What does it take to grow solid English language knowledge and communication skills in diverse classroom settings and across the curriculum? When it comes to advancing the growth of English learners, these are exciting times for educators and their students. New best practices align to research from the Council of the Great City Schools on approaches that accelerate academic language acquisition in general, and growth in a second language in particular. And—additional research from the Council of Chief State School Officers draws a solid line to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), giving added importance to the findings.
What are some of the new best practices? Here we focus on one of them: Active Language Learning.
The simple truth of language acquisition is that we learn language best by using it. It is important for English learners to be actively involved in language production as they listen, discuss, research, speak, and write. Daily language production encourages productive struggle at every step, which expands students' growth.
To enhance the classroom experience for English learners, active language learning strategies include engaging with compelling, relevant literary and informational texts and multi-media resources that offer students a world of concepts, language, and insights. These experiences are the bedrock for gaining access to, and mastery of, rich academic language.
Active language learning seems like a given. The truth is, too often instruction consists of a teacher at the front of the room delivering overly scripted lessons and static prompts that simplify, rather than expand language practice, and eliciting responses in overly sheltered learning contexts that can impose ceilings on growth. This is the classroom of yesterday—these older approaches have been around for years, and we have not seen English learners make the kinds of strides they must make from those programs. It is time for a new approach!
The Classroom of the Future: New Ways to Meet Rigorous Standards
Imagine the confidence English learners gain when, every day, they can actively comprehend and produce the academic language that empowers them to communicate for a variety of purposes—participating in structured collaborative academic discussions, using writing effectively to share their growing insights, discussing their opinions and backing them with evidence—all absolutely necessary goals for meeting today's rigorous standards.
- English learner students grow their language skills best when they are learning to actively process and produce language in both spoken and written forms.
- Students also need a mix of compelling literary works, informational texts, poetry, essays, blogs, and videos in order to be engaged and build their academic language.
- Keeping lesson routines consistent is key to help students stay focused on the content that they are learning.
- Students should actively produce oral and written language in a variety of ways on a daily basis.
Discover more strategies and best practices for supporting your English learners at HMH's Classroom of the Future presentation, Thursday, March 23 at 10:00 am on the Exhibit Hall stage. And visit HMH at Booth #901 to preview our newest resources.
We will explore the concept of active learning in greater detail in part 2 of this blog, on March 31.