Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Differentiation Looks Like in an ESL Class (with a freebie!)

Without a doubt, the hardest part of my job is meeting the needs of all my diverse learners in the short time I have with them. How do I challenge the advanced students without leaving the rest behind? How do I teach the basic vocabulary and sentence structure my newest students so desperately need without boring the rest of my class?

Obviously, differentiation is the answer, but differentiating well day in and day out is tricky and I'll be the first to admit that I don't always do it well. One of the simplest ways I have found to differentiate naturally is to use sentence frames for speaking and writing.

Here's an example. This week, we're learning about parts of the body, and today we compared and contrasted the body parts of humans and animals. We took our vocabulary cards (words and pictures, which you can download for free here) and sorted them onto a Venn Diagram as a group.

Sorry for the blurry photo!

We then used the sentence frames underneath to make sentences together, which I wrote on the board. So far, everyone is doing the same activities and I am modeling what I expect of students.

But then I ask them to write three sentences on their own. And without even having to create different assignments, I am able to differentiate their writing expectations.

My newest students will use the sentence frames to write three sentences, possibly the same three sentences I wrote on the board again. That's all I expect from them. They just need more exposure to these words and text in English with some pictures attached.

My middle students will likely ask if they can write more than three sentences. That's great! That gives them more fluency with the sentence structure and practice writing, reading, and seeing even more parts of the body.

My most advanced students usually ask if they can write different kinds of sentences. They'll write things like, "Humans have hands and most animals do not, except gorillas also do." I expect more than the sentence frames from them, and they usually give it to me. If they don't, after the three sentences I assigned, I ask if they can think of anything else to say from the Venn Diagram that uses a different kind of sentence, and if necessary model a different sentence.

How do you differentiate for different English proficiency levels in your classes?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Previewing Text and Vocabulary Instruction Ideas

This week my third graders are reading The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush and discussing characteristics of legends, theme, character traits, and more. I love using this story because it hits on so many different standards. I like to read it at the end of the year as a culminating unit that hits on many different topics. It helps to review and solidify what we've learned this year! And it's a fantastic story that my students consistently enjoy. You can check out my full unit on the text at my TPT store, here (PS- now's a good time to stock up on all of those items on your wishlist from TPT! We're having a sitewide sale!).

There are specific strategies for introducing a new text to ELL students that can set them up for success. In my classroom, we preview vocabulary together, identify what we're looking for in a text (in this case, characteristics of a legend) and do a picture walk of the text and discuss it using the vocabulary words we have focused on.

Vocabulary Instruction

We started this week with our "must know" vocabulary from the story, working together to make motions for the words and then completing a vocabulary four square activity. We reviewed what a legend is with an anchor chart and interactive notebook pages, then quickly added the other vocabulary words and pictures to our word wall to reference later.

**The students I am using this unit with are at an average of level 3 of language development, so the must know words were the most appropriate for them to focus on. With a different group of students, I would have differentiated which words I wanted us to focus on and which ones we could simply identify.

Characteristics of Legends

We have already done a unit on folktales this year, so this is more of a quick review than a full lesson. We read the anchor chart together, then students complete a simple cloze passage in their notebook. We add a "cover flap" so that they can practice answering the question "What is a legend?" and then read underneath to check their answer. This sets students up for success as we read the text and discuss why it is considered a legend.

Picture Walk

Finally, we preview the text by flipping through the pictures and discussing what we see related to the vocabulary we have learned. My students noticed the bow and arrow, the shaman, the sunset and evening, and more. Now they have more background knowledge as well as extra practice with the vocabulary words as we move into reading the text together.

How do your prepare students for success with a new text in your classroom?