Will Integrating Across Content Areas Help English Language Learners?
Dec 9, 2015 Teaching Methodology 2994 Views
With the No Child Left Behind legislation, teachers are being increasingly pressured to meet several standards, both at the state level and federal, as well as being accountable for the progress of their diverse student body. Many teachers don't feel comfortable teaching English Learners, and so presenting the content in a way that is efficient and effective can appear daunting.
The answer may be in integrating across content areas. According to the Utah Education Network, when we integrate content areas, instruction increases in depth and cross curricular connections to real life emerges. With English Learners, this will mean more opportunities to explore, investigate, and, scaffolded learning through the use of funds of knowledge, and motivation to demonstrate and share findings through multiple channels of production.
Short and Eschevarria (1999) recalls how teachers find the task of fitting all standards of language skills and content into each and every language lesson. They suggest, instead, that teachers who teach other contents, for example Science and Social Studies, incorporate in these content lessons language objectives that will help their students master all the language standards. In an interdisciplinary and sheltered lesson, according to the authors, the teacher could include language skills such as reading comprehension, process writing, using language for functional purposes (negotiating meaning, justifying opinions, etc), as well as the most obvious language points like grammar and vocabulary
Lastly, thematic and interdisciplinary instruction benefits English language learners by providing a strong meaningful context in which the text is being presented. Instead of spending a great deal of time teaching the conventions of the language in isolation, language lessons that are connected to the content, according to Hernandez (2003), scaffolds English Learners in the ways which writers make use of literary devices, demonstrating authentically the use of grammatical structures across genres, and expose the learners to vocabulary in meaningful contexts.
Along with aligning standards across content areas, teachers can make use of their English Learner's fund of knowledge and first language, as these can further enhance comprehension and production. An interdisciplinary approach to content instruction is indeed quite phenomenal in both the way it helps students master the language in a rich context, and in the way in which is allows teachers to include multiple standards effectively in their lessons.
Hernandez, A. (2003). Making content instruction accessible for English language learners. English learners: Reaching the highest level of English literacy, 125-149.
Short, D., & Echevarria, J. (1999). The sheltered instruction observation protocol: A tool for teacher-researcher collaboration and professional development. Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence.