Content-based Science Instruction for ELLs
by Judie Haynes
Is it possible to increase interest and add excitement to ESL instruction through science-based thematic units? Yes it is! Help students reach Core Curriculum Content Standards while engaging their interest.
Picture first graders singing a catchy tune about the life cycle of a frog. Envision third graders describing the ecosystem of the desert to their mainstream peers. Imagine fifth graders conducting simple science experiments as they demonstrate understanding of the scientific method.
Our English language learners are now required to take standardized tests with the rest of the school population. NCLB has mandated they ELLs demonstrate annual yearly progress. Content based ESL instruction is a way to help ELLs reach this goal.
Teaching Thematic Units in Science
ESL teachers can help their students meet state and national science standards through effective content-based ESL instruction using science themes. Attention to both the linguistic and content-specific difficulties should go hand in hand as learning takes place. One way to do this is by providing for integration of language arts and science content. These lessons include cross content instruction which incorporates literature, science, music, math, social studies and art.
Reasons for Content-based ESL Instruction?
1. English competence is critical for success of ESL students.
2. Students are expected to learn academic content through English and compete with native speakers.
3. Students need to learn appropriate learning strategies to construct and apply academic knowledge.
4. ELLs and their parents value ESL instruction more if content is covered.
5. Content-based ESL instruction gives students confidence because they learn strategies to help them understand content classes.
6. Students are given real reasons to learn English.
Delivery of Content-based ESL Instruction
1. Content is used to teach language. This is the case when the ESL class has students from multiple grade levels. Thematic units that will be suitable across subject areas and grade levels are selected.
2. Content is taught through modified or sheltered English.
- Content classes are taught by subject area specialists.
- ESL and content teachers collaborate and/or team teach.
- ESL instruction shadows the content instruction.
- Instruction is modified so that the same concepts are taught but the language is simplified.
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