“When students understand the purpose of a lesson, they learn more” (Fisher & Frey, 2010, p. 315).
Wow! What a simple statement that makes so much sense. It is so important that teachers tell students at the beginning of class what they will be learning. The research backs up this practice. It is especially important for second language learners to know what they will be learning given ‘school talk’ is often about people, ideas and events that are not physically present in the room. All of this decontextualized language makes it difficult for language learners to make sense of what is happening and what it is to be learned (Fisher & Frey, 2010). So, beyond establishing a purpose or objective for your lesson and sharing it with the class, it is important to also focus in on a language objective for each lesson to help students learn all of the language that is part of the lesson. For example, if you are teaching about resources in the community, a content objective for the lesson could be, “I will be able to name the most important community resources to my family.” A complementary language objective could be, “I will be able to orally describe 3 community resources using the words: resources, community, hospital, fire station, library, school, and police.” At the end of a lesson, don’t forget to check with English Language Learners to see if they are able to achieve the objectives. Having the class give you a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs sideways’ or ‘thumbs down’ is a good informal check that can help you identify those who are ready to move on, those who are struggling, and how you need to modify your teaching.
Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2010). Unpacking the language purpose: Vocabulary, structure, and function. TESOL Journal (1)3, 315-337.
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Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.