An ELL blog

The sheltered instruction method is a communicative approach to teaching. I like the sheltered instruction method because it aligns well with Stephen Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis which postulates, “the amount of input reaching the CLD student is influenced by a number of affective variables, including anxiety, self confidence, and motivation” (Herrera & Murry, 2005, p.18). Sheltered instruction allows students more opportunities to enjoy the learning process during this confusing period. CLD students are able to learn at high levels while acquiring English; sheltered instruction, “explicitly emphasizes language and content objectives” (Herrera & Murry, 2005, p. 251). I like the focus on core content curriculum combined with WIDA and TESOL standards.

The sheltered instruction method aligns well with the four interrelated dimensions of Thomas and Collier’s prism model:  linguistic, academic, cognitive, and sociocultural (Herrera & Murry, 2005, p.12). The sociocultural dimension is at the heart of the CLD student experience. Sheltered instruction, as the name implies, protects students while they“ build the sociocultural, academic, cognitive, and linguistic knowledge, capacities, and skills their grade level peers may already take for granted in classroom learning” (Herrera & Murry, 2005, p. 251).

It is my responsibility as an ELL teacher to protect my students during their time of English language learning. I must work hard to level the playing field for them and allow them to realize their full potential. I must provide ample opportunities for students to “build the sociocultural, academic, cognitive, and linguistic knowledge, capacities, and skills their grade level peers may already take for granted in classroom learning” (Herrera & Murry, 2005, p. 251).

According to Herrera and Murry (2005), SIOP focuses on well developed lessons which include:

language and content objectives, supplementary materials, connections between content and the prior knowledge, and experiences of students, vocabulary development, appropriate speech, learning strategies, interaction with teachers and other students, activities that require students to apply knowledge of content and language, and a cycle of review, feedback, and assessment. (p. 262)

With SIOP, instruction is much more effective because the ELL teacher is in a position to provide strong formative assessments through observation, descriptive feedback, discussion, questioning and redirection. Hands on activities are a big part of sheltered instruction. Hands on activities allow CLD students plenty of opportunities to practice their skills. I prefer hands on activities that allow students to communicate the lesson information, ideas and concepts in English. Hands on activities should include strong visuals and graphic representations of concepts.

Cooperative learning is a common theme of sheltered instruction. Social interaction is a major aspect of second language acquisition, and cooperative learning provides content based opportunities for social interaction. Heterogeneous and homogeneous groups expose students to a variety of different language proficiencies and provide additional support during the learning process. Cooperative learning provides rich contexts for English practice. Hands on activities and cooperative learning are much more effective when the teacher is there to provide strong formative assessments.

Linking prior knowledge to new information and building background is crucial for many reasons. Prior knowledge impacts readiness and students’ abilities to comprehend lesson material. The more familiar students are with material, the greater the language and academic comprehension. The SIOP model has three indicators for teachers to consider when building background, “students’ life experiences, students’ prior learning experiences, and key vocabulary “(Herrera & Murry, 2005, p.274).

Guarded vocabulary is another common theme of sheltered instruction and one way students connect new material to their experience and first language. Guarded vocabulary should provide comprehensible input. I believe in providing students with simplified and modified texts with plenty of visuals and graphic representations of key concepts. ELL students are more able to grasp the lesson objectives, ideas and information from simplified texts.

Visuals help students see the concepts more clearly, and help them make connections between their first language and English; this makes the instruction more comprehensible. Visuals make concepts more meaningful and help students organize their thoughts. Traditional vocabulary lists where students look up words in the dictionary should be avoided and replaced with more meaningful development techniques. The more often students encounter words in meaningful contexts, the more they acquire new vocabulary. In sheltered instruction teachers should paraphrase new vocabulary and concepts in multiple ways, with different and familiar language. Teachers should also slow their rate of speech, clearly enunciate words, and pause more between phrases. Emphasizing cognates is a good technique for teachers to use when teaching vocabulary. Concept definition maps and cloze sentences are good tools teachers can use to help students acquire vocabulary.

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