Adapt and Deliver - Ten High Yield Strategies for ELLs

You have a new ELL student in your classroom ...NOW WHAT!!!!!

These ten strategies are simple, easy to use and best of all good for all students.

VISUALS: Vision TRUMPs all senses. According to Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School 

Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources. We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words. Information presented orally is remembered 10% after exposure but 65% if a picture is added. Therefore, it is recommended to link visuals with verbal information. 

PICs4 Learning is a curated image library that is safe and free for education.

Sketchnoting is a form of note-taking that involves bringing more visuals into the process compared to typical note-taking.

WAIT TIME: Wait time is essential for students who are processing information and vocabulary in two languages, but it is beneficial for ALL students. Allowing students “think time” levels the playing field for students who are learning English, students with auditory processing needs, as well as a wide variety of other students for whom a few extra seconds can mean the difference between “I don’t know” and a complex response. Slow down speech to about 85% speed (go too fast and it is not comprehensible/too slow and it becomes disjointed ). Simplify the sentence and vocabulary structure.  

USE OF L1: ELLs’ native language is an important cognitive and academic tool for learning English. Allow students to use their L1 to explain, ask questions and write responses. Encourage students to continue building their literacy skills in their L1 as research shows learning to read in their L1 promotes reading achievement in L2 as “transfer” occurs. 

PRE TEACH VOCABULARY: ELLs learn more vocabulary when it is embedded in meaningful contexts and are provided frequent opportunities for repetition and use. Effective vocabulary instruction includes multiple exposures to target words over several days and across reading, writing, and speaking opportunities. English learners benefit most from rich, intensive vocabulary instruction that emphasizes "student-friendly" definitions, engages students in the meaningful use of word meanings across subjects and encourages regular review. Repetition strengthens connections in the brain!

Consider using the Collins dictionary  with ELLs because it provides full sentences with contextual clues instead of short, complexly-worded phrases like most traditional dictionaries.

Evidence-based research suggests the following strategies to develop students’ vocabulary:

  1. Read-alouds where the teacher explains and discusses the vocabulary.
  2. Reading and writing activities that encourage the use of new words.
  3. Teacher modeling of new and high-utility vocabulary usage 
  4. Using target words in sentences that construct a narrative 
  5. Multiple exposures to target words within a variety of contexts 

ACTIVATING PRIOR KNOWLEDGE/ BUILDING BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE: These can be viewed as a form of “internal scaffolding”. It is crucial to activate students pre-existing knowledge so they can relate new information to what they already know. Using The Fayer Model is one strategy. Answer Garden, Padlet, and Global Trek are three ways to build background knowledge using technology. 

PROVIDE COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT:  ELLs must have access to comprehensible input that is slightly beyond their current level of competence and be provided opportunities to use language for meaningful purposes. Language input should be at a level that is challenging but comprehensible for the ELL student. Make language understandable by: Slowing down the rate of speech, using gestures, visuals, and body language, providing a model of the task/assignment, provide repeated exposure to words, concepts, skills, and models.

ALLOW FOR ACADEMIC CONVERSATIONS: Exposure and interaction are not enough for ELLs to learn academic language. They need explicit opportunities to practice using a new language to negotiate meaning in interactive settings. Use strategies such as Turn and Talk, Think Pair Share, and Talk and Write to get students talking.                                                             

Pecha Kucha.  is a worldwide visual storytelling phenomenon. Students create 20 images and have 20 seconds to explain each one.   

PROVIDE ROUTINES:  Classroom and Instructional routines help teachers scaffold instruction, minimize instructional time and teacher talk, maximize student participation, and overall make learning a new skill easier.

LEARN ABOUT YOUR STUDENTS BACKGROUNDS: Learn about your student’s background experiences and their previous academic learning. Teachers are then in a better position to identify the instructional supports that students need to understand the content and complete academic tasks (Cummings & Early, 2015). 

CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING:  Regularly check that students are understanding the lesson by having all students respond with “thumbs up or down” or writing their responses on a sticky note or individual whiteboard, and don’t simply ask, “Are there any questions?


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