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Adjust Your Teaching Styles for English Language Learners (ELL) in ESL/Bilingual Classrooms

The Queen’s English Is NOT for Me
Tobey Cho Bassoff

It is a true privilege to have the opportunity to talk to so many teachers of culturally and linguistically diverse students. One challenge that I’ve heard surface from the novice and experienced teacher alike is, “How do I convince my students that they know more about a subject than they think they do?”

Many students recognize that the proverbial “Queen’s English” needed for school work is often different from what they are accustomed to hearing outside of school. In fact, Marcus, one of my students, flat out told me, “Misses that Queen’s English is not for me.” So how do we reach out to the students like Marcus? How do we convince them that academic vocabulary is not so different from what they already know?

Teachers know that new knowledge comes from preexisting knowledge. Educators use the word “schema” to describe when people use what they already know to understand new concepts or ideas. The following lesson shows you how to keep rigor and relevance high while activating and building upon background knowledge.

Lesson: Exploring Literary Themes through Tall Tales
Objective: Students will know how and be able to build academic vocabulary from words they already know.
Grade: 6
Class: Language Arts
Duration: 50 minutes
Materials: Chart paper (white), copies of alpha boxes for students, markers.
Preparation: Create a large class version of the alpha/dot chart for the class to fill in once they finish with the opening. The chart will be posted with the topic “outdoors” recorded on it. Post a list of the target vocabulary from the lesson on the board.

Opening

  1. Students walk into the room and pick up a Dots/Alpha Box Chart. Have students write the word “outdoors” in the space marked “Topic/Concept” at the top of the page.   
  2. Tell students that they need to write words that relate to the outdoors in the boxes. Be sure to tell students that they need to write the words in the boxes where the first letter of their word matches the letter in the box. Students should have five minutes to brainstorm.

Lesson

  1. Explain to students that they are going to read a famous American tall tale called “Paul Bunyan.” Refer to the key academic vocabulary that you’ve posted on the board.
  2. As a whole class, students will share what they put down on their paper and the teacher will record it on the large chart paper.
  3. Next, teachers will associate the student generated words with the posted targeted vocabulary. (Click here for a visual example.)
  4. Students will copy the connections on their personal charts.

Extension

  1. Students can use their chart to write definitions, work in small groups to create sentences using the targeted vocabulary, or complete vocabulary work that is teacher generated.
  2. Students will read the story and have more success at actually comprehending the text. Students will be in a better position to infer and understand literary elements.

Works Referenced

Perez, Della. Wessels, Stephanie. Kavimandan, Shabina. (2008)  Sociocultural Vocabulary Development:  Vocabulary Strategies that Empower CLD Students Cultural and Linguistic Connections. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

Please e-mail me your thoughts, questions, and/or suggestions.

 

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