7 Steps

to a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom


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7 Steps to a Language Rich Interactive Classroom By, John Seidlitz

What if you could design an amazing learning environment? We already have, and it's all contained in 7steps! 7 Steps to Building a Language-Rich Interactive Classroom provides a seven step process that creates a language-rich interactive classroom environment in which all students can thrive. Topics include differentiating instruction for students at a variety of language proficiencies, keeping all students absolutely engaged, and creating powerful learning supports.

Content Objective

Teachers will review the 7 steps to a language rich Interactive classroom and select a research-based strategy to implement in their classroom this week.

Language Objective

Teachers will respond orally to information and strategies given from 7 Steps to Language Rich Interactive Classrooms in cooperative groups.

Why do you think it is important to know how to have a language-rich interactive classroom?

I think having a language rich interactive classroom is important because ________________.

I believe having a language rich interactive classroom helps students____________.

"Class Participation" Understanding Why Some Kids Don't Speak Up in Class

Question: What stood out to you in the article about unresponsive students?

Signal: Choose and hold a tile from the middle of the table when you finish reading and have your answer.

Stem: Something that stood out to me about the article was _______.

Share: Place your tile on your desk when you have shared your answer to the group.

Assess: If you had ____(color) tile please stand. You may share your answer or an answer someone in your group shared.

Step1 Teach students what to say when they don't know what to say

What does the research say?

Teaching students what to say when they do not know what to say is a metacognitive strategy. Research shows that the use of metacognitive strategies in the classroom has an impact on student performance.

How does this step work?

First, the teacher must explicitly teach the strategy to students, model the strategy and explain when and why the strategy should be used.

What if a student does not respond?

Smile politely and ask students to, "Please use one of the strategies." Then wait. If they refuse, model the strategy and ask again, letting your tone and body language communicate your expectation.

For additional FAQs check out pages 13-15 in 7 Steps to a Language Rich Interactive Classroom By, John Seidlitz

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Step 2 - Have Students Speak in Complete Sentences

What does the research say?

Research indicates that in order for students to use content language accurately in their speaking and writing, they must hear the language multiple time and in multiple contexts. Having students speak in complete sentences provides a means for students to hear content-area vocabulary used in context, not only by the teacher, but also by their peers.

How does this step work?

Teachers can support students as they learn to respond with complete sentences by providing them with sentence stems. A sentence stem is a short phrase that gives students the beginning of a sentence and helps them structure a response.

Do we expect complete sentences all of the time?

Let's not overdo it. We should expect complete sentences when we ask questions directly during whole-group or small group interactions, but we do not expect students to communicate with complete sentences in every interaction.

A good rule of thumb: Every time a new question or topic is introduced in a discussion, it's good to reiterate the expectation. If you are having an open discussion, relax and allow the free flow of ideas.

Step 3 - Randomize & Rotate When Calling on Students

Many teachers struggle with finding ways to manage a classroom full of diverse learners. Imagine the group of students in your classroom. When you ask a question of the whole group or small group, do the same energetic participators always raise their hand and subsequently get called on?


We all love solutions that require very little planning. Create simple systems like using index cards or Popsicle sticks with students' names on them. It changes the way we ask questions and remember, the teacher "always" knows which name is on it. If you draw Danny's name, the only person who really knows who's name is drawn is the teacher.

This solution helps us avoid phrases like:

  • Who can tell me
  • Let's see who knows
  • Does anyone know
  • Can someone tell the class

The goal is to have ALL students involved in the discussion, so ALL students' learning can be assessed. When randomizing the questioning technique looks like this:

  • Ask the question
  • Pause
  • Select a student to respond using a random selection process

In some cases, it's ok to ask students to not raise their hands; this eliminates the temptation to call on those who volunteer. Pausing after the question gives everyone a chance to think, and it creates some "positive tension" as students wonder who will be chose.


"Numbered Heads Together" is an easy way to get everyone involved and avoid the problems of calling on the same students again and again.

