I think that as a field we certainly recognize the importance of specialized instruction in program design for English language learners. The demographics just show incredible increases in the past uh 10 years. As well as everyone knows, there’s at least 100 percent increase in the number of language minority students who have been identified as LEP in schools. And certainly there are even more uh who aren’t even identified in some programs. But I think where we need to go is more understanding among all of the educators and the administrators that are students can achieve to high standards and certainly standards based education is the trend for all of the states in the US, but that they may need different pathways to get to those high standards then we find with the Native English speakers or students who have been in school since kindergarten or since 1st grade and have progressed up the—the pathway. We tend to have more time with students who are in the elementary school to help them acquire English as a second language and to learn the academic content that they need. So at the secondary school we’re finding um things are much more oppressing. And I would say over the course of the next five to 10 years as a profession, we’re going to have to look for some very, very successful strategies and redesigning programs and certainly more professional development for teachers so that students who are facing high stakes assessments uh have the opportunity of succeeding. We see that—I think currently there are 21 states out of the 50 who are tying promotion and graduation to their state’s standardized assessment systems. And the prediction is that within at least three years it will be up to 28 states and those numbers could continue to rise. And our students who enter, who are immigrants, and enter at the secondary level have much less time to learn the language and learn the content and pass these tests. So we’re going to need to make some drastic changes, I think, so that we don’t have drop out.
I think uh there have been two growing trends in the past decade that are productive and beneficial for the secondary um English language learner. One of those would be the increased use of sheltered instruction, sheltered content instruction. More and more teachers are getting some specific training in this and in this way they are able to accommodate their instruction so that the content topics of the grade level curriculum are made comprehensible to the ESL students. The other uh program design that is growing is the newcomer program. We are currently doing research on these programs and looking specifically at middle and high schools have a database of about 115 programs that are found in 30 states that serve approx—almost 200 schools. So there’s—there are almost 200 sites, within there is 115 programs, if that makes sense to you. Within these newcomer programs, most of them last for about one year or one year plus a summer and they’re designed to accelerate the students’ language acquisition as well as their acculturation to US schooling. What’s it like to be in American high school and change classes and they have these odd schedules with different teachers uh, things like that. But also um many of the newcomer programs, as well includes some sheltered instruction to help the students get a head start on the academic learning that they need within the English language. Some of the programs though do this through bilingual education and they make use of the student’s native language to teach them the academic subjects that they need to be successful in the US high schools.
We’ve talked about content-based ESL instruction or sometimes content-based language instruction for probably 15 to 20 years in our profession. And the prime purpose for this kind of instruction is for English language development, hence the ESL part of it. The content-based refers to the themes or the unit topics that are being used. And they could be drawn from any content area. So you might have a content based classroom in a 5th grade that is studying the environment and they would draw from topics in mathematics when they may be doing some graphic activities, topics in science, maybe in social studies where they talk about pollution in the environment and citiz—good citizenship, things like that. But in general, when we talk about content based ESL instruction, it is probably most of the time provided by an ESL trained educator and it may focus on one or more content areas through which language development is promised—produced. Um, with regard to sheltered instruction, it is more understood to refer to one particular content area and tends to be the grade level curriculum of that area, so you might have sheltered algebra, or you might have sheltered 8th grade language arts, something along those lines. It can be delivered by an ESL trained teacher or a bilingual teacher who is teaching through English, or a content trained specialist. Generally what we find is if it’s at the high school level and the students are going to be receiving core carnagy credits for graduation, the teachers usually have to be content certified. They may also have dual certification with English as a second language or some sort of endorsement. In fact, they tend to be very good teachers who have that combination. But at the middle school levels or the elementaries, you’ll find more of a variety with ESL or content trained teachers doing this. The other distinction that you’ll find—in content-based ESL instruction, the classes are 100 percent English language learners among the students. With the sheltered instruction, depending on the program and the school district, you may have a class that is homogenous, simply just English language learners in the class or you might have a heterogeneous class that has a mix of Native English speakers and students who are learning English as an additional language.
