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Adapt ELL Lessons in 3 Simple Steps

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Adapt ELL Lessons in 3 Simple StepsWith the increasing numbers of English language learners (ELLs) in regular education classrooms, it is important to balance practicing a new skill or new knowledge with differentiated assignments to fit ELL students’ readiness.

 

When students range in their stages of second language acquisition, their practice and classroom assignments can and should look different.

 

Differentiating lessons doesn’t have to be a hassle. Here are 3 simple steps to adapt lessons for your ELL students!

 

 Step 1: Know the Stages of Second-Language Acquisition

It is essential that we have a common understanding of the stages of language learning.

 

Most of us have been around children who were learning to talk and remember how the process began with one-word utterances, followed by two-word phrases, full sentences, and eventually, complex grammar. Similarly, students learning a second language move through five predictable stages: Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence, Intermediate Fluency, and Advanced Fluency.

 

Think about your ELLs and which stage they represent, and then record their names in this chart.

 

Stage

Characteristics

Preproduction

The student:

• Has minimal comprehension

• Does not verbalize

• Nods “yes” and “no”

• Draws and points

 

Early Production

 

The student:

• Has limited comprehension

• Produces one- or two-word responses

• Participates using key words and familiar phrases

• Uses present-tense verbs

 

Speech Emergence

 

The student:

• Has good comprehension

• Can produce simple sentences

• Makes grammar and pronunciation errors

• Frequently misunderstands jokes

 

Intermediate Fluency

 

The student:

• Has excellent comprehension

• Makes few grammatical errors

 

Advanced Fluency

 

 

The student has a near-native level of speech.

     Source: Adapted from Krashen and Terrell (1983).

 

 

Step 2: Tier Student Thinking Across the Stages of Second-Language Acquisition

We recommend teachers use a matrix to “tier” homework and even classroom assignments, as demonstrated in Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners Participant Workbook and the Facilitator Guide.

 

Now that you know your students’ stage of language development, you can align that information with a taxonomy of learning such as Bloom’s Taxonomy and the levels of thinking noted in this chart, which you can use for Step 2.

 

 

Levels of Thinking & Language Functions

The level of thinking and the academic language required for any undertaking move from

the concrete “recall”

level to the more

complex abstract” level.

 

 

Language moves from simple to complex in grammatical tenses, forms, vocabulary, etc.

 

 

 Preproduction:

 

 

Nonverbal

response

 

Early Production:

 

One-word response

 

Speech Emergence:

 

Phrases or short sentences

 

Intermediate Fluency:

 

Longer and more complex sentences

 

 

Advanced Fluency:

 

 

Near native-like

CREATE

Assemble, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, write

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVALUATE

Appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, value, evaluate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANALYZE

Appraise, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APPLY

Choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNDERSTAND

Classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select, translate, paraphrase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBER

Define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce, state

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2008 McREL. To request permission to reprint, contact McREL at info.mcrel.org.

 

 

Practice at the “remember” and “understand” levels may be a prerequisite for working at the higher levels of “evaluate” and “create.” Just remember, ELLs can and should work at all levels of higher order thinking.

 

 

Step 3: Set Expectations at the “Remember” Level of Learning

The next step is putting steps 1 and 2 into action. The following chart shows an example of how a secondary science teacher “levels” assignments/practice for “remembering” based on students who are in the process of acquiring English.

 

All the students engage in the hands-on action of labeling and ordering the steps of the plant cycle. Circulating around the room, the teacher asks a student in the Preproduction stage to demonstrate his or her learning by pointing to, gesturing, drawing, or matching icons for steps of the plant cycle. Because a student at the Early Production stage possesses more English for verbal expression, the teacher asks those students to name the steps using one word, such as “seed,” “sprout,” or “stem.”  

 

The task in the example is to label and order the steps of the plant cycle.

 

Levels of Thinking

& Language Functions

 

The level of thinking and

the academic language

required for any

undertaking move from

the concrete “recall”

level to the more complex

“abstract” level.

 

Language moves from simple to complex in grammatical tenses, forms, vocabulary, etc.

 

 

Preproduction:

 

 

Nonverbal

response

 

Early Production:

 

One-word response

 

Speech Emergence:

 

Phrases or short sentences

 

Intermediate Fluency:

 

Longer and more complex sentences

 

Advanced Fluency:

 

Near native-like

REMEMBER

 

Define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce, state

 

Point to, gesture, draw, or match icons for the steps of the plant cycle.

 

Name steps using one word, such as “seed,” “sprout, or “stem.” 

 

Begin to use, “This is a ____.” “Here is a _____.”

 

 

Name steps using phrases/short sentences, such as, “First, there is a seed. Then, there is a sprout.”

 

Say: “The plant begins as/began as a seed. It was buried in the soil. Over time, the seed germinated. Then it began to sprout.”

 

Say: “All plants have a multi-phase cycle. 

These corn plants began the cycle as monocot seeds, which have one cotyledon. 

However, the dandelion plants began the cycle as dicot seeds, which have 2 cotyledons.”

 

By knowing your students’ stages of language acquisition, you will be able to tier classroom assignments and homework so practice becomes meaningful and strengthens their language learning at the same time.

 

After all, one of the reasons for assignments and homework is to practice what’s been learned. You can be confident you are extending opportunities for practice to your ELLs by being cognizant of the stages of second-language acquisition and by intentionally providing both high-level thinking opportunities and appropriate language learning tasks to help them increase their academic language.

 

When you take these three steps, you’re doing what comes naturally to you as a teacher–thinking about curricular adaptations for your students, this time with English-acquisition levels as a marker. 

 

How do you adapt lessons for English language learners? Share in the comments section!

 

 

 

References & Further Reading on ELL Instruction

Taxonomy for Learning,Teaching and Assessing

by L.W. Anderson and D.R. Krathwohl

Taxonomy of Educational Objectivities, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain

by B.S. Bloom, M.D. Engelhart, E.J. Furst, W.H. Hill and D.R. Krathwohl

The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in the Classroom

by S.D. Krashen and T. Terrell

Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners: Facilitators Guide

by J.D. Hill and C.L. Bjork

Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners: Participant Workbook

by J.D. Hill and C.L. Bjork

Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement

by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock

 

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