How do educators help English language learners become fluent in English? In this lesson, we’ll examine one method, English language development instruction, including how it differs from sheltered instruction and what its benefits are.
English Language Development
Rupa is a teacher. She teaches English language learners, also called ELLs, or students whose first language is not English. But Rupa is confused.
She’s not sure what the best way to teach English to her students is. Should she concentrate on the rules of English? Or teach them about a topic and allow English acquisition to occur naturally? In other words, should she focus on the language or on content? One option Rupa might consider is English Language Development or ELD, which is a systematic approach to teaching English language learners. It focuses on language instruction and not on content. To understand what I mean by focusing on language and not content, and to help Rupa evaluate it, let’s look closer at ELD, including how it differs from Sheltered Instruction and the benefits of ELD.
Vs. Sheltered Instruction
Rupa is trying to teach her ELL students about past tense in English.
She wants them to understand both the basic rule of changing a verb by adding ‘ed’ and the idea that some verbs are irregular, like ‘read’ or ‘saw’. But she’s still not sure how to do that. What does ELD say about teaching past tense verbs? As we mentioned before, the focus in ELD is on language instruction and teaching content is secondary to that. For example, in Rupa’s case, according to ELD, she should teach past tense verbs by going over rules and exceptions explicitly. She can give her students worksheets and quizzes with lots of examples of past tense verbs.
In contrast, Sheltered Instruction focuses on teaching content, while language instruction is implicit. For example, Rupa could focus on a topic, such as ancient Egypt or nature and the environment. Her students would learn about past tense verbs through exposure to text related to the topic they are studying. In ELD, the examples of language that Rupa gives don’t matter very much. For example, whether she puts a sentence on a quiz that is about ancient Egypt, forest habitats or something else, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is the explicit language instruction. Sheltered Instruction, though, would look at a quiz as a good opportunity to ask questions about the content, such as ancient Egypt. Embedded in those would be past tense verbs, but the quiz and instruction would not explicitly draw attention to them.
Rupa’s a little confused. Sheltered Instruction seems to be similar to how babies learn their first language, but she’s heard that ELD has benefits too.
What are they? ELD helps promote fluency in students. Studies have shown that students who are exposed to ELD methods find English easier to produce and understand than students who are not taught with ELD. They are more able to read and write as well as have better listening and speaking skills. In addition, ELD provides accelerated growth. Studies have shown that students who are taught using ELD become more fluent more quickly than those who are taught using Sheltered Instruction or another implicit method. Finally, ELD offers structure and guidance for both teachers and students. Rupa will be able to plan her lessons in a structured way, with each lesson building on the previous one.
Likewise, Rupa’s students will know what to expect and will be exposed to lessons that are highly structured.
English Language Development, or ELD, is a systematic approach to teaching English language learners. The focus in ELD is on language instruction and teaching content is secondary to that. In contrast, Sheltered Instruction focuses on teaching content, while language instruction is implicit. There are several benefits to ELD, including that it helps promote fluency, provides accelerated growth, and offers structure and guidance for both teachers and students.