by Mr. Brill
The majority of the sixth and seventh grade teachers have spent the better part of the last year engaged in coursework concentrated on making us better teachers. With the ESL program almost complete, now would be a good time to discuss some of the better practices that we've learned as part of the program. Of course summarizing a comprehensive program in one blog is impossible and is not my intention. Instead let's reflect on some of the important stages these learners go through. Below is a sample of the different stages of language acquisition and appropriate activities for each stage.
- During the Pre-Production stage, students may experience a silent period. They are making observations and fine-tuning their listening skills. Students don’t speak at this stage but rely on a 500 word receptive vocabulary. Research has shown that the use of movements and pictures with these students can be beneficial, as suggested by the Total Physical Response method. Additionally, a study buddy should be used to increase the speed of learning at this and each continuing phase.
In terms of the science experiment focused on units of measure, a best practice for pre-production learners involves teaching different measurement containers through displaying objects they are familiar with: a liter of Coke, a gallon of milk etc. The teacher will point to each object, give the English and the Spanish name for the object. Then the teacher will say the name and have the students repeat the name of each measuring object back in English.
- The Early Production stage follows the Pre-Production stage and can extend up to 6 months. During this time, students develop a receptive and active vocabulary of 1,000 words. Students can answer yes or no questions and can give one and two word responses. A strategy that can be used with these students includes matching pictures with sentence strips. It’s best to read the sentence out loud and model the sentences to the corresponding action. For example, the teacher can show a picture of some aspect of the experiment. The students will then match the action to the picture.
- At the Speech emergence stage, the student’s receptive language grows exponentially to roughly 3,000 words. Students can say simple phrases, short sentences and questions. They may make many grammatical errors while they speak but the silent period noticed in earlier stages has gone away. Additionally according to Judie Haynes (2012), students can understand simple stories and visuals will augment their understanding (p.3). Students will look at two pictures and find eight differences in the pictures related to the materials within the science project or the science experiment itself. Students will respond with complete sentences to describe the differences in the pictures. For example, the students could describe differences between measuring containers. They will then write down new words in their journals.
- Finally, at the Intermediate Fluency stage, student vocabulary grows to at least 6,000 words. Sentences grow in complexity while students begin to find their own voice as confidence grows. They still will experience errors in writing. Ultimately comprehension grows exponentially at this stage. These students are ready to present to their class the findings of a project that requires students to measure objects into container and compare container size through liquid volume displaced.
- The following link provides more information. Youtube is an excellent source for additional strategies.