SIOP: Content & Language Objectives

by Carla Worden

Pros for Content & Language Objectives

Content and language objectives allow teachers to make clear, measurable learning objectives that can be mastered in one to two lessons. The teacher is required to address these objectives with their students at the start of the class, making the objectives known in a comprehensible manner for the learner. Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2008) note, "It is not sufficient to only have a deep understanding of topics in your content area; rather, an effective teacher also needs to know how language is used and apply that information (throughout class reading, writing, and discussion activities)," (p. 29). By breaking down learning objectives into content knowledge and language knowledge the teacher is better able to explain the content and the vocabulary it encompasses.

In the video "Building Background Knowledge," Vogt (n.d.) explains, "Our third feature in building background knowledge is a focused attention to key vocabulary and to the academic language of the lesson we are teaching. If youngsters don't have the perquisite vocabulary to learn about a content concept, I need to teach it to them explicitly, not just once, but, multiple times." Building background knowledge allows students to access prior lessons and life experiences in order to make connections to new content. By stating clear objectives teachers can clearly outline what previous concepts tie into present conversations. In other words, Echevaria, Vogt, and Short (2008) recognize, "Explicitly linking a lesson's key content and language concepts to a students' background knowledge and experiences enables them to forge connections between what they know and what they are learning," (p. 93).

How Written Objectives Affect Teachers and Students

Written objectives affect students and teachers in a positive way. It allows for teachers to assess their students more frequently, reflect on previous lessons and engage learners in a deep, more meaningful way. There is more opportunity for students to receive the clarification they need and for teachers to reteach and adjust lessons as they go. In the video, "Lesson Planning," Vogt (n.d.) examines the constant cycle of assessment and reteaching fostered by the SIOP model--"It's an on-going assessment of teaching, reteaching, assessing, and ultimately determining whether our students have met our content and language objectives." Ultimately, teachers are better able to serve the needs of their students, while students in turn gain a better concept of the material that can often be hurriedly brushed aside in attempts to move on and cover new topics.

According to Echevaria, Vogt and Short (2008), one teacher noted that, "defining the objectives every day brings focus to my planning and thinking, and it helps bring order to my classroom procedures," (p. 28). Simply by having order and routine in the classroom, it can allow second language learners to feel more comfortable knowing what to expect on a daily basis.

The emphasis on background knowledge allows teachers to hone a variety of resources when helping students make connections to prior content and language objectives. Echevaria, Vogt, and Short (2008) recognize, " is of critical importance that teachers build background knowledge using techniques that fill in the gaps, and helps students connect what they do know with what is being taught. And when teachers' explanations are made more concrete with supplementary materials (e.g. photos, models, illustrations, video clips), students are more likely to make the appropriate connections," (p. 67). Written objectives allow teachers to reflect, assess, and use multiple-modalities of learning in order to build clear learning objectives for students. It forces teachers to break down the learning process into manageable pieces for Second Language Learners, and allows all students to opportunity for clarification and reteaching when they become lost while learning a certain concept or lesson.

At a Glance: Content and Language Objectives

Content Objectives are statements that identify what students should know and be able to do in a particular content area for a given lesson.

Language Objectives are statements that identify what students should know and be able to do while learning English (or another language) in a given lesson. They support students' language development, often focusing on vocabulary, functional language, language skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking, grammatical knowledge, and language learning strategies.