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Incorporating Content and Language Objectives with English Learners

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As teachers of English Language Learners in a content area, two areas of instruction are necessary for student comprehension: content and language. Approaching instruction with a focus on both objectives is fundamental to ensure that ELs find success in content area classrooms.

Content objectives may be simple to determine. The appropriate state and district content frameworks and curriculum maps, or possibly referencing textbook chapter summaries are good starting points. Content objectives often start with what  students will know, understand, and be able to do–followed by the content specific language.

Ex. Students will be able to describe the causes of ___________________________ (insert event).

For many English Learners, it is vital to consider differences in life experience and background. Are there gaps in what they know that native-born students in your community would typically know? Do English Learners bring distinctive experiences that inform or bear similarity to content under study? For example, new immigrants may have useful insights about differences in political organization between the U.S. and other places they have lived.

Language objectives require educators to consider how the vocabulary and language will be used by students. Students need to be able to listen, respond, read, and write with appropriate content vocabulary in order to truly understand the content that is being taught. Consider carefully which terms are essential to understand the topic at hand, and which terms are necessary to successfully complete assignments. The following video from ¡Colorín Colorado! illustrates the importance of incorporating both content and language instruction into teaching ELLs:

The following is an example of a lesson plan that incorporates both content and language objectives.

UntitledStudents are expected to not only address the content of the particular unit but also to focus on using tiered vocabulary, integrating new vocabulary into assignments, writing sentences, and listening and oral summarizing the material. Providing students with content and planned activities to use the language, provides ELs with a comprehensive perspective of the material and enhances their ability to actively use what they have learned.

Karen Albano

History eNews Editor, Emerging America
Karen Albano began working with the Emerging America program in 2015. She is currently the editor of the weekly History eNews, and has contributed to many facets of the Emerging America program, including developing curriculum, improving the accessibility of the website to educators, and overseeing social media outreach.