As we think about ways to guide our English Language Learners, we can consider several ways which schools can accomplish this important goal. One important way is to think about the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). By knowing what this program model consists of, we can plan meaningful activities to help our ELLs grow, even if we do not use the SIOP.
The SIOP is a program model for ELLs that separates these learners from those students who speak fluent English. Our English learners do use the same content curriculum as all other students. This is key. But English speakers are taught in a different classroom than those who are learning to speak English.
But, when we understand the components of this popular model, we will see that the ideas can be helpful in ANY classroom.
1. Lessons are accessible and relevant. This means pictures, comprehensible input, and props are used in a meaningful way to support language learning. Teachers create both content and language objectives. A variety of materials and methods are used to motivate students.
2. Teachers use the background knowledge of students and they build background as needed. They help students make connections between past learning and new material. Vocabulary should be taught and emphasized before each lesson.
3. Teachers think about the speed of their own language and the time it might take for students to process English. They are careful about pronunciation. They repeat things often and do not use slang or idioms. They use pictures and gestures. There are pauses to allow for student processing and to check for understanding.
4. Teachers clearly include higher-order thinking skills in lessons. They do not merely encourage and expect literal understanding. Teachers watch for misunderstanding and go back to where there was a misstep. There is lots of rehearsal for students, and teachers take time to scaffold their instruction.
5. There is plenty of time for students to talk with the teacher and with their peers. Lots of discussion takes place. This allows students to develop receptive language and allows time to produce language.
6. Teachers use as many hands-on materials as possible. This helps students practice language and content. There is time for lots of discussion in a supportive environment.
7. Teachers support language and content objectives throughout lessons. They take into consideration the pace of lessons, often slowing down if necessary. Time for students to verbalize is a key part of every lesson delivery.
8. Review and assessment are important parts of all lessons. Vocabulary is constantly emphasized. Teachers provide feedback to help all students understand their progress.
As you can see, while these are components of the SIOP Model, these are also “best practices” for any classroom. By keeping these ideas in mind, you are taking important steps to meet the needs of your ELLs and all children in your classroom.