During an observation early on in my teaching, I was told I did a great job implementing SIOP during a science lesson. That’s fantastic and all, but I had no idea what she was talking about. Later that year, I did receive training in SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) and took the test to be ESL certified. How was I implementing SIOP without knowing it?
Good teaching is good teaching. A lot of the strategies that we use with all students are great for English Language Learners and vice versa. However, when thinking specifically about your ELLs, here are 5 things to do when planning a science lesson.
1. Have a language objective.
Before I took my nifty ESL classes, I had not been identifying the language objective for each lesson. There are content objectives and language objectives. Your content objective might be: I can compare and contrast life cycles of a mealworm and grasshopper.
Your language objective relates to listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. The language objective for that life cycle lesson might be: I can write comparison statements comparing and contrasting the life cycles of a mealworm and grasshopper.
Basically, it’s the same thing. You’re just identifying if and how students are reading, listening, writing, or speaking. In this scenario, they are writing. What are they writing? Comparison statements.
2. Make a list of key vocabulary.
This is something you probably already do or at least have in your head before beginning a lesson. We should be sure not to include more than 5 new academic vocabulary words in each lesson. We should provide multiple opportunities to work with and use those words on multiple days.
3. Use graphic organizers.
Most teachers I know use a graphic organizer at least once a day. There’s a good reason for that. Graphic organizers help our students visualize relationships between concepts, make sense of new material, and organize our thoughts.
4. Media, media, media.
Photos, short video clips, and interactive web-based programs are accessible to students learning English. A teacher could say the following: “The level of tides change during the day. Sometimes the water is higher up on the beach; sometimes it’s lower.”
What do you think a student who is still learning English got out of that? Instead, the teacher could show a sped-up video clip of the tide rising and receding throughout the day on a beach. Then, students can discuss what they noticed and write and draw in their notebooks. They can act it out. All of these follow-up activities are based on a little video clip.
5. Provide hands-on experiences.
Luckily, science is all about hands-on experiences! Students explore with magnets. They form hypotheses and test them out. Students create and observe ecosystems. They pour, classify, mix, observe, count, test, roll, measure, balance, and swing! Worried about the writing portion of experiments? Use sentence stems!
Isn’t a lot of this things teachers already do? Happy teaching!
Update: Are 5 ways not enough? Here are 5 MORE ways to support ELLs in the science classroom.