Sheltered Instruction Overview

August 25, 2017

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Sheltered Instruction is an approach to teaching ELLs which integrates language and content instruction. Sheltered Instruction is a set of teaching strategies designed for academic content, that lower the linguistic demand of the lesson without compromising the integrity or rigor of the subject matter.

Components & Samples

1. Preparation

  • Write Content Objectives clearly for students.*
  • Write Language Objectives clearly for students.*
  • Choose content concepts appropriate for age and educational background level of students.
  • Adapt text to all levels of student proficiency.
  • Plan meaningful activities that integrate lesson concepts with language practice opportunities for reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

2. Building Background

  • Explicitly link concepts to students’ background and experiences.
  • Explicitly link past learning to new concepts.
  • Emphasize key vocabulary (introduce, add visuals, gestures, read, write and highlight) for students.

3. Comprehensible Input

  • Use speech appropriate for students’ proficiency level.
  • Explain academic tasks clearly.
  • Use a variety of techniques to make concepts clear (modeling, visuals, hands on activities, demonstrations, gestures, body language)

4. Strategies

  • Provide ample opportunities for students to use strategies (problem solving, predicting, organizing, categorizing, self-monitoring, summarizing, evaluating)
  • Use scaffolding techniques consistently. (I do, we do, you do)
  • Use a variety of questions types including those that promote higher order thinking skills throughout lesson.

5. Interaction

  • Provide frequent opportunities for interactions and discussion between teacher/student, and among students. Encourage elaborate responses.
  • Use group configurations that support language and content objectives of the lessons.
  • Provide sufficient wait time for student response.
  • Give ample opportunities for students to clarify key concepts in L1 (this may look different dependent on the program).

6. Practice/Application

  • Provide hands-on materials and/or manipulatives for students to practice using new content knowledge.
  • Provide opportunities for students to apply content and language knowledge.
  • Provide activities that integrate all language skills, (reading, writing, listening and speaking)

7 .Lesson Delivery

  • Support content objectives clearly*.
  • Support language objectives clearly*.
  • Engage students approximately 90-100% of the time.
  • Pace the lesson appropriately to the students’ ability level.

8. Review and Assessment

  • Give comprehensive review of key vocabulary.
  • Give comprehensive review of key concepts.
  • Provide feedback to students regularly on their output (language, content, work)
  • Conduct assessment of student comprehension and learning throughout the lesson on all lesson objectives.

Concept Attainment

Buliding oracy, higher level thinking, engagement, deeper understanding of concepts, vocabulary, cooperative learning.


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1. Teach students what to say when they don’t know what to say.

  • Teaching our students how to acquire helpful information when they are confused and teaching them to think about the steps involved in reaching a specific goal give them skills they can use inside and outside of school.
  • Teachers can prepare a poster/anchor chart that lists alternatives to saying “I Don’t Know.”
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2. Have students speak in complete sentences.

  • “When we encourage our students to use complete sentences, they think in complete thoughts.”
  • “It’s very hard for students to write in a way they cannot speak. By providing students with opportunities to communicate, we give them the gift of academic language and a passport to communicate in the professional world.”
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3. Randomize and rotate when calling on students.

  • If you don’t implement a thoughtful and premeditated system to randomly call on students you will find yourself always calling on the same students.
  • This strategy requires very little planning you can use Popsicle Sticks, name charts or assign students a letter or number.
  • The goal is to have everyone involved in discussions so that we can assess all students’ understanding. If we don’t use a random way, we only assess the highly motivated students.
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4. Use total response signals.

  • These are cues students can use to indicate they are ready to respond to a question or ready to move on to new material.
  • There are three elements of an effective total response signal:
  • Total: Means everyone will do it.
  • Response: Every student will make a choice.
  • Signal: Once students make their choice they will respond with a visual cue.
  • These signals enable to consistently check for all students’ understanding.
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5. Use visuals and vocabulary strategies that support your objectives.

  • Incorporating visuals in our lessons dramatically increases student ability to understand class lessons and discussions.
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words” if per example the objective of your lesson is to explain safety lab procedures, use pictures of “safe” and “unsafe” activities to provide your students with a stronger grasp.
  • Graphic organizers are examples of simple and effective visuals. The internet is a great resource to find visuals, especially of concepts that may seem abstract or hard to represent.
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6. Have students participate in structured conversations.

  • Asking students to talk with each other using specific language about a clearly defined topic is called a structured conversation.
  • During structured conversations we see less off-task behavior, enhanced understanding of topic, and fewer classroom management problems.
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7. Have students participate in structured reading and writing activities.

  • When using these 7 steps students read and write all the time in all content areas.
  • All reading activities are purpose-driven. Once the purpose for the reading is define, we need to make a plan. You have to make sure all your students can read the material.
  • Not all students maybe reading the same passage, but they all need to get the pertinent information.
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7 Steps and PPfT

Got Observation Tool?

John Seidlitz and his team prepared an Observation Tool that correlates with the 7 steps. If you have evidence of these steps being actively implemented in your classroom you automatically score 3 in certain domains!

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