As I was working with the Tech4Learning team for the past couple of weeks on the English Language Acquisition Resource Kit, I got to spend a lot of time reading, and rereading, up on strategies to support ELL students both core content learning and English language skills.
While it often seems like we keep adding more and more things to our list of expectations for teachers, strategies for supporting ELL's support students of all abilities.
Visual Supports and Nonverbal Response
Using Pixie's visual tools (paint tools and stickers library) with ELL students gives them the opportunity to provide a nonverbal responses to indicate comprehension. This is especially important when learners are at the early beginner or preproduction stage.
But diagrams and pictorial responses to show comprehension also allow our visual learners to show what they know in a way that may work best for them, since they often struggle with text-based or verbal responses. Robert Marzano's team also indicates that nonlinguistic representations (pg 82) of knowledge can help to cement understanding and improve student achievement.
Speaking and Listening Supports
ELL students have much stronger receptive than productive language skills. Using Pixie's Talking interface to listen to instructions or read written text aloud can help them work independently as well as listen for mistakes in their writing. Recording their voice to add to projects also provides practice in a safe and individual environment, since they can record, listen, practice, and rerecord.
These same features also support struggling readers as well as students with speech and language challenges. And when students capture themselves reading their writing and stories, you end up with a wonderful assessment of reading fluency, no matter what their level.
ELL students do not learn enough vocabulary merely by listening or naturally encountering words in the world around them; they need specific vocabulary instruction, especially in the areas of academic language. Again, all students benefit from specific vocabulary instruction since increasing a learner’s vocabulary leads to improved reading comprehension, benefitting performance in all subject areas.
Create vs. Consume
So much of the time, ELLs are tasked with computer programs that require watching and rote response. But to truly grasp a second language, ELL students must spend a significant amount of their time producing authentic language.
But producing media and information, rather than simply consuming it is the hallmark of a 21st century classroom! One of the tenets of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is that students show learning through multiple means of action and expression. Now there are many more ways of doing this, than producing multimedia, but creating with powerful technology tools provides an opportunity for authentic learning in your classroom.