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April 24, 2018

Concrete Tools to Assist ELL’s and All Students

So many tools, so little time!
A “creative and active bunch of students” is how Principal Christopher Gaither describes the students with whom he works at Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Gaither enrolled in course 842: Achieving Success with English Language Learners, interested in learning concrete tools which can assist ELL – and all students – learn. In Principal Gaither’s coursework, he explains how he would incorporate many tools: the use of: virtual field trips, integrated curriculum projects, attribute charting, graphic organizers, and vocabulary role-play, and story reenactment, which we have highlighted below:

Let’s see his ideas for putting these tools to use!

Vocabulary Role-Play:
This is one of the most fun activities to implement in the classroom with a small group of ELL students. We combine the Vocabulary Role-Play that is described in the text (50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners) with a classic version of Charades. The teacher begins early in the year by modeling all the different parts of the activity. This is the explicit part of the instruction where the teacher makes evident to the students what is expected. A word is shared with the students and the teacher acts out the word with a physical movement. The teacher says the word and acts it out again. Then the teacher acts the word out and asks the students to say the word. This is repeated several times explicitly.

The next step is that after the students understand that the action of the teacher is representing the word she or he presents the teacher begins providing the action first. You can take a half step between these and provide the students with three to five words, acting out one at a time and asking the students to pick one of the three to five presented words that represents what you are acting out. But the eventual goal is to have a routine established that allows the activity to occur with little planning or preparation during a “down-moment” or during the last few minutes of the day or when the class returns from recess. By selecting words that the students have been presented, such as the growing list of words on the word wall, or up on a verb word wall, students have a continuous selection of words from which to pick and are able to practice the connection of meaning and comprehension to that word.

Story Reenactment:
This is one activity that we have not tried yet at our school but after reading through allof the different activities in the text and this one in particular I think that there could begreat potential for learning. We are a small school with a creative and active bunch ofstudents. Each morning we are all able to gather in the cafeteria and share morningannouncements and successes of the students. I think that by developing the storyreenactment skills of our students, both ELL and others, we would have the opportunityto share those reenactments publicly in the morning time.

Our reading curriculum is such that students at all grade levels experience the same curriculum and thus the same stories over their tenure at our school. The stories are very memorable and identifiable. By having classes develop the reenactment of some of those stories, particularly those that present hard or unusual vocabulary, and then sharing them every now and again with all the students in the school during morning meeting, it would develop a school wide culture and climate around sharing our learning and knowledge.

These sharings would have to be short sharings because, as I said above, we guard our minutes of the day closely. But by having students select key parts of the story that carry the message or moral of the story, having them reenact them so that they more deeply understand the story itself and then present those short moments to the school, it will reinforce the learning of not only the student presenting the reenactment but also of the rest of the students who are listening.

We might even, as a school, encourage our drama club to identify one story for a higher or more complete production during our end of year street festival. All of these activities would allow for a heightened level of communication and language use among our students.

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