Curriculum, Elementary, ell, High School, Junior High, school

6 Tools, Strategies, and Tasks for Expanding English Language Learners

Working with expanding English language learners is tons of fun because there’s so much they can still learn, but also so much they’re capable of now that they’ve built up more skills. 

By now, students in your classes will have an idea of routines, they should be fairly well adapted to the school, your room, peers, and so on. They can start working on more challenging and elaborate tasks because they’re better able to follow multi-step directions. This means you and they can start getting creative!

Here are some of my favourite tools, strategies, and tasks to have expanding English language learners do:

CONSTRUCT VISUALS WITH SOME TEXT

CExpanding English language learners are at a point where they can begin to connect words and visuals on their own. They should be able not to create things such as slide shows, infographics, posters, and so on. 

Because they are still learning the language, it’s best to have students continue to show their knowledge and illustrate connections and concepts they understand primarily with the use of visuals. 

Of course, in addition to the visuals they provide, they should be able to include simple sentences which explain the importance of the visuals they are using and which are relevant to the content being taught. You can provide students with sentence frames to support them in writing these sentences, but they should not need to rely too heavily on them, especially the simpler the sentences that they are composing.

COMPOSE PARAGRAPHS WITH VARIOUS DETAILS AND VOCABULARY

At this point, expanding English language learners should be starting to compose paragraphs. They won’t yet be able to create complex pieces of writing, but they should be able to include details of importance and use content vocabulary.

Help kids out by providing them with sentence frames and sentence starters to help organize their thoughts and understand how to present their knowledge in a logical way. With these supports, they should be at a level where they are able to combine thoughts and sentences into a logical paragraph. It is more than likely that they will still struggle with grammatical errors (such as plural and singular, commas, and capitalization), but they should be able to write out what they know in a paragraph you’re able to understand and grade for content.

First focus specifically on either content or grammar. As they begin to improve in that area, start to support them and provide editing support for the other as well.

USE ACADEMIC AND CONTENT VOCABULARY IN SPEECH

As students are able to begin writing simple passages about content and utilizing academic vocabulary, they should be able to begin to use these in their speech as well.

Students should be able to talk with one another, to you, or engage in class discussions using some content and academic vocabulary.

To support them as they begin to do this, discussion starters are a great tool. These are basically the exact same as sentence frames, but are designed to help students in settings such as talking to peers, talking in a group, or contributing to a classroom discussion. 

With discussion starters/sentence frames, students should be able to insert content vocabulary around what they know in order to communicate with others. You’ll be able to assess how well they understand concepts and are able to appropriately use necessary vocabulary.

ORGANIZE AND DELIVER PRESENTATIONS

When English language learners first come to us, having them create and deliver a presentation would be well above their ability level. However, at the expanding level, they should now have enough skills to be able to do so. 

The only exception I can think of is if a student arrived in the country at an expanding level, but is brand new to your school. In this case, they should have the ability to present, but they may not yet be socially comfortable. In such a case, I’d allow them to settle into the school for at least a few weeks before thrusting a presentation assignment upon them.

Students at this level should be able to work either independently, in pairs, or in a small group to plan out how to organize their content, create a presentation, and deliver said presentation to the class. Their English skills at this point are quite strong and they should have also been working on the content of the class. Their presentation may not yet be the most elaborate or outstanding, but it will convey the point and you should be able to assess their content knowledge on it.

COMPLETE COMPLEX SENTENCE FRAMES

Students at the expanding English language development level should now be able to utilize complex sentence frames in their writing. The simple ones they utilized previously are now too low of a level and they should be challenged more.

Using sentence frames with different styles of sentences will help students become more confident with their writing and their ideas. They can begin to experiment and will start to become stronger writers who will eventually start to stray away from sentence frames altogether.

They should also be able to begin putting these complex sentence frames together into more complicated paragraphs, eventually working toward essays, stories, research papers, and other long forms of writing. Help them through this transition. They will still need support with things such as transitions and grammar.

DEFEND OPINIONS

At the expanding language development level, students should be able to decide upon and defend an opinion. This will come into play a lot in English Language Arts and Social Studies classes. Students at this level should be able to understand the content being learned in class and take a stance in writing, conversation, or so on. They should also now be able to cohesively organize their ideas and be able to defend their ideas. This may be something you need to support them with (with use of things such as sentence frames), but the ideas should all be there. They also may need more time to complete their work and defend ideas than English native peers, but it is still a skill they should be able to do and improve upon.

Well, what do you think about these ideas? Is there anything I’m missing? Do you do these in your own classroom? Let me know!

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