Academic Language

SIOP Strategies Support 21st Century Skills!

By Andrea RientsRIENTS_ANDREA

Communication and collaboration are among the top skills identified to be successful in the 21st Century; for English learners, these skills can be quite intimidating in the classroom. Academic language must be supported and scaffolded to help not just English learners but ALL learners in the classroom. The SIOP Model provides many different techniques to get English learners engaged in these skills. Below are my go-to techniques to get English learners collaborating and communicating in my classroom.

Inside Outside Circle:

What it is: For this teaching technique, the class is divided in half; the first half forms an inside circle, and the second half forms an outside circle around them. Each student pairs with the person across from him or her in the opposing circle.  After students respond to a question prompt from the teacher, the inside circle or outside circle rotates to form new partners.

Why it’s effective:  Speaking in pairs is less intimidating than speaking in front of the whole class. English learners have time to listen to their partner first, to hear an example if needed, and have a safe place to respond. After rotating, the English learner has 2 different responses to share with their next partner, and confidence has been built. This also is a safe place for students to work together and to work with many other students. By rotating pairs, all students see that working together with everyone is a class expectation. This not only helps students learn the content, but it also builds community in the classroom.

Variations: Teachers can use personal whiteboards for math problems; provide sentence stems for students to include, or practice specific vocabulary; teachers can have students prepare questions to quiz one another with as a form of review; teachers can use this with vocabulary cards as a form of vocabulary review; teachers can use this to have students share prior knowledge on a subject before starting a new unit, or share research from an article in preparation for a Socratic seminar. (more…)

Advertisements

Content and Language Objectives in the ELA Classroom

Schoolchildren Studying In Classroom With TeacherA few weeks ago we added a post to the blog in which SIOP professional developers Amy Washam and Lindsay Young discussed the reasons behind having separate content objectives and language objectives. An English/Language Arts (ELA) teacher wrote back with the following question:

What about in an ELA classroom? Language is our content. Teachers often complain that the two objectives say the same thing.

Here are Lindsay and Amy’s responses and a final thought by SIOP author Jana Echevarria. (more…)

Can Content and Language Objectives be Combined?

Anyone familiar with the SIOP Model knows that content objectives (COs) based on academic standards and language objectives (LOs) designed to build students’ academic language skills are integral to all effective SIOP lessons. Some educators have wondered whether COs and LOs need to be separate or if they can be combined into one objective. Recently, a teacher posed this question to SIOP contributing author and professional developer Amy Washam and provided these examples of combined objectives:

Students will orally explain, using sequential words, how to solve a system of linear equations by graphing

Students will be able to (SWBAT) orally compare and contrast the physical adaptations of whales and sharks using conjunctions

Amy Washam and fellow SIOP professional developer Lindsay Young weigh in on this question below.

Amy Washam

In my opinion, these examples are LOs, and pretty good ones, especially given that we should help students learn conjunctions. During SIOP professional development sessions, after talking about SIOP research, I usually explain to participants that we have one objective for content and one for language so that teachers will not forget to teach language. I’m concerned that it will be easy to focus only on content with combined objectives and neglect explicit language teaching.

I am also concerned that combining the two would shortchange the content. If you look at the Next Generation Science Standards, the science objective the teacher used as an example does not really cover any of the NGSS listed. I worry that if teachers begin combining content and language objectives, curriculum folks will determine that language objectives water down the content. For me, this is a second argument for why content and language should be separate.

Lindsay Young

I would echo Amy’s sentiments. I have also had inquiries about combining objectives. As SIOP author Deborah Short has stated, if they’re combining objectives they are not doing SIOP. I’m going to continue to emphasize the research evidence on the SIOP Model. In those studies, teachers separated the COs from the LOs. Doing so is not only more effective but very doable.

Teaching Content and Academic Language Concurrently

By  MaryEllen VogtImage

One reason that the SIOP Model has struck a nerve with so many educators, in addition to the proven academic gains for English learners, is that teachers see that we cannot wait until English learners are proficient in academic English before we teach them the grade-level content concepts they need to succeed.  Also, teachers have realized that just because students seem to speak English effortlessly when they’re on the playground or in the lunchroom, it doesn’t mean that they have mastered academic English, “the set of words, grammar, and organizational strategies used to describe complex ideas, higher-order thinking processes, and abstract concepts” (Zwiers, 2008, p. 20).  We now know that in order for English learners to succeed academically, they must be taught content concepts and the related academic language of that content concurrently.

What follows are some practical tips and ideas for teaching content and academic language together during your lessons. For this blog entry, I’m using science as the content but the principles certainly extend to any other content area (see Short, Vogt, & Echevarria, 2011, for more science ideas).  Remember that the SIOP Model has been shown to be effective for all students, not just English learners. (more…)