Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TESOL Teaching Tip#38 - Are There Gaps in Your Students’ Learning?

As a teacher at an International School, many of my students are English Language Learners. Even my native English speakers are living in a non-English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here is this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tiip #38 - Expect gaps in your students' learning. ESL or ELL students often have gaps in their learning from focusing on figuring out the English rather than the content. This blog post at Raki's Rad Resources will give you some strategies to help fill in those gaps for your students.

ELL Teaching Tip #38: Expect Gaps

While I’m reading a story to my class, I am aware that half of my class is only understanding bits and pieces of the story.  My English Language Learners may understand the main idea of the story (especially if I have been modeling a think aloud with my read aloud), but they will miss at least some of the details, and much of the vocabulary.  This is not because they are not paying attention.  In fact, many of them pay closer attention than my native English speakers, listening like they are straining to hear me.  However, because they do not understand every word I speak when I speak slowly, understanding every word I speak when I am speaking quickly, reading a book to model fluent reading – they miss even more words.  This is also true when I am teaching lessons, or even showing educational videos.

Most students in our classes are learning English at the same time they are learning all of their other subjects.  They are doing twice the learning as the other students around them, and some of what they are supposed to be learning falls by the wayside.  This causes gaps in their learning, and can cause issues for students if they are not careful.  Many students develop coping mechanisms to help them fill in these gaps, but there are ways we can help to fill in and prevent gaps.  Here are some strategies to use with your students:

- Repeat read alouds.  Read the same book multiple times, each time looking for a different connection or purpose, but still reading the same book over and over, allowing students additional time to absorb the information.

- Make read alouds and other “shared information” available to students.  I have a “warm read” Use a bucket in my classroom.  After we read a book as a class, the book goes into the warm read bucket and stays there all year to be re-read during independent reading time.  This opportunity to re-read helps students build vocabulary and and understanding of the story. 

- Integrate, Integrate, Integrate – Not only is integration more time efficient, but it also allows students additional views of familiar information.  For example, if you are studying rocks in science, read a rock read aloud in literacy, then place that read aloud in the warm bucket and let kids re-read it.  Then, have students write about the rock book that they read, re-visiting the same concepts again, while covering another subject.

- Use graphic organizers and sentence frames to help students get the most important facts from lessons and educational videos.

Back to School Vocabulary Packet - Free
- Take time to direct teach vocabulary.  More English vocabulary means more understanding and less gaps forming.  For ideas on how to increase vocabulary – check out my vocabulary packets at TPT.

- Use at least one small group session a week as a “understanding check and review” time.  Pull your English Language Learners, or those with gaps, and check in that they have understood those key concepts you need them to understand.  You can also use this time to check and see if they have gaps in their background knowledge, before moving into a new topic.  If you know where their gaps are, and address the gaps, then the gaps will not cause as many learning issues for your students.

Even with all strategies in places, there will still be gaps, but if we as teachers work to fill and prevent gaps, our students will grow stronger each day, learning more and more English, preventing future gaps.

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Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!