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ELLs and Oral Language, Part Two

Today I am summarising some recent discussion in response to my first post on ELLs and oral language and continuing the discussion.

Several people have mentioned what a great resource Learning Though Talk is. Remember that there are two books which all schools should have. Learning Through Talk: Oral Language in Years 1–3 and Learning Through Talk: Oral Language in Years 4–8. You will find links to each booklet on the ESOL Online oral language page along with other useful oral language readings. Unfortunately Learning Through Talk was distributed to schools at the same time as National Standards were being implemented and therefore many school leaders were not able to commit PD time to it.

Jane van der Zeyden has observed that "there is no consistency of expectations for oral language across schools in New Zealand. Most teachers are unaware that expectations for oral language skills and knowledge for different year levels including School Entry are in Learning Through Talk. If teachers could begin to use these expectations to inform their practice we would be making progress towards achieving some consistency.”  It would appear that this would need to be a focus of professional development in many schools.

There are 10 oral language exemplars, covering the functions of speaking and listening as set out in English in the New Zealand Curriculum. They are available on video which has been distributed to schools: Speaking and Listening: Interpersonal Speaking: Group Discussion. See Literacy online for details

Jane van der Zeyden also suggests that the only thing missing from Learning through Talk is guidance with practical tasks that can be used across the curriculum to build oral competence. This is where the knowledge of the strategies on the ESOL Online teaching strategies page can be helpful.  They are not exhaustive and there are many more out there. I have links to some other documents with oral language strategies below.

Teachers need a range of strategies that they know and are confident in using. But they also need assistance in knowing how to use these when planning a new unit of work. Where are they are best used in the teaching cycle? Why you would choose to use them? What type of learner would they be effective for? Etc.  The Making Language and Learning Work DVDs can be effective for demonstrating how to use oral language strategies to scaffold across a unit of work.  

The other crucial skill is knowledge of how to scaffold classroom talk. Pauline Gibbons, in Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning (2002) has great examples of real dialogue demonstrating effective teacher scaffolding of classroom discussions. (In particular see chapters 2 and 3.) She talks about ‘talking with children’  “where the teacher provides scaffolding be clarifying, questioning, and providing models for the speaker, so that the learner and teacher together collaboratively build up what the learner wants to say.(p34)”

Pauline also illustrates the “Mode Continuum” to illustrate how certain linguistic features change as language becomes increasingly closer to written forms. On page 42 Gibbons writes, “As teachers we need design teaching activities that are sequenced from the most situation-embedded, or most spoken-like, (and activities thus for ESL-learners the most easily understood), to the least situation-dependent or moot written-like (a written journal).   `

This resource Great Idea: Scaffolding, on the British Council EAL Nexus website suggests that as teachers we can provide these types of oral language scaffolds.

·         Planning for guided talk sessions in small groups

Modelling and demonstrating language orally or in writing to the learner

  • ‘Recasting’ language to develop the learner’s language and extend vocabulary
  • Encouraging learners to use L1 ability on which to ‘hook’ learning in the additional language
  • Activating prior knowledge about a new topic to create a context for the new learning
  • Incorporating collaborative work into lessons
  • Using visuals and graphic organisers such as pictures, models, diagrams, grids, tables and graphs to support understanding
  • Providing language prompts and frames for speaking and writing

There is a lot of knowledge to take on board and grow in the oral language field. Personally, I think using the teaching as inquiry cycle is the best way for teachers to engage with the topic and as a starting point for professional development using, Learning through talk, as one of the resources you will look at to deepen knowledge around their personal inquiries. Teaching as Inquiry requires teachers to be open to new ideas and possibilities as to what strategies might work for different students. The Education Gazette, Volume 95, Number 5, 21 March 2016, has a great feature article: Teaching as inquiry – a refresher, which clarifies the inquiry process and asks some pertinent questions.

Oral Language Readings I have discovered

Building to CodeVirginia “Jenny” Williams uses assessment and scaffolding to support the five stages of second-language acquisition

Linguistic Scaffolding Strategies for ELLs, Texas education Agency, LEP SSI Instructional Excellence Center: Project Tesoro 2009. This has simple explanations and examples of different strategies you can use to develop oral language skills.

Strategic oral Language Instruction in ELD Teaching Oracy to Develop Literacy by Dr. Connie William and Dorothy Roberts

Extending English Language Learners' Classroom Interactions Using the Response Protocol By: Kathleen A.J. Mohr, Eric S. Mohr

ELL Voices in the Classroom, Capacity Building series #8 Ontario schools SECRETARIAT SPECIAL EDITION.

Gibbons Activity Cycle Adapted by T. Fortune and D. Tedick from: Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding language scaffolding learning: Teaching second language learners in the mainstream classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Attending to Language, Engaging in Practice: Scaffolding English Language Learners’ Apprenticeship Into the Common Core English Language Arts Standards George C. Bunch, University of California, Santa Cruz Aída Walqui, WestEd Amanda Kibler, University of Virginia Chapter 2. This chapter looks at how teachers can provide micro scaffolding to support ELLS.

Strategy 4: Using Scaffolding Techniques, CoBaLTT , Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA). They have links to other pages with good strategies.