Making Science Easy for ELLs

***This post is a re-post of my article on the ESL Best Practices Blog.***

If I asked you what is the hardest subject to teach to English language learners (ELLs), what would you say?

Most teachers would definitely say science!

But what makes science so difficult for ELLs? Lee and Buxton (2013) have an answer:

“ELLs frequently confront the demands of academic learning through a yet unmastered language without the instructional support they need” (pp. 37-38).

In this post, I will discuss strategies that can help address each of these difficulties.

Continue reading “Making Science Easy for ELLs”

A reminder of how our ELL students feel

This is a clip from a short film about immersion education. It shows a recent immigrant, Moisés, in an American math class.

While short, this video really hits home how our English language learners often feel in content-based classes. It is a reminder for teachers to use strategies that help support ELLs with barriers they may be having with language.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

AAAS Project 2061

Do you teach science to middle school or high school English language learners?

If so, you probably have to create assessments from time to time.

We all know how hard making good quality assessments can be. And research suggests teachers are really bad at creating reliable tests.

Fortunately, Project 2061 is here to help.

Project 2061 is a long-term research and development initiative focused on improving science education so that all Americans can become literate in science, mathematics, and technology.

Project 2061 has a website where educators have free access to more than 600 assessment items that…

  • Are appropriate for middle and early high school students.
  • Test student understanding in the earth, life, physical sciences, and the nature of science.
  • Test for common misconceptions as well as correct ideas.

Check out their assessment website at http://assessment.aaas.org/

The Mindset Needed to Balance Language and Content

I’ve discussed in previous posts (this one in particular) that balancing language and content is one of the biggest challenges faced by teachers in a content-based language classroom.

But why?

As I read and reflect more on Content-Based Language Teaching (CBLT), I believe a lot of it has to do with mindset.

Specifically, I will share three mindsets in this post that I believe need to be resolved by a teacher before a proper balance between content and language. Continue reading “The Mindset Needed to Balance Language and Content”

What kind of Content-Based Instruction Do You Do?

As I read more and more of the literature on content-based language teaching (CBLT), I am becoming increasingly frustrated.

Why you might ask?

Because the field has done an incredibly poor job of defining what CBLT actually is.

I get it! There are many variations of CBLT around the world, but the fact that after a few decades we continue to fail to be consistent with terminology is just disheartening.

Before my teacher-readers stop reading (maybe you already have), I promise this matters a lot to you. (Really?) Really!

By clearly understanding the variations of CBLT, you can identify whether your program fits you and your students.

In this post, I will discuss three types of CBLT and which are appropriate for students and teachers.

Continue reading “What kind of Content-Based Instruction Do You Do?”

How to Write Great Content and Language Objectives

Far too many teachers ask themselves 5 minutes before class, “What am I going to teach today?”

I believe the vast majority of teachers want to be great and know they should have learning objectives.

But the truth is…writing learning objectives are hard.

Although learning objectives are usually the starting point for course reform, Wieman (2017) discovered that faculty often struggled with writing learning objectives and that beginning with teaching strategies was often an easier place to start.

Given its difficulty, it is no wonder teachers often default to “winging it” rather than writing learning objectives.

This difficulty is compounded for teachers who teach in content-based language teaching (CBLT) settings, which requires both content and language objectives.

In this post, I will demystify the writing of learning objectives step by step, giving you an easy to follow list for creating content and language objectives for your classroom. Continue reading “How to Write Great Content and Language Objectives”

The Connection Between Math and Language

This morning I was reading an article titled “How to make math a key part of your ELL curriculum.” In the article the author writes,

It also helps that numbers are numbers, and working with them is natural to speakers of any language.

It is a common assumption that math will be easier for English language learners. It’s just numbers, right?

Wrong!

While it seems on the surface that math would be transferable between languages because of numbers, it is actually a lot more complicated than that.

In this post, I will discuss some of the research that addresses the issue of language and math.

Continue reading “The Connection Between Math and Language”