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Research-Based ELD Approaches: Goals, Features & Effectiveness

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

As a teacher of English Language Development (ELD), you want to be effective so your students can succeed. This lesson gives an overview of some research-based teaching approaches you can apply in the classroom.

Importance of Research-Based Approaches

Have you ever felt discouraged because of the results your English language learners (ELLs) get on tests? Have you ever wondered if there's something you can do differently when teaching? Luckily, there are research-based teaching approaches. These are a set of instructional strategies you can apply that have arisen from research in the fields of linguistics and second language learning. The importance of such research-based approaches is that experts have tested them and found that they're effective in the classroom.

Combination of Approaches

Before we begin, let's clarify something. You can apply a combination of research-based approaches to teach language. In other words, no need to stick to just one approach because the ideal is, precisely, that you make your class dynamic by applying a variety of teaching approaches. For each approach, we'll learn about the theoretical basis, goals, key features, and effectiveness. Let's not wait anymore and meet Shawn, a teacher of English Language Development (ELD) who applies research-based approaches.

Explicit Instruction

In this approach, the teacher openly explains and specifies a knowledge piece students should learn. The theoretical basis is that language learners don't necessarily have the linguistic awareness we wish they would. Thus, the goal of this approach is to ensure students have an awareness of the language pieces the teacher provides.

For example, instead of hoping students will deduce basic grammar rules based on what they see, Shawn gives this knowledge through explicit instruction. He specifically tells students that there is a grammar rule that makes it necessary to add an 's' at the end of a verb in the present tense for the third person. Then, he shows several examples and, finally, gets students to apply the rule.

Experts consider this approach particularly helpful for beginning students. The approach includes practices like openly stating learning goals, giving specific instructions so students can do an exercise or task, using examples to illustrate a concept, etc. In short, the idea is to be as clear as possible on what you want your students to learn.

Guided Reading

Guided reading is when a teacher works with a group of students who can read at the same level while receiving the teacher's support. The goal is to teach reading skills so students can read independently. This is a great approach for beginning learners, and the main feature here is that all students in the reading group have the same or similar reading skills and language level. Guided reading includes helping students with pronunciation of new words, the meaning of new words, pace, and comprehension through questions.

For instance, Shawn sits with a group of five intermediate students. They read a short story about a barn. Shawn makes sure students know what a barn is and begins by reading aloud the first paragraph so students can imitate the pace and intonation. As the reading progresses, Shawn pauses to ask students questions. All of these activities teach students the reading skills they need.

Vocabulary Expansion

The theoretical basis of this research-based approach, which suggests that vocabulary expansion is important, resides in the logic that the more words/expressions your ELLs know, the easier it is for them to communicate. The key feature of vocabulary lessons is to teach new words within a context, such as a dialogue or story. The goal is to provide learners with a wide and sophisticated bank of words they can use in different situations.

For example, Shawn not only teaches everyday vocabulary to his ELLs; he also makes sure to help his ELLs with vocabulary they can use in subject content such as math or science.

Previous Knowledge Use

Your ELLs come to your classroom with some knowledge either in their first language or from recent experiences in English. Research recommends that you, as a teacher, use such knowledge to develop your ELLs' abilities. The goal is to transfer knowledge into English.

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