Classroom Instruction

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…)

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The Amazing Talents of Teachers

By Jana Echevarria, Ph.D.

Those of us who have the privilege of working with teachers know that there is a plethora of talent in our profession. In addition to being excellent teachers, many are also very creative and use their creativity in ways that benefit their students. In this case, a creative “student” amazed his “teacher.” What do I mean?

Aaron Reid is a teacher who was taking an online SIOP class, called a SIOP Virtual Institute. SIOP professional developer Amy Washam was his “teacher” or the facilitator of the Virtual Institute. As part of the week’s assignment, students were asked how implementation of the SIOP Model’s features lead to differentiated classroom instruction and language development for English learners? Here is Aaron’s a creative and poetic response.

A SIOP-less Class

by Aaron Reid

Are you surprised at the amount of teachers who don’t prepare lessons for their students…?  That’s not even fair. Now consider yourself a student whose is not a native speaker, listening to the inane prattles of an unprepared teacher!

Spouting facts and figures, clumsily put together, rather than intriguing content and meaningful endeavors. Imagine your background not considered, your culture ignored, strange vocabulary without scaffold written on the chalkboard.

Words approaching so fast, you can barely make them out. No models, no visuals, you’d definitely be filled with doubt. Only one way to complete tasks that you don’t understand. No scaffolding, no support, no one lending a hand.

Question asked…you’re thinking… but given no “wait time”, Teacher glares…you’re sinking… is thinking a war crime? Collaborative conversations don’t exist so you’re the “dumb” kid. Never speaking, in the corner, determined to stay off the grid.

Manipulatives make it easy but you don’t know their operation. The only time you see manipulatives is during your teacher’s observation. Unsure of what you’re supposed to know, terrified to do your best…Another English learner victim of the reading benchmark test…

 Whew…!  That’s a lot!  But that was just a nightmare. After all, that would be more than you could bear. 15 years of SIOP has made the classroom a brighter place so optimized learning English learners can embrace!

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…)

Another Career Saved Through Effective Professional Development

By Jana Echevarria, Ph.D.8170_lpd_HR_mod_Page_1_Image_0003

The title of this post may sound hyperbolic, but the truth is that teaching can often be an isolated and lonely profession, especially when teachers feel that they are not reaching their students or seeing the learning results that inspired them to become teachers in the first place. That’s where ongoing professional development comes in.

When teachers have the opportunity to learn and grow professionally, to try out research-validated practices that are effective in helping students make academic gains, and in the case of English learners, improve their language proficiency, it can be immensely rewarding.

Recently a teacher who took an online PD course emailed the instructor to express thanks for helping her to create lesson plans that incorporate features of the SIOP Model, features that ensure that lessons are comprehensible for English learners and concurrently develop academic English proficiency. She added, “ I am really delighted with the SIOP Model and will practice it until I have it down completely. I have applied all that I understand about it thus far to my lesson plan.”

After implementing the lesson plan the following week, she sent the update below to the instructor:

I implemented only some of the lesson to my freshmen class to try it out and it made me feel so much more successful than I have ever felt in the full 15 years I’ve been teaching. I think you and your colleagues are on to something with SIOP! T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U! You came into my life just in the nick of time. I was headed out of teaching all together after this year because I didn’t believe that I could help students anymore. SIOP has given me hope!:)

SIOP trainers often hear stories like this one about how the right PD at the right time has dramatically affected teachers’ practice and outlook.

 Effective professional development provides teachers with a setting through which to collaborate with other educators, acquire new knowledge to deepen their understanding of best practice, plan and analyze lessons, and discuss implementation successes and challenges. The process offers teacher the tools and support they need to work more successfully with students. Without it, they can become disheartened, and worse, leave the profession.

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.

Climbing the SIOP Mountain

By Amy Washamamy_washam

“I have been SIOP trained!” Whenever I hear educators say these words, the follow up question is, “Do you implement the features of SIOP into your lessons, and if so, to what degree?” Receiving SIOP training is only the first step to becoming a high-implementing SIOPer. I often use the analogy of climbing a mountain, a SIOP mountain. For most educators, the SIOP training only makes you aware that the SIOP Mountain exists. You do not begin to ascend the SIOP Mountain until you implement the features consistently into your lessons. And you do not summit the SIOP Mountain, become a high-implementer, without lots of experience implementing the features.

While I know quite a bit about implementing the SIOP Model, I am not an experienced mountain climber. So to continue this analogy, I searched, “How to climb a mountain,” and found some striking similarities between the extreme sport of mountain climbing and learning to implement the SIOP Model to a high degree (see http://www.wikihow.com/Climb-a-Mountain). (more…)

Helping Students Make the Most of Learning Strategies

By Andrea Rients

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The word “strategies” is thrown around in teaching like a hot potato. Strategies for tough kids, for good kids, for high flyers, for students who love video games, for students who don’t love video games, for kids who only sort of like video games! How do educators know what techniques to use in the classroom to gain the biggest impact on student achievement? Strategies are only helpful to students if students internalize them and are able to consciously and independently apply them to their own learning.

Too often, for example, we give students a graphic organizer, help them fill it out, and feel satisfied that we’ve provided our students with a tool to organize information.  The problem arises when we take away the graphic organizer and expect students to do this on their own, and we realize that students are lost.  This is due to a common misconception about teaching strategies. As educators, our job is not just to provide the graphic organizer and help students use it one time,  but to teach them in what instances this graphic organizer would be helpful and when it can be used again in the future.  In short, we need to teach students to internalize the strategies we use in the classroom. This means that giving students the declarative knowledge (e.g., draw a Venn Diagram in your notebooks and fill it out) is not enough for students to internalize the strategy and see value in its use; we must also explicitly teach the procedural knowledge (how to) and the conditional knowledge (why I would use this again) to our students.

By consciously planning activities and teaching the declarative as well as the procedural and conditional knowledge, teachers will see a dramatic increase in their students’ understanding of strategies, which will result in students  becoming better independent readers, thinkers, and learners.