Reply To: Instructional Strategies for supporting EL and Special Population students
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I am also in my first year of teaching, and I teach in an inner-city school with almost 50% ELLs, so I had to become SEI Endorsed (Sheltered English Immersion), which I did by taking the course on teaching ELLs offered by my school. The most useful things I learned from the course are:
1) Always consider the background knowledge of your students. If you use examples of things they may not have experienced because they’re coming from a different culture, they will not even have the words in their native language, let alone in English. This means you’ll have to find ways to relate the new concepts to things they do understand. While I know some may cringe, I often end up connecting it to sports or other physical activities, because there are lots of ways to connect practicing and performing musically to athletics and the students mainly have sports they can connect to.
2) Explicitly teach vocabulary. This means you need to scan your songs ahead of time for words that will be unfamiliar to them, then prioritize which ones you need to either a) just show a picture so they’ll get it; b) give a brief definition using simpler words that are familiar; or c) explicitly teach using a variation on the ‘7-Steps Strategy,’ which involves getting the students to echo the word, hear it’s official definition and a kid-friendly one, hear it in context, and practice using it. This one is less useful for garden-variety vocabulary in songs, as it’s a little overkill, but could be useful if you have a vocabulary word that you will be frequently using in the future in a variety of contexts. Remember – idioms and other expressions are an easy way to trip up an English Language Learner!
If you’re interested in more resources, check out the PETALLS resources at UMASS Lowell – they have a whole collection of strategies and lesson plans, even if they aren’t music-related.