Who does the talking?

The EAL learner has to speak. Speaking allows students to practice the articulation of words, sentences and extended explanations and arguments. No one learns these by silently listening.

Recently I had to work with an enthusiastic young lady who just couldn’t seem to get her handle on spelling. Initially it didn’t make sense, since she was so eager to speak and learn. When I pulled her aside, however, I discovered that she could not pronounce any of the new vocabulary correctly – in fact, she had developed the habit of skimming past words to hide the fact that she couldn’t pronounce them. How could she possibly spell words if she couldn’t articulate them!  Unfortunately, in her earlier learning, there wasn’t a focus on actually pronouncing her words aloud which had led to her developing bad habits to hide the fact.

When I worked with newly arrived immigrants who had just a few months of exposure to English a few years ago, I kept a basic principle in mind – I would only talk for no more than ten minutes before getting the students involved in the talking. My classes were never quiet. Students were constantly working in groups, talking about their learning in one way or another.

The classroom dominated by the teacher speaking will not allow the EAL learner to speak.  So what can the teacher, who feels the need to impart all that knowledge, do to build a classroom where students speak to learn?

With my early learners, the recognition of some of the hurdles they faced in learning helped guide my principles. Firstly, these students were teenagers who often already brought knowledge into the classroom – they just did not have the language to articulate their thoughts. The key, on my part, was to provide them with the language they needed to access and articulate their learning.

To manoeuver across this hurdle, I would usually introduce vocabulary and structures as information was imparted, then get students to discuss or work with the information in segments which would allow them to practice using the new language they had been introduced to.  Recently, when teaching the causes of World War 1 to my history class of grade 9 EAL learners, I found that having given them a brief overview of the causes while putting up the key words up on the board as I used them enabled the students to then use the appropriate vocabulary themselves when they were called upon to use the language in a group activity soon after.

These words were revisited often and whenever possible in the weeks that followed, and it was quite clear every one of the students were very comfortable articulating their thoughts by the end of the term. This ties in to the second guiding principle when working with EAL learners. They need constant reinforcement of their learning – especially vocabulary – otherwise they will revert to using the easiest words that are not really suitable for the context.

One way to revisit these words and ideas is to place them up on the word wall or as posters. This way, they can be easily referred to. Often, to spice up the learning with some kinesthetics I’d get students to move up and choose the most appropriate word from the word wall. That gets the whole class involved, and prolonging the selection reinforces the learning for students as they engage with the words.




The Ladder of Inference

The ladder of inference is an excellent tool for the development of students’ analysis of issues and texts. It gets students to differentiate between facts and opinions, ensures they can recognise perspectives and perceptions and then judge their inferences critically.

The tool is described in this MindShift blog , but I found the videos provided on the i-think site really useful in understanding the whole process.  For an idea of how the ladder of inference can be introduced to students, have a look at Beth Grosso  as she shares her  introduction to the ladder of inference . The students in the video are already evidently aware of the practice, but it will provide ideas on how to integrate the practice of using this structure in the class.

To enable English Language Learners to benefit from this tool, ensure they are given the language to express themselves. The young grade 4 learners featured in Grosso’s class are relatively articulate but are clearly making a conscious effort to use their specialist vocabulary to express themselves. It will help to have words such as “perception” and “internalise” up on the word wall to assist students as they express their thoughts.

I love her use of the fish hiding behind the seaweed to illustrate the point that some facts are there, but not seen clearly as we make our observations. This visualisation of the way we view facts will make it easier for students to understand the concept.

I can’t wait to try out this tool in the classroom.

A Taxonomy Tree: A Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Graphic

A Taxonomy Tree: A Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Graphic by TeachThought Staff

I just love this layout of the good ol’ classic. Its inspired me to keep it on hand again as I plan for the terms Intensive Language unit. Check out the action verbs and weave them into student activities.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: teachthought.com


See on Scoop.itOnline resources for innovative classrooms

4 Reasons to Start Class With a Poem Each Day

This article says it all. I have introduced poems into my early ESL classes and it has gone down well with the students. Last term, I found two poems that I felt were accessible to students that fit in with the science theme, earth sciences, that I was covering at the time. The poems on Autumn and Spring were short and easily understood given that we had been exploring the vocabulary of those topics. One poem was very accessible and suitable for the language level of the whole class. I projected that poem on the screen and after reading the poem aloud, I got them to locate information eg. words linked to what people do during the season, what we can see etc. It was a great review of learnt concepts and introduction to new ones. With the second poem, I decided that it may be too difficult for some of my struggling students, so I introduced it in small groups. I got a small group each to rotate activities, and each group came to me to listen to and talk about the poem. This intimate exploration of the poem worked well as students felt comfortable exploring their interpretation of the poem.

Make a daily habit of starting every ELA class with a poem — they’re short, intense, connect to other reading, and inspire student writing.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.edutopia.org

See on Scoop.itThe reading skill

How I Use ‘Check For Understanding’ Questions In My Teaching –

How I Use ‘Check For Understanding’ Questions In My Teaching by Dan Henderson, Author of That’s Special: A Survival Guide To Teaching As adults we often take for granted our wide range of vocabulary and the comprehension that comes with applying knowledge while writing. Too often in my younger years […]

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.teachthought.com

A rather honest and refreshing read. The perils of not checking for understanding are presented through this sharing of a harrowing classroom experience.  We should never make assumptions about what our students take away from their learning experiences. Rather, we should find ways to pre-empt any misconceptions, and clarify issues after the lesson.

See on Scoop.itThe teaching professional

High School Teachers Tune In Students With Podcasts

Podcast assignments can show teens another way to tell stories.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.usnews.com

This news article explores the use of podcasts in high school classrooms. There are suggestions on how to do this and some links that I will explore. This will be a valuable tool for esl learners but I’ll have to explore further into the prior knowledge and skills that these students will require before to enable them to access the value of the tool.

See on Scoop.itOnline resources for innovative classrooms