Strategies that Work!: Supporting MLLs/ELLs (Part 2)

By Gissel Burgos

A picture of Gissel standing in a school hallway, facing toward the camera, with one arm extended upwards. She is dressed in black pants, a grey sweater over a white shirt, and black shoes. The hallway is painted yellow with bulletin boards and windows on one side and lockers on the other. The floor features a pattern of blue and yellow tiles, with distinctive blue and yellow lines running down the center, guiding through the corridor.

 

 

Congratulations to our 2024 S.P.A.R.K. award winner, Gissel Burgos. Check out Part 1 of this blog post series and read on to find out more about how she makes content accessible for her multilingual learners.

 

 

 

 


Pre-Teaching Vocabulary

MLLs/ELLs benefit greatly from pre-taught vocabulary since it helps them identify words, understand their meanings, and retain information. It helps students familiarize themselves with the lesson and prepare them for the content instruction. This can be done by choosing vocabulary from a text students will be reading and spending at least 10 minutes of direct instruction of those words. The goal is for students to use the words in a meaningful way.

Here’s how it can be done:

  1. Say the word (or phrase) and have students repeat three times.
  2. State the word (or phrase) in context, straight from the text they are reading.
  3. Provide them with a dictionary definition.
  4. Provide them with a student-friendly definition.
  5. Highlight the grammar, spelling, and/or polysemy.
  6. Provide students with a sentence starter using the vocabulary in a sentence.
  7. Inform students when and how to use the vocabulary in writing assignments.

Table providing students with definitions that are more accessible to them along with grammatical context.

Entering ELLs would not benefit too much from the dictionary definition and the grammar components of the vocabulary just yet. These steps can be skipped for these lower English proficiency students.

Modifying Texts

In a perfect classroom, all students would be reading at grade level. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many of our students. ELLs, no matter their proficiency level, lack academic vocabulary and knowledge of complex sentence structures that aid comprehension. This makes reading grade level texts independently even more challenging. In order to alleviate this and make the content accessible to all students, texts can be modified in various ways. Below are some text modifications that I use most frequently.

  • Rewrite to simplify – Rewrite the text in your own words, changing the language that you feel is incomprehensible. Keep everything but simplify the language. Chatgpt has made this even easier!
  • Gloss – Leave text intact. Star all unfamiliar or difficult words or word phrases.  On a separate sheet, create an alphabetical list of the expressions with a simple definition.
  • Add pictures – Leave text intact. Break up the text so that there is room for pictures.  Select a few images that will help convey meaning at key moments in the text.
  • Graphic organizer – Leave text intact. Add a graphic organizer that either places the text within it, or is an add-on that helps present the key points from the text. This might be a timeline, a t-chart, etc.
  • Chunk and title – Leave text intact. Break it into meaningful smaller sections with subtitles to help convey meaning.
  • Highlight – Leave text intact. Use a highlighter or bolden to underscore key parts of the text that are essential for comprehension.
  • Provide translation – In the case where English language development is not a primary goal for the text, provide a translated version of the text. This can also help for students to check comprehension of the English version.

Ice Age and Human Migration Collage: Top Left: A paragraph titled "Beringia" discussing the possibility of human migration from Asia to America during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower. Top Right: Two photographs depicting a vast ice-covered landscape and a glacier meeting the sea. Bottom: A map showing the Bering Land Bridge between Asia and North America with areas marked for ice sheets. Labels include "Glacier," "Ice Age," and "Ice Sheet," with definitions provided for each term.

Ice Age and Human Migration Collage: Top Left: A paragraph titled "Beringia" discussing the possibility of human migration from Asia to America during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower. Top Right: Two photographs depicting a vast ice-covered landscape and a glacier meeting the sea. Bottom: A map showing the Bering Land Bridge between Asia and North America with areas marked for ice sheets. Labels include "Glacier," "Ice Age," and "Ice Sheet," with definitions provided for each term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The challenges of teaching remotely during a pandemic in a monolingual classroom with an Entering ELL helped me become a better teacher for all my students. The connection I was able to build with this student further motivated me to want to support him in any way I could. Although it took many trials and errors and many hours of modifying lesson plans, the progress I was able to see in this student from September to June made it all worth it. Making adjustments to your lesson plans doesn’t have to be tedious and exhausting. They can be as simple as providing a sentence frame when posing a question or adding visuals to a text. A teacher doesn’t even have to speak the same language as the student. All they need is a little empathy.


About Gissel:

Gissel Burgos is the 2024 recipient of the Collaborative’s S.P.A.R.K. award, given annually to one MLL/ELL educator and one special educator who embody special populations advocacy, relationship building, and knowledge sharing. Gissel was born and raised in the Bronx, New York to immigrant parents from Colombia and the Dominican Republic. She has degrees in Childhood Education and T.E.S.O.L. She has been teaching and supporting ELL students for five years. Currently, she is an English as a New Language (ENL) teacher and teacher leader at Family Life Academy Charter School (M.S.) in the Bronx.