An area where we need significant growth in the education field in order for English language learners to succeed academically is teacher education. I think we are finding that in a number of programs around the US that offer ESL or bilingual certification and teacher training, they are doing a very good job of preparing the teachers for the reality of today’s classrooms. In other words, they are helping the teachers develop and practice and implement strategies for integrating language learning with content learning so that the teachers can do content based DSL or sheltered instruction and they are helping them think through appropriate program designs for the students. Perhaps where um the ESL bilingual side could use a little more development is in helping those teachers realize successful ways to collaborate with content colleagues. Far to often we’re finding that the ESL and bilingual teachers, even today, are in vacuums or they’re isolated within their—their schools or their districts. They don’t quite always have the same voice and their opinions and even their knowledge base and the resources that they bring to the school districts are not always tact in ways it can help the other teachers work better with the English language learners. Now that said, the other side and the bulk of our teacher education programs really need redesign. They almost need um major overhauling. I don’t think that there is a teacher candidate in a pre-service program today who will not have a linguistically or culturally diverse in his or her classroom at some time in—in their—his or her career. Um, in other words, unless the person enters the field and teachers for just a few months, or maybe one year and then gets out of the education field, they are going to have students for whom English is not their first language in their classroom. And they need to be prepared for this. We need to redesign general teacher education so that all teachers who go through a program from uh an—someone who’s going to be a K-6 elementary school teacher to someone who is a high school physics teacher. They need certain critical courses to help them meet the needs of all their students. We hear a lot about differentiated instruction and when you look at teacher education programs, they’ll be addressing that. But often it has to do with different learning styles among students or students who come in with different educational backgrounds. Perhaps they have gaps in their education. What we need to do is extend that to make sure these programs are also including second language learners, recent immigrants, those who have not gone through our K-12 system systematically. With regard to specific courses that I’d like more teachers to have, I think we definitely need all teachers to have an understanding of second language acquisition theory; they need to have practicums in ESL strategies and techniques. They need to have an understanding of how one assesses a student in content areas for whom English is not their first language. So we need to look at an alternative assessments for English language learners or um modified rubrics and things like that that are used for judging and evaluating how well students are making progress in their content area as well as making progress in their language development. And I think a final area for um attention amongst the teacher education programs would be cross-cultural information, understanding, and communication. There are a number of universities that may offer courses called something like “Ways of Knowing” and it has to do with both learning styles and perspectives on learning. What we also need, though, is to think about culturally responsive teaching that looks at the ways and the perspectives that students from other cultures have, how they behave, how they use language, uh as well as different learning styles that they might have.
I think when people hear the word linguistics their eyes can glaze over. And I certainly know that there’s lots of people um when you call and you say you’re from the Center for Applied Linguistics they say, “Can you spell that please?” Um, but I think that despite the fact that applied linguistics may sound a little bit esoteric and like a science that nobody wants to touch um, you know, maybe the way some of us felt about physics in high school, I think we do have a lot to offer as a field. Within applied linguistics, one dimension of that area is the application of language to education. And there’s been quite a lot of work done and that can be shared—it should be shared with regard to teacher education programs. There are some places, um universities that I’ve been in, for example, where the applied—the linguistics department is not even connected with the education department so that even though we know that—what is it, by the year 2025 language minority students will probably be 50 percent at least of all of the students in the schools? Even though we know these changes are in the offing, we don’t—we aren’t making good use, uh we aren’t creating collaborations, we aren’t creating relationships across departments within uh universities that provide teacher education. So I would have to say that applied linguistics have a lot to offer. They can talk to educators in teacher training institutions about ways, not only just to help the English language learners who are in schools, but just to improve communication in general in schools.
Over the past 10 or 15 years, we as a field have looked and found a very successful strategies and techniques for making content comprehensible to students. So we have found ways to develop sheltered lessons that we can deliver in classrooms to help the students learn content. I’ve done some of this research and have been in classrooms in lots of states around the US. And unfortunately have seen sheltered instruction delivered in a myriad of ways, each one different from the next. And some teachers turn out to be very effective and some don’t seem to be as effective. One of the things that we did through the Center for Education—Center for Research on Education Diversity and Excellence, is try to develop a research-based model of sheltered instruction. And through this project, we worked with teams of teachers on the east and west coast of the US to identify what the critical features should be in the delivery of a sheltered lesson. We came up with eight major topics. There are actually 30 features in our model. But of the topics we’re talking about, preparation, building background, making content comprehensible, increasing student and teacher interaction, looking at use of strategies both by teachers and students, having practice and application activities within the lesson, and then review and assessment. The eight one has to do with our research side and it’s the actual delivery of the lesson. And as a researcher or as an evaluator, one would gauge the overall lesson in that particular um aspect. The model though, when one looks at it, might say, “Wow! These are good things for all students.” And that’s definitely true. And, in fact, many of the 30 features are found in the school reform literature with regard to what’s good for all students. But there are some features that are very critical and they focus on the language development or the educational gaps that might be found among the English language learners who are in these sheltered classes. One of the things that we ask the teachers to do in this research project was to look at a list—I think we had 84 techniques that we called from the literature as to what people were saying were effective strategies to use in a sheltered classroom. We asked them to go through all this—these 84 individually, and identify those that they thought were important and critical for a sheltered lesson. Then we asked them to go through it again and identify those that were unique to a sheltered lesson. And within that unique list emerged the key features for language development.
