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Re-conceptualizing Science Instruction for English Language Learners
Google Scholar. Boehm, J. Elwell, A. Pyster, E. Stuckle, and R. Boehm, P Bose, E. Horowitz, M. Boehm, B. Clark, E. Horowitz, R. Madachy, R. Selby, and C. Boehm and P. October Boehm and R. Booch, I. Jacobson, J. Carmel, R. Whitaker, and J. ACM , June , pp. Conklin and M. OIS , October , pp. Dardenne, S. Fickas, and A. A Finkelstein, J. Kramer, B. T: Very good…in the graphic organizers we only put key words and once we write them down then we know how to use it in complete sentences. Who knows this word in Spanish? What do we need to remember when we write the word in Spanish?
S5: The accent mark. T: YES, the accent mark…in what letter does the accent go? S6: On the letter u… T: Very good. How can we classify the word humid by its accent? Who knows? Who knows another thing about the tropical rainforest? S8: It is hot.
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T: Okay…Please come and write it on the graphic organizer. What are other words that describe the tropical rainforest? S9: The tropical rainforest is very important. T: The word important could be used as an adjective? S1: Yesssss… T: What would you do to be sure? S3: We would ask…how is the tropical rainforest?
T: Okay…those are all adjectives. Who can tell me the difference between an adjective and a fact? S6: A fact is pure information and an adjective describes something. T: If we say that the tropical rainforest produces medicine, is that a description? S No, those are facts but big, immense, gigantic…those are adjectives that describe the tropical rainforest. T: I liked the word that Maria used.
Please, Maria, could you repeat the words you just said? S Colossal.
T: Very good, and a cognate for that word? S It is the same… T: Yes, it is almost the same. It has one more s. As you can see some cognates have almost all the same letters, some have parts of the word that are the same and others are written exactly in the same way but they are pronounced differently.
Please remember that. Now, we have enough adjectives to describe the tropical rainforest. Please read with me…. S It is a fact… T: Very good…it is a fact, an important fact. Please copy this graphic organizer in your notebooks and go back to your seat. Tomorrow we will continue the discussion on the topic. This instructional activity emphasizes the use of academic language and science content by learning about a rainforest ecosystem. Because oral language buildsthe foundation for literacy development, second language learners need daily opportunities to learn and practice spoken language in authentic ways in order for their literacy skills to flourish.
The informational text on the tropical rainforest provided a context for the academic language discussion. As students focused on features of language and learned new vocabulary, cognitive development was also activated as they were asked to complete the descriptive graphic organizer and present it with the class. A closer look at this example reveals how contextualized language and content instruction are woven into the unit of inquiry. Table 4 provides a visual representation of the analysis of the academic language and content used in instructional activity 1.
This analysis of instructional activity 1 reflects how Mrs. Lee understands the importance of weaving language and content in her science lessons. The following section describes the analysis of instructional activity 2 with a focus on developing academic vocabulary. Using a top-down approach to content teaching, this lesson is part of a sequence that started with the broad idea of ecosystems and then moved to the concept of habitats.
At this stage of the unit of study, students learned about plants and animals that lived in each habitat, reviewed characteristics of plants from different habitats, and created a classification chart. The lesson from which the instructional activity described here was selected following the previous lessons about different habitats and narrowed its focus by concentrating the discussion on the question: where do plants come from? Vocabulary development, the lexical component, was a key element in Mrs.
While not all lessons focused on vocabulary, most of her instruction had some reference to the vocabulary being studied. She explained that texts, such as the one read to the students about seeds, are high in academic content and vocabulary, but use simpler sentence structure than the science textbook. Lee applied what researchers, such as Dutro , have called frontloading : the process of introducing new vocabulary and discussing concepts before reading or writing about academic content.
This approach to vocabulary development provides much more background knowledge and understanding before new learning is attempted. Lee introduced the key vocabulary of the textbook and other supplemental materials by writing them with two different colors and placing the words on the whiteboard. The students were asked to discuss with their partners what they knew about these words. Freeman and Freeman explain that while working on academic tasks, students encounter two types of academic vocabulary that need to be explicitly taught: content-specific vocabulary and general academic vocabulary.
