At some time or another, we’ve all probably all had the frustrating experience of trying to converse with someone in a foreign language. We may catch snippets and phrases here and there, generally getting the gist of what’s being said to us. But when it comes time to open our mouths and speak, we’re tongue tied. Our vocabulary (“I don’t know how to say sprint; I’ll just say run instead”), conjugation (“Let’s see … what’s the third-person plural of correr?”), and dialect fail us (“Shoot. I still can’t roll my r’s.).
At this point, a fear begins to grip us. We worry that our conversation partners may judge by our underdeveloped language skills that our intellect is similarly on par with a toddler.
That judgment would be wrong, of course. Just because we’re not yet conversant in a second language, doesn’t mean we can’t grasp difficult concepts.
Teachers face a similar challenge when they have English language learners in their classrooms. While those students’ language skills may not yet be fully developed, they are still very much capable of grasping complex content. And all learning can’t stop while students acquire their language skills—if it does, students’ will find themselves well behind their peers once their language acquisition catches up to their intellect.
In a new article for TeachHub.com, Jane Hill and Cynthia Bjork, authors of training-of-trainer materials that support the book, Classroom Instruction that Works for English Language Learners, identify three simple steps for adapting lessons for English language learners students to ensure they continue learning content while learning English:
Step 1: Know the stages of second-language acquisition. All learners progress through five stages of language acquisition, write Hill and Bjork: pre-production, early production, speech emergence, intermediate fluency, and advanced fluency. Knowing where their students are in this continuum helps teachers to plan their assignments accordingly.
Step. 2: Tier student thinking across the stages of second-language acquisition. Hill and Bjork’s article provides a matrix that overlays the levels of thinking from Bloom’s (new) Taxonomy to the stages of language acquisition. They recommend teachers use this matrix to plan homework and class assignments accordingly.
Step 3. Set expectations. In this stage, teachers combine stage one and two, identifying their students’ level of language acquisition and assignment at-home and in-class practice assignments accordingly.
By knowing where students are on this continuum and scaffolding their learning to the next stage of the continuum, teachers can ensure their students are gaining valuable knowledge while at the same time advancing in their language acquisition.
Read the whole article here.
Bryan Goodwin is McREL’s Vice President of Communications & Marketing.