SIOP Tidbits

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New Instructional Model Helps English Learners Succeed

Tidbit #1: Strategic Teaching and Learning Guided by The 5 Principles

Five research-based principles of second language instruction should form the basis for the education of English language learners in grades PreK – 12. Teachers can use the five principles and specific teaching and learning strategies to accelerate the learning process, promote academic achievement, and foster academic language acquisition (Levine, Smallwood, & Haynes, 2012a, 2012b).

Teaching by these principles is helpful for ALL of our students, but is essential for our ELLs and struggling learners.

​Principle 1. Focus on academic language, literacy, and vocabulary: Teach the language and language skills required for content learning.

Principle 2. Link background knowledge and culture to learning: Explicitly plan and incorporate ways to engage students in thinking about and drawing from their life experiences and prior knowledge.

Principle 3. Increase comprehensible input and language output: Make meaning clear through visuals, demonstrations, and other means and give students multiple opportunities to produce language.

Principle 4. Promote classroom interaction: Engage students in using English to accomplish academic tasks.

Principle 5. Stimulate higher order thinking and the use of learning strategies: Explicitly teach thinking skills and learning strategies to develop English language learners as effective, independent learners.

Tidbit #2: Principal 1. Focus on academic language, literacy and vocabulary.

There is a big difference between social (BICS) and academic English (CALP). Many of our struggling learners and ELLs need help with general academic and content specific academic vocabulary. Hart and Risley (1995) discovered that there is a 30 million word gap between the vocabularies of children living in poverty and children living in professional families by the age of 3. Academic vocabulary instruction can help decrease these gaps.

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How do we explicitly teach academic vocabulary? Incorporating a focus on key vocabulary when planning a unit is important. There are some great vocabulary development routines that are research proven. Marzano (2009), Kinsella (2010) and Fisher & Frey (2007) have done a lot of groundwork. Here is a prime example of a vocabulary building background strategy.
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4-Corners Vocabulary: For all grade levels
Enables students to contextualize words by creating a chart with an illustration (representing the word), a sentence (that included the word), a definition (of the word), and the actual vocabulary word. A template can be used for younger students or a chart can be teacher created.
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SIOP Tidbit #3: Prior Knowledge and Background Building

An essential aspect of SIOP and something important for ALL learners is to activate prior knowledge and building background knowledge.

Many of our students, have gaps in learning or may come to school with little or no background knowledge on certain topics. It is important for classroom teachers to determine students’ prior knowledge so they can design instructional activities to build background if needed. Teachers can use a variety of instructional strategies to determine the extent to which students have prior knowledge about a certain topic.

The SIOP model focuses on three components of building background:

  1. Determining students' prior knowledge and understanding of a topic and linking concepts to students' background experiences
  2. Making explicit connections between previous learning with the learning of new concepts
  3. Emphasizing and developing key academic vocabulary

Teachers can use many strategies to build background knowledge with students:
  • Watch a video about the topic
  • Read related books, stories, and other resources about the topic
  • Use word sorts and other vocabulary games with key academic vocabulary
  • Pre-teach key vocabulary and concepts prior to reading a textbook or beginning a unit of study
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Some great GO-TO Activating Strategies:

KWL Begin the lesson with a three-column organizer: What I Know, What I Want to know, what I Learned. Have students fill in the first two columns in advance of the lesson. Return to the last column as a summarizing strategy for the lesson.

Carousel Brainstorming On chart paper around the room (or on paper that is passed around groups), ask small groups of students (3-4) to respond to a question or statement posed at the top of the paper. (These questions/statements should represent components of their upcoming learning.) After a short period of time, student groups move on to another piece of chart paper/topic, and read what has been written about that topic and add to or respond to it. Key reminder: Ahead of time prepare the chart paper and the different topics, insuring that you have enough “stations” so that every group is at one station during each rotation. These charts and responses can be used as the lesson activator, representing the prior knowledge and current understandings of the group

​Word Splash Students are given a “splash” of the key words from the lesson. They should write a few meaningful sentences to capture (relying on their background knowledge) using these words.

SIOP Tidbit #4: Use Inclusive Instructional Strategies!

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