Manao ahoana! Inona voa voa? Mahay teny anglisy ve ianao?

ConfusedHow many of our readers understood this Malagasy greeting written in the native language of Madagascar?  How many of you could understand the language inquiry?  (Hello! How are you?  Do you speak English?)  While some of our readers may have been able to comprehend this language, how might a teacher make unfamiliar material more accessible to her students?  How we present the material is essential, which brings us to the point of this post.

SIOP.  SIOP (Sheltered Instructional Observational Protocol) is a research-based proven method of instructional delivery aimed to increase how ELL students gain access to, engage with, and demonstrate their understanding of content.  The SIOP methodology is comprised of eight components:  Lesson Preparations, Building Background, Comprehensible Input, Strategies, Interaction, Practice/Application, Lesson Delivery, and Review and Assessment and 30 features found in the eight components.

Two previous posts have looked at the first two components, Lesson Preparation and Building Background. This blog illuminates the third SIOP component:  Comprehensible Input.

Understanding the important role of Comprehensible Input will lead us to practical implementation strategies that will improve learner outcomes.   And after all, our mutual goal is to support the learning of our ELL students.

Comprehensible Input can be defined by looking at the teacher speech appropriate for students’ proficiency level, a clear explanation of academic tasks, and the use of a variety of techniques to make content concepts clear.

Comprehensible Input

  • Speech appropriate for students’ proficiency level (e.g. slower rate, enunciation, and simple structure for beginners)
  • Clear explanation of academic tasks
  • A variety of techniques used to make content concepts clear (e.g. modeling, visuals, hands-on activities, demonstrations, gestures, body language)

Why is Comprehensible Input important?  Aren’t I already doing this?  This is the comprehensible part.  While Comprehensible Input seems rudimentary, it is essential for ELLs.  If ELLs can’t understand the teacher because the teacher is speaking too quickly, or they don’t understand the task because the directions are too complex, or the delivery techniques are not ELL friendly, then they cannot demonstrate their understanding of the content.

What teacher speech and behaviors and instructional strategies will help ELLs learn? 

Here is a fun activity.  First, go through the following two lists (Teacher Speech and Behavior and Instructional Strategies.  We suggest you print out a copy of the two lists so you can do this activity and have the lists on hand.)  Keep track of the ones you already do.  Then reread the list and create a list of the ones you would like to try to implement in your classroom instruction.

Teacher Speech and Behavior

  • Use expression and body language. (Gestures, facial expressions, and body language can provide context for the message.)
  • Speak slowly and clearly. (Make it natural without overdoing it.)
  • Use more pauses between phrases. (This allows students the time to process what you have said.)
  • Use shorter sentences with simpler syntax.
  • Stress high frequency vocabulary.
  • Repeat and review vocabulary.  (As much as possible, use consistent vocabulary during instruction.  To expand vocabulary, repeat a concept, using different words and then the same words, so the students hear it in different contexts.)
  • Watch carefully for comprehension and be ready to repeat or restate to clarify meaning whenever necessary.  (Use whatever means necessary to achieve comprehension – visuals, gestures, models, translation.)
  • Be friendly and enthusiastic.
  • Maintain a warm and supportive affect. (This lowers student anxiety and encourages student participation.)
  • Open up discussion to different perspectives of a topic.

Instructional Strategies

  • Use visuals.
  • Use graphic organizers. (These help students represent information and identify relationships.)
  • Explain processes and tasks clearly and model activities for students. (Explain processes and task clearly and model activities for students. Students need explicit guidance to make the transition to academic tasks.)
  • Communicate about the subject area in oral, written, physical, or pictorial form.
  • Tap the students as resources for information about the topic.
  • Provide hands-on and performance based activities.
  • Promote critical thinking and study skill development.
  • Incorporate cooperative learning activities. (Promote student interaction and seek peer tutors among classmates.)

How did you do?  What will you do differently?

What does this all mean?

We all strive to create an environment conducive for student learning.  As educators, if we focus just a bit on how the how we speak in the classroom, how we explain our instructions, and being more mindful about which tools support ELL students learning of the materials, our students WILL comprehend more.  A little bit goes a long way.

Looking for more information?  Check out these links:

REBERN Library where you can check out virtual books or have one delivered from our onsite library.

REBERN also occasionally offers a three day SIOP training as well as other informative workshops.

For a history on SIOP, consider looking at the Center for Applied Linguistics/SIOP

Misaotra Betsika! (Thank you!)  Lisa Pye

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