Language Objectives

SIOP Strategies Support 21st Century Skills!


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…)

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.

Review and Assessment is Not the Last SIOP Component

By Amy Washam

When I introduce the Review and Assessment Component to participants during an initial SIOP training—the training where educators first learn about the 8 components and 30 features—I often joke that Review and Assessment is not the last SIOP component. Since I have made this statement at the end of the third and final day of training, I will inevitably see signs of displeasure on the faces of new, and often brain-weary, SIOPers. It’s not that these new SIOPers don’t love the model, but after three days of examining every possible feature of good instruction for English learners, we are all rejoicing that the ninth component never materialized.

So why do I continue to torture participants by implying there is another component after Review and Assessment when clearly there is not one? It is to make a point. While Review and Assessment is the last component listed on the SIOP Protocol, it should not be the last component implemented into our lessons. Effective instruction is rarely a linear process that begins with direct instruction, moves on to student practice, and then provides review before finally assessing learning. Teachers should not wait until the end of a lesson, or even half-way through the lesson, to review and assess student learning. (more…)

Starting out with the SIOP Model: Two Teachers’ Story

start 2

Below is a story shared with us by Patricia Bradley of the Western Academy of Beijing about her and fellow teacher Eleanor Brock’s experiences implementing the SIOP Model in their classrooms and school. We thought it might be inspiring to others just starting out with the Model and so wanted to share it with you.

My colleague Eleanor and I set a goal at the beginning of the year to implement the whole model in our classes. We soon realized that the whole model was too much to take on all at once so we decided to concentrate on the first two features, CO [content objectives] and LO [language objectives].

We saw such dramatic changes in our teaching and the student learning that we made a presentation to our faculty and invited those interested to join us in committing to writing a CO and LO for two weeks. Eleanor and I sent out daily emails to support our 16 colleagues—essentially, we made the content about objectives in the SIOP book comprehensible for our colleagues. At the end of the two weeks, we asked the teachers to survey their students. We also met as a group with the HS principal to share our experience.

The results of the experiment far exceeded our expectations. Of the 125 students surveyed, 94.4% found the COs helpful, 85.6% found the LOs helpful. In a follow-up meeting with the HS principal, the teachers spoke of the new clarity they have about their lessons, the increased empathy they have for students, and the changes they see in student work. Eleanor and I are amazed at the impact that just these two features have had. We think they might be the most important of the whole SIOP model!

I’ve been teaching for 32 years—10 in the States and 22 overseas. I will be leaving my ESL teaching job at Western Academy of Beijing in June for what my husband and I are calling our “extended sabbatical”.  My SIOP work has helped make this year one of the best in my teaching career.