A couple posts back, we talked about 5 easy ways to add language into any lesson for ESL teachers and content teachers as well. But today, we need to backtrack a little bit. Adding in language should be carefully thought out and intentional. When teaching content, we use content objectives to guide us and our students. Just like these objectives, language has objectives too! ESL teachers should be in regular practice using these, but content teachers should be using these as well to ensure student success across content areas.
If you're a content teacher, you may be thinking that this is just another thing you have to do. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature and as easy as writing your content objectives. You'll be busting out those language objectives without your cheatsheet in no time! (I still use one and keep it posted by my desk when I'm feeling stuck). I have used one from the SIOP model, and I also made one here for you to check out and use. There's a template inside scaffolded to help guide you.
Step 1: Identify the task
What is the task you will have them do to achieve the objective and the standards? For an example, in high school we read Fahrenheit 451. I read it with my beginners and yes, it seemed daunting, but with the correct scaffolds I promise it wasn't so bad!
One of our standards that we look at is to analyze how the character develops throughout the text. So my task was for them to read in chunks and summarize as they went so that they could fill in a graphic organizer about his character, and then ultimately have them do a one-pager on this and the themes we studied.
In this step, we also need to consider the vocabulary, sentence structures, and grammar we want them to use. This is also where we think about the layers, or levels, of language we are going to be addressing as well.
Step 2: Choose your domain and action verb
For most of this task, we will be reading in order to do our task. However, that does not mean that we won't look at other domains as well. It also does not mean that this will be the only language objective we use; it will change depending on what your focus of the lesson is. And actually, if you can integrate all of the four language domains (Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening or SWRL) in one lesson, you are supporting your ELs wonderfully by delivering a balanced lesson!
Next, I need to choose an action verb. There's a list in the resource provided above. I decided to use identify.
Step 3: Link to academic content
So far, my language objective is- I can identify. Next we add in our content we are looking at. Now, your language objective is- I can identify how the main character develops.
Step 4: Include Scaffolds
How will they do this? This is where you add in your scaffolds. Your scaffolds will change depending on the profiency level of your students. For example, for my beginners I usually use visuals, word banks, chunk text, and let them use L1 support (these are just a few). For this task, I am going to have them read in chunks and then draw a visual to show me they are comprehending. For high-beginners, I may have them write a sentence with a stem or a frame and a word bank.
So now, my language objective is- I can identify how the main character develops by reading in chunks and drawing a visual. For the high-beginners, it may be- I can identify how the main character develops by reading in chunks and summarizing in a sentence using a word bank and frame. I may even add in there what sentence structure, vocabulary, or grammar I want them to use as well. If I don't include it in my language objective, I will definitely have it explicitly posted so they can see what I want their work to look like.
When it's your turn to try, use this sentence frame to guide you!
I can __________ (action verb) ________________ (content topic) by/with ________________________________ (scaffolds).
And when in doubt, keep your template and verb list nearby for inspiration! Comment below with a sample language objective from your lessons. I'd love to see!
To learn more about strategies for incorporating language into your lessons, check out my course, My EL Mentor: Creating a Language-Rich Classroom! And if you are a high school teacher, consider joining my membership, My MLL Mentor, to discuss ideas like this with other high school ESL teachers!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.