Empowering English Language Learners: A Three-Part Framework

At my school in Shaw, we teach native speakers of 9 languages. Across the city, about 10% of D.C. students are English language learners (ELLs). That’s more than 7,000 students who qualify for official services to support them learning English. And that figure does not include the large number of kiddos who are proficient in English and who continue to hear or speak another language at home.

Blended and personalized learning models are exciting for ELL students and their teachers because these models potentially create the conditions for students to make rapid progress with their English. To capitalize on being a student in this type of model, ELLs need to be aware of two things:

  1. They are always learning English, whether or not language acquisition is a stated objective for the class as a whole. Learning English is a personal objective that ELLs need to pursue through every single activity.
  2. Certain habits allow ELLs to ensure that they are growing in their English as well as in their content knowledge. If ELLs carry out these learning habits independently, without teacher prompting, they are sure to make progress in English.

Here’s the framework I’ll be using to teach ELLs what they can do to be strong, independent learners when they’re in a blended learning classroom:

  • Control the pace.
  • Collect new words.
  • Come prepared for conferences.

In this post, I’ll share what I teach students about the habit we call “Control the Pace.” Later this week, I will share more details about the other two habits in the framework.

Part 1: Control the pace.

Whether students are at a tech-based station or not, they should adjust the speed at which they’re working to optimize comprehension. Many students already have habits of re-reading when they are trying to understand text on paper. During my summer pilot, I found that students did not automatically apply this strategy to audio or video content—some kiddos did not re-watch or re-listen until I told them outright that they could (and should!).

Going back to listen for the answer to a particular comprehension question or to find details to support a claim is beneficial for all students, but repeated listening is doubly important for students who are learning English. Language acquisition research has shown that repeated listening (in ESL lingo, sometimes called “narrow listening”) enhances comprehension and even motivation.

I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own study of French. One class I’ve taken at the Alliance Française is designed entirely around repeated viewings of the same one to two short news clips per 90-minute class session! I’ll be sharing with my ELLs how much those repeated listening experiences have improved my vocabulary and my comfort with certain grammatical constructions, and I’ll be encouraging all of my students to rewind and re-listen as much as they like.

Check back later this week for more on the framework I use to support ELLs in being strong, independent learners in a blended learning classroom!

Alison Gillmeister, 2015 Education Innovation Fellow
Center City Public Charter Schools—Shaw Campus


2 thoughts on “Empowering English Language Learners: A Three-Part Framework

  1. Pingback: Empowering English Language Learners: Collect New Words | Education Innovation D.C.

  2. Pingback: Empowering English Language Learners: Come Prepared for Conferences | Education Innovation D.C.

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