With the implementation of higher standards
on all of the grade levels, we face the challenges of
raising the instructional levels in our subject area classes.
is an ever-increasing amount of curricula to “cover” and
a limited amount of time to cover it. There are also many
students in our classes who have instructional support
through inclusion models; children who have special needs
and have Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s);
and children who are English Language Learners. Our challenge
then, is to address the diversity in learning needs and
styles while also maintaining the integrity of the content
so our students will attain high scores on standardized
General Education subject area teachers
need to pay close attention to the functional use of language
in their classroom discussions. There are many phrases
and expressions that subject area teachers need to make
explicit and integrate into the language of content instruction
in subject area classes. Following a specific format or
outline that shows clear organization of the information
assists students in bringing meaning to each content area
class. Teachers can use simplified words together with
specific academic language to create content that enriches
the academic language acquisition of students with special
In a recent ASCD article, “Successful
strategies for English Language Learners,” by Tracy
Gray and Steve Fleischman, the authors review effective
strategies for linguistically and culturally diverse students.
They note that sound principles and practices of classroom
organization and management work - with smaller instructional
groups – for all students. Research supports the
use of scaffolding strategies to help develop study skills,
organize thoughts, and follow classroom procedures. In
providing meaning for students with specific needs, scaffolding
uses contextual supports – simplified language, teacher
modeling, visual and graphic aids, cooperative and authentic
(hands-on) learning. When content area teachers consistently
use these supports while delivering instruction, achievement
levels increase. The following scaffolding approaches are
Keep the language simple.
Speak simply and clearly. Use short, complete sentences and avoid slang,
idioms and figures of speech. (Except when using specific references
Use actions and illustrations
to reinforce oral statements. Appropriate facial
expressions help to convey meaning. Pointing to the board
while asking, “Please come up to complete the math problem,”
is more effective than repeating commands or directions. Loud
repetition does not increase understanding.
Ask for completion, not generation.
Ask students to choose answers from a list or to complete a partially
completed outline or paragraph. Encourage students to use language
as much as possible to gain confidence.
Model correct usage and judiciously
Use corrections to provide positive reinforcement. Over-correction of
language usage can lead to students ignoring the critical content.
Use visual aids.
Present classroom content and information in engaging ways by using graphic
organizers, tables, charts and outlines. Encourage the use of these
formats for classwork and homework projects.
Effective educators understand that
student achievement is greater than standardized test achievement.
Student social skills, self worth, behavior, responsibility,
and involvement in school are components of achievement
that cannot be ignored in the race for higher test scores.
Students are the center of student achievement, not test
scores. We need to provide the groundwork for learning
skills that are scaffolded and predictable for our students.
The content area teacher has the responsibility for building
knowledge of the Critical Content and for teaching skills
that lead students to be able to access the Critical Content.
As we race to the day of the test we need to have led students
to the skills that lead to successful learning experiences.
I hope you’ve found these basics
helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t
hesitate to e-mail
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