SIOP: Making Content Comprehensible for ELLs

SIOP: Making Content Comprehensible for ELLs

by Judie Haynes

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) was developed to make content material comprehensible to English Language Learners. This model is the result of the work of Jana Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt and Deborah J. Short.

The SIOP Model includes teacher preparation, instructional indicators such as comprehensible input and the building of background knowledge. It comprises strategies for classroom organization and delivery of instruction.

Teacher Preparation

1. Teachers write clearly defined content objectives on the board for students. These objectives are reviewed at the beginning of a lesson and students should state at the end of the lesson whether the objectives have been met.

2. Teachers should write clearly defined language objectives on the board for students at the beginning of a lesson. Students state at the end of the lesson whether the objectives have been met

3. Concepts taught should be appropriate for the age and educational background of students, Teachers must consider the students' L1 literacy, second language proficiency, and the reading level of the materials.

4. Supplementary materials are used to promote comprehension. These include charts, graphs, pictures, illustrations, realia, math manipulatives, multimedia, and demonstrations by teacher and other students

5.Content must be adapted to ELLís needs through use of graphic organizers, outlines, labeling of pictures, study guides, adapted text, and highlighted text.

6. Meaningful activities integrate lesson concepts with language practice opportunities in listening. speaking, reading, and writing.

Indicators of Instruction:

Building Background

1. Concepts should be directly linked to studentsí background experience. This experience can be personal, cultural or academic.

2. Links should be explicitly made between past learning and new concepts.

3. Key vocabulary is emphasized. New vocabulary is presented in context. The number of vocabulary items is limited.

Comprehensible Input

1. Use speech that is appropriate for students' language proficiency.

2. Make the explanation of the task clear using step-by-step manner with visuals.

3. Use of a variety of techniques to make content concepts clear. Teachers need to focus attention selectively on the most important information. Introduce new learning in context. Help students learn strategies such as predicting, summarizing.


1. Provide ample opportunities for students to use learning strategies. Learning strategies should be taught through explicit instruction. You want students to develop independence in self-monitoring.

2. Consistent use of scaffolding techniques throughout the lesson. Introduce a new concept using a lot of scaffolding and decrease support as time goes on. Restate a student's response or use think-alouds

3. Use of a variety of question types, including those that promote higher level thinking skills.


Provide the following for ELLs:

1. frequent opportunities for interactions about lesson concepts which encourage higher level thinking skills.

2. grouping which supports language and content objectives. Cooperative groups, buddies, pairs, large and small groups

3. ample wait time for responses

4. opportunities for clarification in native language, if possible.


Lessons should include:

1. hands-on materials or manipulatives for student practice.

2. activities for students to apply content and language knowledge in the classroom.

3. activities that integrate all language skills :listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Lesson Delivery

1. Content objectives supported by lesson delivery.

2. Language objectives supported by lesson delivery.

3. Students engaged 90% to 100% of the period.

4. Pacing of the lesson appropriate to studentsí ability level.

Related Links

Challenges for ELLs in Content Area Learning
Do you want to help classroom teachers in your school with their English language learners? Begin by understanding the challenges ELLs face in their content area learning.

Graphic Organizers for Content Instruction
Graphic organizers make content area information more accessible to second language learners. They convert complex information into manageable chunks. Download graphic organizers from this page.

Organizing and Assessing in the Content Area Class
How do you help mainstream teachers accurately monitor for student comprehension, organize the content class, and design realisitic assesments? These questions will be addressed in this article, which is the second part of "Meeting the Challenge of Content Instruction."

Meeting the Challenge of Content Instruction
Discover how the standards movement currently sweeping the US will have a positive impact on the education of ESL students, while also presenting instructional challenges to ESL and mainstream professionals.

Resource Picks

Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners
Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners is a book about the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). This book is by Jana Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt and Deborah J. Short. It is an important reference if you want to teach classroom teachers to use content-based ESL instruction methods.