Saturday, December 15, 2012

Promoting Oral Language for Students’ Vocabulary Building

A Few Words about English Language Learners

Like all learners, English language learners need teachers who have a strong knowledge base and commitment to developing students’ language. It is crucial that teachers work carefully to develop English language learners’ academic vocabularies. The following are some important principles for supporting English language learners as they develop their vocabularies in a new language:

· Encourage native language development. It is easier for individuals to learn new labels for already-known concepts than to learn new concepts. For instance, the word indifferent is easier to learn in a new language if students already know the concept and its verbal representation in their native language.

· Create a safe, comfortable, and nonthreatening atmosphere that encourages students to use their new language and ensure that they have authentic reasons to engage in language use with you and one another.

· Respect and raw on students’ backgrounds and experiences and build connections between the known and the new.

· Know your students and capitalize on their interests. All of us are more likely to attend to and communicate about what we find fascinating.

· Model and scaffold language use.

· Take advantage of the cognates that exists between languages. For instance, many English and Spanish words, such as family and familia, have a common origin.

· Make use of realia, concrete materials, visuals, pantomime, and other nonlinguistic representations of concepts to make input comprehensible. Write new words on the board as they are shared or provide each student with a set of cards that contains the words. That way students can see the words as well as hear them.

· Introduce new words in rich contexts that support meaning.

· Ensure that students have ample opportunities for social interactions, especially in the context of content learning. English language learners need many occasions to practice the academic language they are learning.

· Provide wait time. Allowing students time to put their thoughts into words is important for all students, but it is especially so for students who are learning to communicate in a new language.

· Keep your expectations high for all students –and for yourself as their teacher. Work for depth and breadth of understanding of challenging content and promote critical thinking.

Strategies for Encouraging Classroom Discourse

The following are some of the strategies that will work with any content area and at nearly any step in the instructional sequence. In these strategies, most or all students will express their understandings of the content or their perspectives about an issue.

1. Think-Pair-Share

Think-Pair-Share (Lyman 1981), a strategy that may be used in any content area, facilitates students’ use of language as they first consider a question that the teacher has posed, briefly discuss their responses with partners, and then share their answers with the entire class. For example, when teaching report with the topic Flood, a teacher may stop and ask students to think of three important things from the lesson. Or the teacher may be more specific and ask students to state some causes of flood. After providing the students with a moment to think quietly, the teacher announces, “Pair,” and students turn to their neighbors to talk about their responses. Finally, the teacher asks pairs to volunteer to share with the class some of the causes that they have discussed. This strategy provides a break from teacher talk and allows students to articulate what they have learned. In their discussions, students use the language of the subject matter. In this example, words such as overflow, heavy rain, high tide, -ones they have heard from the teacher-begin to become part of their own repertoires because they have a chance to use them immediately.

In addition to providing a structure for students to respond to questions as a review of content, Think-Pair-Share may be used to facilitate students’ thinking about connections between the content and students’ lives or other content. For instance, if a teacher is about to begin a lesson or unit of study on animals’ defenses, he or she may ask students to think about any self-protective behavior they have witnessed in their pets or in wild animals. Then students talk in pairs about their observations, and finally, they share with the class.

2. 10:2 Lecture

A strategy similar to Think-Pair-Share is the 10:2 Lecture. This strategy is described by Brechtel (2001) as a means for providing English language learners with an opportunity to practice language, but we believe it is useful for all learners. The idea is that after approximately every 10 minutes of instruction, students should be provided with two minutes of oral processing time. In other words, students should turn to a partner and discuss what they have learned. This paired response time provides a risk-free environment for testing understanding of new ideas and information and prompts the students to use oral language to express and clarify their understandings. The 10:2 Lecture does not include the think time that is a step in Think-Pair-Share, but it can easily be modified to include think time prior to paired discussion. One advantage of this strategy is that it requires frequent pauses in instruction for student talk, and the name itself-10:2 Lecture-is a good reminder of the importance of providing students with frequent opportunities to talk about what they are learning.

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