English Language Teaching: Strategies and Methods

The required readings for this topic have widened my perspective on vocabulary development. I would like to implement the techniques that combine writing and drawing when teaching vocabulary to ELL students, and the Vocabulary Quilt is an appropriate strategy (Grand Canyon University Student Success Center, n.d.; Grand Canyon University, 2015; Wessels, 2011). The fundamental purpose of the VQ strategy is to provide ELL students with assistance during reading and help them to draw links between unfamiliar words in English and their own experiences and background linguistic knowledge.

The selected strategy for vocabulary development is unique since it presents a process with three clearly defined phases. Within the frame of the first phase (before reading texts or stories), the teacher selects the key vocabulary to be learned and encourages all students to create quilts and make guesses about the meaning of each word by writing their associations or explaining each concept in the form of drawings (Wessels, 2011). Then, students are given some time to discuss their ideas in small groups. The second phase involves reading the story with the class and stopping children whenever the words from the quilt appear in the text. The task is to discuss each word individually and encourage children to check their guesses and see the word in different contexts (Wessels, 2011). Finally, during the phase after reading, students should work in small groups to develop appropriate definitions for all new words and document them.

Among other things, the degree to which an ELL student is successful in studying a foreign language can be defined with reference to the speed with which he or she acquires new vocabulary by memorizing some unknown words and learning how they are used depending on the situation (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017b; Wessels, 2011). The VQ strategy can improve ELL students’ success due to many reasons. To start with, being able to come up with their own definitions for words and create simple drawings to explain them is specifically beneficial to ELLs since it maximizes all students’ ability to participate in vocabulary learning activities. The strategy in question allows children to contribute to group discussions using their native language, English words that they already know, and drawings (Wessels, 2011). For that reason, it can engage ELLs with different levels of English.

Other reasons why the VQ strategy can be really helpful for ELLs is that it creates more opportunities for peer collaboration in the classroom and places emphasis on every new word to be learned. Research shows that collaboration and group discussions can help ELL students to make connections between their background knowledge and new information in the target language (Wessels, 2011). Therefore, the VQ strategy supports ELL students’ vocabulary development through the exchange of experiences. Additionally, the strategy helps ELL learners to work thoroughly to understand every new word by trying to guess its meaning, finding it in readings, and discussing its real-life uses. For ELL students, it is of importance to understand the internal logic of the English language and its derivational patterns, and the discussions of every new word are beneficial in this regard.

As a teacher, I have observed the use of classroom activities based on the SEI approach many times. The essential feature of SEI strategies is that they involve providing instruction only or mostly in English to speed up the acquisition of language use skills in ELLs and preparing them for mainstream education (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2017a; Pascopella, 2011). One particular example of an SEI strategy that I observed was the use of readings and exercises to improve Spanish-speaking ELL students’ understanding of different parts of speech in English and their purposes. As for me, the strategy worked because it emphasized all students’ cultural characteristics and enabled the children to collaborate and share their ideas with the class.

In the discussed case, almost all instruction was given in English. Also, the teacher tried to find some readings that would be partially tied to the students’ native culture. That component of the instructional strategy improved the recognition of new words and helped all students to draw links between more and less familiar words and their uses in written texts. Additionally, the strategy was beneficial due to informal learning groups – a form of cooperative learning (Brabec, Fisher, & Pitler, 2004). Thanks to the opportunity to discuss their answers in small groups, the students were able to learn from their peers’ mistakes.

From my observations, the content concepts were entirely appropriate for the students’ grade level (ELD1) and both educational and cultural backgrounds, which contributed to the lesson’s effectiveness. Ensuring the appropriateness of content concepts is an important prerequisite to success emphasized in the SIOP model for teaching ELLs (Echevarria et al., 2017b). To start with, the students were familiar with the idea of different parts of speech, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, pronouns, and prepositions, in their native language. Due to that, it was not too difficult for them to make guesses when answering the teacher’s questions in English. Another feature of the assignments that made the strategy and all activities more appropriate was that some readings and exercises contained English words with Spanish origins that sounded familiar to the students and allowed them to see connections and differences between the languages. That improved the students’ comprehension of texts and assisted them in defining the parts of speech of particular words and completing other assignments helping them to speak more fluently and construct grammatically correct sentences.

References

Brabec, K., Fisher, K., & Pitler, H. (2004). Building better instruction: How technology supports nine research-proven instructional strategies. Learning & Leading with Technology, 31(5), 6-11.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2017a). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2017b). SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). In J. Echevarria, M. Vogt, & D. Short, Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (5th ed.) (pp. 302-311). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Grand Canyon University Student Success Center. (n.d.). English language teaching: Strategies and methods. Web.

Grand Canyon University. (2015). Instructional strategies for ELLs.

Pascopella, A. (2011). Successful strategies for English language learners. District Administration, 47(2), 29-44.

Wessels, S. (2011). Promoting vocabulary learning for English learners. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 46-50.