An oldie, but goodie blog – Teaching Content and Language Simultaneously

I have received many inquiries from educators in the field about teaching content and language simultaneously. As part of our flashback summer blog series, I defer to a great blog written by my predecessor, Adam Bauchner, on such a topic. I present to you, “Teaching Content and Language Simultaneously through Sheltered Instruction.”

Sheltered Instruction encompasses the various strategies employed by teachers in order to teach content and language simultaneously. ELLs acquire English most effectively when it is taught in the context of content studies, and they learn content most effectively when teachers are careful to attend to their language-learning needs. Sheltered instruction has many components, many of which are quickly recognized as “best practice” for all students: visuals to increase comprehension; group work to maximize participation; formative assessment to guide instruction; highlighting key vocabulary; teaching and practicing metacognitive strategies; scaffolding questions to access different cognitive tasks; integrating the four language arts skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening).

ESOL teachers learn many of these instructional techniques in their certification courses, along with learning about linguistics, culture, language acquisition, and more. However, when a teacher without this foundation has ELLs in class, such as an elementary classroom teacher or a secondary content area teacher, she may feel truly unable to address their needs. Some teachers might worry that they are being evaluated based upon the achievement of kids whom they do not feel equipped to reach. The state is saying that all teachers are accountable for all kids, and RBERN is saying “You can do this. We can help.”

The only research-based model of sheltered instruction is called the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, or SIOP, developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics. Training in SIOP begins with basic information about second language acquisition and the concept of sheltering instruction, then moves on to very practical classroom techniques. SIOP organizes a slew of best practices into eight components:

  1. Lesson Preparation
  2. Building Background
  3. Comprehensible Input
  4. Strategies
  5. Interaction
  6. Practice and Application
  7. Lesson Delivery
  8. Review and Assessment

This organization method makes learning sheltered instruction quite manageable for teachers. Another strength of SIOP is the “Observation Protocol” itself — a rubric teachers can use for self-reflection or for peer feedback among teachers learning and practicing the eight components. Teachers quickly find that the strategies they learn benefit more than just their ELLs, and that the strategies are aligned with many parts of New York’s teaching standards. After much practice and feedback, they find that they can accelerate their ELLs in learning both content and English.

RBERN has many SIOP-related books available from our library, and we regularly conduct multiple-session SIOP workshops. Contact us for more information

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


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