Monday, June 20, 2016

Building Background for English Learners

This summer I am reading Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners and sharing my thoughts here on Artistry of Education.  The second component of the SIOP model is Building Background. Building Background happens in two parts: making connections with the student's life outside of school and making connections with previous learning.

When a student has been in school for a year or two, it's easier to find out about their previous experiences inside and outside of school.  I can have conversations about family and hobbies.  I can ask about traditions and celebrations.  I can walk down the hall and find out from a previous teacher what the child learned the previous year.

When a student has just moved to the U.S., it may be more difficult.  I started using online images with one student just to help him choose his lunch everyday.  This grew into communicating with pictures about other events.

This year, I used Google Translate with a student about key words -- both academic and non-academic.  She had attended school for several years in El Salvador and had many skills that would transfer.

In Making Content Comprehensible, the authors include word lists to prioritize vocabulary to be included in lessons.  They distinguish between academic and social language.

What experiences have you had building background with English Learners?

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