Sunday, March 4, 2007

Content-based activities: Prompt 7

EGBERT Ch. 7. Content-Based Instruction

Crucial to content instruction for ELLs is that the message be understandable, and that the content remain intact. That means we should pre-teach vocabulary, use the students' backgrounds and previous knowledge as resources to scaffold their further learning, and we should use a plethora of visuals and hands-on materials and activities. Egbert points out that the use of real content can make the language meaningful and authentic for our ELLs. The language (and language support) the teacher uses and teaches before and during the content lessons can make the content accessible. So, language and content instruction can be integrated nicely (with a lot of planning) to give students every opportunity to learn and succeed in their classes. She also stresses the importance of cultural relevance, and I absolutely agree that this is extremely important.

The most obvious way to incorporate technology into content lessons is for research and visual support. As the author notes, however, we must choose the Web sites for research carefully. Too many options can be confusing, and some of these websites are really not geared for ELLs or even younger students. By having students do their own research on topics they love or are interested in, their affective filters can be reduced. There is also a wide variety of cultural resources online that classroom teachers would have a hard time getting access to.

I love the NASA site , and some others I'll post separately as a links list. What's great is that these sites walk the students through the lessons and there is built-in language support (glossary links, demonstrations, and lots of visuals).

I like the lesson plan Egbert refers to here from CoBaLTT (Content-Based Language Teaching with Technology, ), with "Content Obligatory" and "Content Compatible" goals, the first for content and the second for language objectives. Egbert also advocates using outlines, rewriting the text for students, using audio and visual support, and modeling. These are all useful techniques for ESL, EFL, and content-based instruction.


Adrienne Padilla said...


I agree that teachers must guide students to the websites where they will be able to get the most out of. I find that when you allow student free reign to roam and research they often get side-tracked or distracted with other material on the web. Providing the websites and guiding is certainly the best option when online.

--Adrienne Padilla

Ko-Yin said...

Hello Joleen,

I agree with what you said about pre-teaching vocabulary and using the students' backgrounds and previous knowledge as resources to scaffold their further learning.
It reminds me of Echevarria, Vogt, and Short’s (2004) teaching suggestions for teaching ELLs who do not have much background knowledge. They suggest three major instructional interventions we should consider using. The first intervention is to teach vocabulary as a pre-reading stepTeachers not only should teach the words that are critical for understanding the material and concepts, they also need to use the words in the class so their students can develop a core vocabulary over time. The second intervention is to provide experiences for students. For example, teachers can show students a videotape of the story to build background information before students actually read the story in the text. The third intervention is to introduce a conceptual framework that will enable students to build appropriate background for themselves. For instance, teachers can teach students to use graphic organizers to develop a framework for their own understanding.

rkrause said...

You're right we must always use comprehensible input in the classroom. Visuals and audio are important for our ESL students, and computers is a great way to achieve that.The websites need to be previewed by the teacher at all times. Plus, I find that my students have a hard time researching on the web. It's probably because they don't like to read. Most of the time, I find it helpful when the teacher provides a guided activity. -Rosario

Joleen J said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Koyin, those interventions are really good at helping students build background. Thanks for bringing up the SIOP book. It is a great resource!

Just to clarify on monitoring the web sites, though, I don't think it's always possible to review ALL of the websites a student may use. This may be too tough, particularly if the students are doing research on various topics that they have selected themselves. I do think it is important to give them a starting point and a few good ideas.

This is probably why I am a big fan of Web quests--there are some useful suggestions and guidance, but different students can do the same Web quest and come up with different end reports/results.

Anonymous said...

Hi Joleen,
I missed your QuickShare activity last week. Could you give me the website and any info I need to know?

You are right about the care and planning that goes into pre-teaching vocabulary so that no one is left behind. Also I applaud your comments about the confusion which can result from too much material. This is one of the darker sides of techonolog--there is just too much, and you tend to be overwhelmed at times. It happens to me--just too much good stuff out there is distracting!


Rosa's blog said...

I like the way you list the proper way to teach ESL students: vocabulary, background and prior knowledge and most important visuals!
I also agree with you regarding instructors choosing carefully proper web links when using them for research. The web is a great source and one that can be used endlessly. I enjoy using the web with my students but I also think we should incorporate other technologies as well. If we had the funds to support all the things we would like to do in the class that would open up lots of doors to us but since we do not some older and less expensive technologies still come in handy. One thing we can use is a slide show to present lessons or the students can present a slide show to the class as part of a class presentation. Also, you can use a camcorder and have the students make, act and direct skits or presentations. I like to use technologies that compliment or enhance the students own creativity. The key is to focus it toward the content of the lesson or topic you are teaching.