One of the major pushes that we have had within this model of sheltered instruction is to get teachers to think beyond the content. As I said, we’ve been very good as a profession identify ways to make content comprehensible. So we have very good techniques for helping the students understand a textbook or learn how to write a research report or conduct a science experiment and then write it up in a lab report. What we haven’t done and need to do more of is having focus on language development. So the language pieces of this model look at things like asking each teacher to have a language objective along with their content objectives for each lesson or identifying and using and requiring the students to use the key vocabulary of the lesson and of the unit and to reinforce this vocabulary over time. We also have them focusing on the academic tasks. Now this is one of the things that also has not been identified very much yet in the—in the research literature. But what we’re finding is many students who are in a sheltered classroom, especially those who have content trained teachers, will walk in and the teacher will assume that some of the associated common tasks that one might find in mathematics or science or social studies, the teachers assume the students already know how to do them. So they might say, “OK, we’re going to do a timeline today. Everybody, you know, get out your piece of paper and create the bars for a timeline from 1932 to 1955,” whatever. But the students may not know what a timeline is or how to build one—how to make one. So one of the things that we’re hoping teachers will do more of in our model is explaining those tasks clearly to the students, providing the language for the students so that they can do the task and also talk about the task and then also provide models for the particular task.
Through our research project with the Center for Education—why do I keep saying it wrong? Can I do that one again? Through our research project with the Center for Research on Education Diversity and Excellence, we have developed a model of sheltered instruction that we have operationalized through the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, which we call the SIOP. And this takes 30 features that the teachers developed and that refined over the course of three years. Um, in fact, the final model is like version #20. And it combines that into a observation protocol that can be used by a researcher or by a principal who is doing an evaluation in the classroom, by a mentor teacher or a coach who is trying to help the teachers improve their delivery of sheltered lessons. What it does is take the 30 features, look at—categorize them into eight categories, and look at how teachers prepare, deliver, and assess lessons with the students in the classroom. Right now the SIOP is organized as a four-point rating scale for each feature and basically um if teachers do it very well they get a score 4, if it’s not present they get a score of 0. And the way the form is organized one can also right comments for each individual um feature or element of the SIOP. What has happened though in the—the professional development activities that we have done around the sheltered instruction model, the teachers have said, “If you’re going to be evaluating us on this, we would like to use it for our lesson planning.” So we have taken the SIOP and turned it into a lesson-planning checklist for the teachers. And again, basically we took the um wording of what would give somebody a 4, and uh use that into uh easy to use format for teachers so that they have at their fingertips a guide for helping them to think about lessons as they design them. And then um what has also happened is that the tool, the SIOP is now being used in post-observation reflection and discussion. So a principal might sit down with a teacher after doing an evaluation and talk about their instruction but using the SIOP and the questions and the elements of it as a way to frame the discussion they are going to have.
In developing the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol we worked, as I mentioned, with teams of teachers on both east and west coasts, particularly middle school teachers. The research project had two purposes and one was to develop the model of sheltered instruction, but the other was to train teachers in implementing the model. It was a little bit challenging from our stance; of course, because we were refining and modifying the model at the same time we were providing the professional development for the teachers. I think it was to the benefit of the model because the teachers were collaborators with us. They were the ones who gave us the input. They would say, “Well, you know, I thought that would be very important but as we’re doing it I find that I don’t do it every day or I don’t even do it every week and so maybe it doesn’t fit in the model.” So we might take an item completely out. And then at other times we find out that there’s something, “Ooh, we don’t have that in the model, we better put it in.” So the teachers were just such wonderful collaborators for us in this research project. But as I said, because the model changed slightly over the course of the four years that we did the research project, our training with the teachers had to be modified. What we found though is that teacher change takes time. And I don’t think that’s anything new to people who are engaged in professional development activities. They realize this. But what we did with our teachers involved serious reflection on their part as to what their theoretical understanding of sheltered instruction might be, what it meant to deliver excellent sheltered lessons to the students, uh in some cases how time consuming it can be to really prepare top notch lessons. Now, of course, that’s the same for teachers everywhere. But within this research project for the teachers, we found that it would take at least two years for them to feel comfortable with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol model and to implement it to a high degree. Now I’m not going to say that that can’t be sped up and—and we are certainly hoping that we’ll be able to create ways to help the professional development move along more rapidly. But in the design of the research project, because the model did change and because we didn’t have um, monthly contact with the teachers, we met with them for a summer institute and three times a year. And we filmed them three times a year to monitor their teacher change and their implementation of the model. But it’s possible, we hope that if teacher study groups, for example, take on using the SIOP and they get together monthly to talk together, to look at one another’s instruction either through videotape or sitting in on classes, that things can be moved a long a little bit more rapidly. There are now some materials that will support the teacher’s profession development that were not available because they hadn’t been written at that point. And hopefully that—that as well will speed up the professional development and the teacher change.
When we have worked with content trained teachers in some of the core subjects, such as science or math or social studies, it’s often um—the first place we have to begin is helping them understand that language development is more than just vocabulary and that, even if it were just vocabulary, the few words that are highlighted in a text book chapter are not all the vocabulary words that our English as second language learners need to learn so that they can be successful in those content classes. So we’re finding that we have to begin with an understanding of what language development is and what language usage is and often use the ESL standards from TSOL as a way to do that. If teachers—the common teachers can identify the key vocabulary words, what they can’t necessarily focus on or what is the functional use of language that is common. For example, if you are um in a social studies class and you’re comparing the causes of World War I with the causes of World War II, there’s a lot of comparative language that needs to be used. But the teacher who is a social studies trained teacher may not think both of the comparative functional language, or the associated structures that might be used, ‘both’ and ‘and’, ‘on the one hand’, ‘on the other hand.’ Other kinds of rhetorical devices that are used both in speech and in writing when one is making comparisons. Other places where we have to help the teachers sometimes is thinking about reading and literacy in general so that students can help attack textbooks which tend to be very difficult and sometimes it’s simply a matter of helping them track the text on a page. Uh, for those of you who have ever seen middle and high school textbooks nowadays in the content areas, they’re filled with writing and pictures and sidebars and graphs and things like that, that if you aren’t’ familiar with this, you may not know where when you get to the bottom of one page, what you need to look at next on the—when you turn the page because it’s very hard sometimes to follow the narrative. So sometimes we have—we work with content teachers to help them understand their own textbooks and what are the features of that textbook that might cause some barriers for second language learners who are trying to read this. Other things that we try to stress is the idea of modeling. One of the key things that we have found with uh, English language learners is that they may not be familiar with some of the common tasks or the assignments that take place in math or science or social studies. Let me take as an example uh a science experiment. I watched an ESL trained 8th grade science teacher spend a lesson teaching the students what a lab report was all about and how to write one. She did the most simple science experiment I’ve ever seen. The whole purpose of this was not to get the content of the science experiment, but was to get the task of writing a lab report understood. The experiment was this, she used a wet sponge to make a large wet spot on the blackboard and had the students time how long it took that spot to dry and then she did the experiment again and added the variable. This time she had a student stand by with a handmade paper fan and fan the wet spot on the blackboard to see how long it would dry. So again, these were—it was very quick but it was—it set up an experiment that had a variable um and then using that, something that the students were able to watch in about 7 minutes, she was able to then walk them through the process of writing up a lab report. Everything from, you know, “What is your hypothesis?” because she had them develop a hypothesis before they began, to “What are the materials that were used?” to writing down their observations and to drawing conclusions. In doing this she also then identified the key language features. If you’re writing a hypothesis, how do you structure that kind of a statement? You could pose it as a question but ten—but hypotheses tend not to be as questions, they tend to be “I believe…” or “ I think…” or “After we do this experiment we—the following might happen,” using hypothetical language and then drawing conclusions. There are other types of language, some of which may be persuasive that have to be involved in this. So—I’m losing the frame of the question. Sorry. (interruption) Um, the um ESL teacher then at the end of doing this uh experiment, had the students—first they wrote up a group lab report based on just the first experiment, she then had them work in small groups to write the second lab report based on the variable, and then as a summary for her lesson, tied together the two experiments and had the students make some comparisons. As a result of this, again the teacher was not trying to stress a strong scientific concept, except perhaps the use of a variable within the experiment, but was helping the students be better prepared for the common tasks that they were going to find throughout their career in school when they’re in science classes.
One of the other things that I’d like to address with regard to sheltered instruction is the um lack of sheltered curricula. I think what we don’t have widespread enough around the US are good sheltered curricula or materials for sheltered instruction that our teachers can use. I think one of the reasons why when I’ve done research in school districts uh across the country, I have found such variability in the implementation of sheltered instruction. It’s because the teachers have limited resources at their disposal. So one of the things that we can do as a field, is to develop more sheltered curricula, to find a way to create a database, perhaps of this curricula. I know that there are some uh teachers and institutions that will share that curricula with the Eric Clearing House System, for example. But we don’t have a centralized location to share materials. We don’t want people to continually reinvent the wheel, but that’s what we’re often seeing happening. The final piece, though, to keep in mind with developing the sheltered curricula or materials that will support uh the lesson delivery, is again the realities of what is facing our ESL students. They are going to be required to meet high standards set by the states. They are often asked to take high stakes assessments that may determine their grade promotion or their high school graduation. So our sheltered curriculum have got to meet the contentary of topics that are within the state standards. But they also have to address language development. We do not want to have a sheltered curriculum of history that only uses the past tense and never gets to the verb tenses, for example. We want to develop curricula that integrate language and content fully.