Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP Model (#4)

“For students acquiring a new language, it is critically important that they have the opportunities to apply the new information because discussing and “doing” make the abstract concepts more concrete. We must remember that we learn best by involving ourselves in relevant, meaningful application of what we are learning”
— Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017, p. 187

Allowing English Language Learners the opportunities to have hands-on experiences with what they are learning is incredibly beneficial. They are able to practice actually "doing," making mistakes and progress along the way. It is in these hands-on experiences that they are better able to empathize with what they are learning, and find connections between everything they are taking in. Interacting with learning is beneficial to all learners.

So, how do we make meaningful application of what we are learning? Creating opportunities for our learners to take the skills they have learned and apply them to their own lives. Yes, we can practice writing on paper, but have them write about an experience of their own. Stories can provide great practice for comprehension strategies, but choose stories that reflect your learners and can provide meaningful conversations throughout it that can tie back to their lives.

“As teachers deliver their lessons, they need to be cognizant of the learning process all of their students experience. The following ideas will help teachers differentiate activities among multi-level students as well as gauge which students are meeting the objectives and which need more assistance.
+ Pro-Rate the Task. The product of a task need not be exactly the same across all students….
+ Radio Advice Line. Teach teacher can select two or three of the more advanced learners to be the radio show host. Other students can draft questions they have on a topic, perhaps as a review or as a way to seek clarification. They “call in” to pose the questions to the radio hosts, who take turns responding….
+ Projects. One of the best ways for students to work at their own ability level, language level, and interest level is through projects. Projects also offer a meaningful way to determine whether students can apply information they are learning and can tap into their creativity, too.
+ Leveled Questions. Teachers can modulate the questions they ask students according to their levels of language proficiency….
+ Homogeneous Small Group Rotations. Teachers can cluster their students into homogeneous small groups based on their ability with the skill or topic (e.g., solving math problems, reading grade-level text) and set up three centers in the class: one for teacher-directed instruction, one for independent work, and one for small group or partner activities….
+ Scale of Student Mastery. The teacher can keep track of how students are progressing in mastering the language and content objectives of a unit”
— Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017, pp. 213-214

Differentiation and formative assessments are essential and should be ongoing in any classroom. This helps the educator know their learners and guide them in ways that lead to success. These ideas given within the quote are great ideas and idea starters. I am currently working with a student teacher, and throughout her time with me, we have covered backwards design, differentiation, student choice, essential questions and enduring understandings, ways to group learners, learner mastery, etc. Leveled questions is a facet I would like to more intentionally cover with them. More and more I am seeing the benefits of short answer and essay questions for comprehension, rather than rote memorization of a multiple choice test.

Next year, I am pondering on evolving my classroom into more of a learning community environment. A space where creativity, inquiry, and innovation can take place freely. I have tables at the moment, and the space changes every so often for different tasks we are completing. I would like to imagine a space where learners can find standing tables, a pod table, a few corners that have white boards on the walls, an open space of just chairs in a circle, etc. Maybe if learners can be given the opportunity to be resourceful and creative in a collaborative environment, they will be motivated to take risks in their learning journey.

The scale of student mastery is something I piloted this year for my school, and will continue to do this. I would like for my school and district to adopt doing this, as it gives multiple perspectives and data of a learner’s abilities.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M.., & Short, D.J. (2017). Making content comprehensible for english learners: The SIOP model (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.