This guide provides teachers a tool to scaffold instruction for English learners organized by proficiency levels to target questions and responses with the support of sentence frames. Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy of higher order thinking skills, these supports develop oral language and writing development in remembering, comprehending, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. These function words are critical for academic access. In the newly adopted California ELD Standards, function words are referred to as “purpose.” Questions and sentence writing frames modeled by the teacher can help English learners:
- Assess, understand and master critical academic concepts
- Increase acquisition of academic language
- Move beyond simple assignments of recalling information to higher level thinking tasks, such as analysis, evaluation, and creating
English learners, especially those at the lower levels of proficiency, may have trouble understanding questions or explaining their answers in English, but that does not mean they are incapable of advanced levels of thinking. Teachers skilled in effective instructional strategies for English learners can scaffold questions and provide the use of sentence frames. Responses or the products required for valid assessment of knowledge allow English learners to demonstrate understanding of concepts, regardless of their level of English proficiency. Sample products are suggested in this guide as well as strategies. These strategies are not the only strategies teachers should use. Any unfamiliar strategy can be searched on the Internet as they were chosen as strategies for their adaptability across the content areas.
The use of sentence writing frames guides English learners in their oral and written responses, in their academic language, as well as the appropriate use of function, signal words and phrases. When teachers analyze the sentence frames, they will quickly see which function and signal words must be explicitly taught to increase understanding. Once the English learners are comfortable with the level of proficiency and/or function remove the frame and increase the level of rigor.
It is critical for teachers to remember that English learners must use their cognitive skills to process language while simultaneously master complex concepts. For this reason, a text-rich classroom that validates and infuses linguistic and cultural knowledge is essential when working with English learners. English learners will rely on word banks, word walls, concept walls, and other visible language resources to produce rich language in their responses, whether oral or written.
The following pages are organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy and linked to elements of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK). It includes questions a teacher might ask English learners that are appropriate to their English proficiency, as well as oral and writing frames to scaffold student responses. It is the teacher’s responsibility to modify the sentence frames to reflect the content area and topic.
We hope this tool is useful to you but more importantly, that it makes a difference in your English learners’ academic achievement.
We would like to thank the teachers of the Los Angeles County Educational Programs who piloted this tool during 2012-2013. Also the coaches in the EL Coaches Network 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Their valuable feedback was instrumental in making useful significant changes.
- Magda and Bobbi