeheartedly true and quintessentially important to adapting the content, adjusting current texts and making available other vital resources to conceive a successful and effective ELL (English Language Learners) classroom. Second language acquisition has never been an easy task for language learners, and ESL or ELL teachers have a strategic role to play in making sure that language proficiency to the highest level is achieved so that “mastery of academic subjects [is demonstrated], and that language is the dominant medium through which these subjects are taught and students’ mastery of them tested.” (Echeverria,  There are two important approaches that a teacher can use to help his/her self-contained ELL students overcome their language deficiency and improve their academic performance. The first one is the content-based approach. According to Cantoni-Harvey, 1987; Crandall, 1993; Mohan, 1986; Short, 1994 quoted in the Making Content Comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model 2e, the “content-based ESL classes, in which all the students are ELL, are taught by language educators whose main goal is English language skill development but whose secondary goal is preparing the students for a regular, English-medium classroom.” (page 6, chapter 1)

In some school districts in north Florida, especially in Duval County where there has been a huge influx of refugees from Southeast Asia and where most schools have been converted into ESOL Centers, the content-based approach has been the preferred approach to serving these new arrivals. An intense effort, mixing literacy with ESOL strategies, is currently under way to make sure that these children, who for the most part were born in refugee camps and who seriously lack the proper educational foundation, are put on the right track for academic success. The content-based approach’s main aim is to foreground students’ English language proficiency while incorporating materials from the subject areas the new students were supposed to have but did not receive because they are newcomers with a lack of a formal educational background.

The second approach I would use is the Sheltered Instruction (SI) approach. It has just been introduced in some schools in the district, but mostly mainstream teachers were trained. The reason being is that as part of the inclusion process, ELL students are fused into mainstream classrooms once a certain proficiency level is achieved. That is why it is recommended that every teacher in the Florida school system must have ESOL endorsement on their certificate.

The SI approach “integrates language and content and infuses socio-cultural awareness, [and] it is an excellent place to scaffold instruction to students learning English.”( Making Content Comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model 2e, page 8, chapter 1) Even though in other schools around the district the SI model has been provided solely to self-contained ELL classes, in some schools, however, only classes considered to be heterogeneous, mixing native and non-native English speakers, get to use it.

However, depending on the proficiency level, there are a variety of things teachers can do to help students demonstrate their progress. According to TSOL 2000 quoted in Making Content Comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model 2e, teachers may plan pictorial, hands-on, or performance-based assessments, portfolios, and more common measures such as paper and pencil tests and quizzes to check student comprehension and language growth. In all, content-based ESL and the SI approach are, according to Echeverria, Vogt, Short, 2004, are the most preferred methods for ELL students, “as reflected in the national ESL standards developed by TSOL.” (Page 7.)

Reference

Echeverria, Vogt, Short (2004). Making Content Comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP Model 2e. Prentice Hall.

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