Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip #28 - Give Them Context

My class this year consisted of 20 students, of which only 1 spoke English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 spoke at least one, if not two other languages in their homes, and go to school in English, although they don’t live in an English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #28 - Give students context clues by explaining what you will be learning. ESL and ELL students need to know what the objective of the lesson will be. Stop by my blog - Raki's Rad Resources - to find out how to do this for your students.

ELL Teaching Tip #28: Let Kinds Know What You Want Them to Know
A few years ago, I attended a three day training on the SIOP method of instruction for English Language Learners.  One of the main things I remember taking away from the training was the need to write and post objectives.  At the time, I didn’t quite understand why this one thing was so important.  But, then as I began using the objectives, I came to understand that their purpose was to give my Content and Learning Objective Examples - Strategy for English Language Learnersstudents context.

Picture yourself as a student who doesn’t know the language and you walk into these two classrooms – which one will help you know what’s going on better?

Classroom A:  Good morning class, Does everyone remember the parts of a plant?  Let’s label this diagram of a plant and then we’ll go outside and plant these real plants I brought in.  I really think you’ll love these plants, I bought them at the nursery just last night.  It’s great for us to look at real life flowers and not just plants in pictures.

Classroom B:  Good morning class, Let’s read today’s objectives.  As you can see, today we are going to review the parts of a plant.  By the end of the lesson, I need you to know the four parts of the plant: root, stem, leaves and flower.  We will all label these parts of the plant on real plants and pictures of a plant.  Here are the four labels we will be working on again: root, stem, leaves and flower.  These are the four parts any plant has.

Content and Learning Objective Examples - Strategy for English Language Learners

When a language learner walks into Classroom A, they will look around for what everyone else is doing and sort of figure out what is expected, but often they will miss the main points you want them to learn.  However, in Classroom B, language learners will have had multiple cues as to what they are expected to focus on.  In addition, in Classroom B, these objectives will be posted on the wall or board, giving students additional cues.  These cues provide students with context to help them understand the learning situation, and know what is expected of them.  This type of learning situation sets language learners up for success.

So, all those learning objectives and essential questions that we hear administrators ask us about can be more than just busy work for us.  However, they are most impactful to our students, especially our language learners if we also refer to them during every lesson (beginning and end).  By doing this, we give our language learners more context clues, and make their learning experiences more understandable to them.

Another way to make this impactful to your students, is to let them read the objectives to you before you discuss them as a class.  This, of course, works better for students who are reading to a decent degree.  :)

Do you post objectives in your classroom? 
Do you discuss those objectives with your students?

Successful Strategies for English Language LearnersDo you enjoy the weekly TESOL Teaching Tips? Would you like to view an hour long presentation on this topic? I recently presented on Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners at the Everything’s Intermediate Expo. Now you can grab the presentation for just $3.95 from Teacher’s Notebook.


Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!
Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources