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Making Content Accessible

All teachers who have Emerging Bilinguals (a.k.a ESL students) in their classrooms are immersion teachers.  That is, their students are immersed in English when that is not one of the languages the students know.

Often I am asked, “How do I change my instruction to make the content accessible to my emerging bilinguals?”  Below I have begun a list of ideas (most are not mine

Instructional Practices to Make Content Accessible

  • Use a variety of techniques responding to different learning styles and language proficiency levels.
  • Build and maintain positive interactions between teachers and students and among students.
  • Implement a reciprocal interaction model of teaching – genuine dialog.

Cooperative learning or group work situations, including…

  • Students work interdependently on tasks with common objectives.
  • Individual accountability, social equity in groups and classroom- everyone can do something.  (Have you seen the WIDA Can-Do descriptors?)
  • Extensive interactions among students to develop bilingualism.

Language input that…

  • Uses sheltering strategies to promote comprehension (see below)
  • Uses visual aids and modeling instruction, allowing students to negotiate meaning
  • Is interesting, relevant, of sufficient quantity
  • Is challenging to promote high levels of language proficiency and critical thinking
  • Language objectives are integrated into curriculum, including:
    • Structured tasks and unstructured opportunities for students to use language
    • Language policy to encourage students to use instructional language
    • Monolingual lesson delivery by the teacher
    • Students’ use of their L1 as needed to make meaning
    • Needs of all students are balanced
    • Students are integrated for the majority of the instruction

In the early stages of second language acquisition, input is made more comprehensible though the use of:

  • slower, more expanded, simplified, and repetitive speech oriented to the “here and now” (Krashen, 1981; Long, 1980),
  • highly contextualized language and gestures (Long, 1980; Saville-Troike, 1987),
  • comprehension and confirmation checks (Long, 1980), and,
  • communication structured to provide scaffolding for the negotiation of meaning by L2 students by constraining possible interpretations of sequence, role, and intent (SavilleTroike, 1987).

Sheltered techniques include:

  • the use of visual aids such as pictures, charts, graphs, and semantic mapping,
  • modeling of instruction, allowing students to negotiate meaning and make connections between course content and prior knowledge,
  • allowing students to act as mediators and facilitators,
  • the use of alternative assessments to check comprehension,
  • portfolios,
  • use of comprehensible input, scaffolding, and supplemental materials, and
  • a wide range of presentation strategies.

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