  1. Divide students into groups of four
  2. Ask the students to count off within the group (1-4) so each person has a number
  3. Ask a question
  4. Give groups a chance to talk to each other about the answer
  5. Ask one number to stand up in each group. For example, "All Ones, please stand."
  6. Have the number One person report for the group.
  7. Instruct students to respond with this sentence stem if they have the same response as another group: "We agree that ______ because _____..."

Could also be used with colors..

This can be repeated until each number from 1-4 has been given an opportunity to respond.

The goal is to get us, as teachers talking less & students talking more!

Step 4 Use Total Response Signals

Total response signals are cues students can use to indicate they are ready to respond to questions or ready to move on to new material. Response signals allow students to prepare for oral or written participation in a non-threatening way and they provide a very effective tool for gauging student understanding in real time.

3 Elements of an Effective Total Response Signal:

Total - Includes "every" student in the classroom. Total means ALL students.

Response - Every student will make a choice. Students think through what they know to make choices.

Signal - Once students have responded, they will give a response with a visual signal. The signal must be clear enough so that teachers can immediately survey how many students can respond to the question or decision.

4 Basic Types of Response Signals:

Written Response - Students write their responses on paper, sticky notes, cards or white boards and hold them up so they are visible to the teacher.

Ready Response - Students show they have finished a task or are ready to begin a new task.

Making Choices - Students show their response to a specific set of choices using a physical signal or object. After reading a question, ask students to show their choice.(letter cards)

Ranking - Students can show their agreement or disagreement with particular statements. Be sure you ask students to explain their reasoning. (thumbs up, thumbs down)

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Step 5 - Use Visuals and Vocabulary Strategies that Support Your Objective

You have heard the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and often this is true. Photos, maps, drawings, movie clips, and concrete objects give students access to content in spite of possible barriers such as lack of background on the subject or limited English proficiency.

Visual Tools

Graphic Organizers - These provide a way for students to organize facts, ideas and concepts that help them make sense of the content. You probably make use of these already. Graphic organizers can be used before instruction to provide a scaffold for new material, and they can show much students already know about a topic. During instruction they can be used to help students organize key information. After instruction, graphic organizers help students connect prior knowledge with new information and determine relationships between the two. .

Always remember, when using graphic organizers, be sure to model its use and provide time for guided practice.

Visual Tools: Scanning

This strategy teaches students essential words for understanding new content minutes before they encounter the words in text. Using this strategy increased student achievement by 33% as compared to students who did not use the strategy.
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Step 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. Structured conversations allow students to share ideas and points-of-view with each other.

A simple strategy that weaves structured conversation into instruction is QSSSA or (Question, Signal, Stem, Share, Assess).

In this strategy, the teachers asks a QUESTION and the students give a response SIGNAL when they are ready to answer. Using a sentence STEM, students are asked to SHARE their response with one or more peers. Lastly, the teachers assesses the quality of the discussion by selecting a few students to share their answers with the whole class.

Step 7 - Have Students Participate in Structured Reading/Writing Activites

Step Seven is about structuring these reading and writing activities so that students gain a deep understanding of content concepts. We create structure by clearly defining our purpose, our plan and the process for each reading or writing activities.

Structured Reading Activities...

...should be purpose-driven. Teachers should be able to answer the question:

Why am I having my students read this?

We derive purpose from the content objectives and the state TEKS for each subject. Therefore, aligning the reading activity with the content objective gives us clear purpose for the assignment

Structured Writing Activities

The first step is to determine why students need to write. Specifically, we want to define how the writing task will help students gain understanding of the content objective. If a science objective requires students to explain the differences between the three states of matter, the writing assignment needs to support that goal.

The second step is to ask, "Can my students successfully complete the writing task on their own?"

Lastly, select the structured writing strategy, structure or process that reinforces the content goals.

Somebody-Wanted-But-So Strategy

Can be used during or after reading to help students understand literary elements such as conflicts and resolutions. It is also a great summarization technique.

Students determine: The main character (Somebody), his/her motivation (Wanted), the main conflict (but), and the resolution to the conflict (so).

Planning Ahead

Content objective & Language Objective

Teachers will be able to generate a grade level content and language objective using a template. .

Teachers will be able to explain the components of their content and language objective to a partner.

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