Content-specific vocabulary refers to the specific vocabulary of each discipline such as photosynthesis , anarchy ,or plot. The words in this group are easy to identify and are the ones teachers tend to teach more often because they are connected to a specific topic of study.
General academic vocabulary refers to academic terms that appear across disciplines such as label, essay, or furthermore. This second group of words is more difficult for all learners, but especially for second language learners because the words cannot be connected to any preconceived concept or theme in particular. As Freeman and Freeman explain, content-specific vocabulary is usually presented in textbooks using a different font and is defined in a glossary at the end of each chapter. While content-specific vocabulary is needed for academic success, general academic vocabulary is even more important because it is used across all the subject areas.
Lee visually introduced the difference between these two types of words by using the color-coded technique shown below in Table 5. She ended the lesson by providing the students with an engaging strategy to practice the academic vocabulary that had been introduced. Templates of the Frayer Model were distributed among the students. Lee explained to the students that they were to create vocabulary cards using the content-specific vocabulary or general academic vocabulary learned from the discussion of the reading.
The upper left corner was used to write the selected word. In the upper right corner, students needed to draw a picture that represented the definition of the word. In the lower left corner of the card, a space for the definition of the word was provided. Lastly, in the lower right corner, students needed to complete the card by writing down a word or a phrase that would help them remember the vocabulary word selected. This corner provided students with an opportunity to connect with the vocabulary to be learned at a personal level. Table 7 provides a visual representation of the analysis of instructional activity 2 showing the double focus of language and content.
This is a recursive theme in Mrs. An informational text was used to provide a context for vocabulary development around which the instructional activity was organized. In instructional activity 2, the teacher-student interaction fostered the development of academic language at the lexical level Scarcella, The information in this table reflects the careful preview and reinforcement of academic language that Mrs. Lee facilitated at many points of the instructional activity through different strategies using science content as the instructional context.
The analysis shows that the focus of the lesson was on the development of content-specific and general academic vocabulary selected from the reading. Cognates, accent marks, and particular features of the Spanish language were also discussed. Also, students had opportunities to develop oral language skills as they defined their science words in the communicative exchange created with the use of the Frayer Model strategy.
The following section analyzes instructional activity 3 which discusses the aging of trees. Instructional activity 3 is part of a three-day lesson on deciduous, coniferous, and rain forests. Students discussed the different types of trees that live in each forest. The video was divided into segments for each type of forest. Following each segment, the students worked in groups to complete a tree map in which they classify the different forests and described the characteristics of each type of forest. A tree map is used for hierarchical classifications as well as for groupings of themes, concepts, and ideas as shown below in Figure 1.
Once each section of the graph was completed, they shared their descriptions for each type of forest with the class. Discussion about types of trees followed each segment. Students wrote their ideas on post-it notes responding to the question posed by the teacher. They placed the notes in different columns creating a bar graph with the predictions from the whole class. Following this discussion, Mrs.
Lee passed around slices of tree trunk for group observation. The lesson ended with a reading of a short science article about the age of trees to confirm or disconfirm their answers to the guiding question posed by the teacher. The instructional activity described below represents a review of all the science concepts learned during the two previous lessons. The teacher starts by asking students if they knew what a circle map was.
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The circle map used in this activity serves to brainstorm and to collect information so students will be able to understand the concept and, then, define or describe it. In the center of the circle, the teacher writes a word, number, picture, or any other sign or symbol to represent an object, person, or idea they are trying to understand, describe or define. T: What is a circle map? S1: We use it to describe what we are studying. T: Ok…It helps us organize ideas about the theme of study. Now we are going to complete this circle map about the age of trees. It is important that you remember what we read this morning.
S2: What we read in English? T: Yes, what we read in English. Please, pay attention and participate in the discussion. I am going to use the color blue to write your ideas and color red to add new ideas and the science vocabulary that you have learned…We need to practice the best way to write sentences that can express the meaning of the ideas that we have learned about the theme.
S3: Yesterday when we saw the tree trunk we saw the rings…the rings tell the age of a tree. T: Ok… Could you describe the rings? S4: The rings are big and small. T: The rings are…big or wide? Which word best expresses what we want to say about the rings? S2: wide… T: Ok, I will write here the word wide in red to point out that there is another word that best expresses the meaning of what we want to say. And, what else do we know about the size of the rings? S1: It depends on how much water the trees drink… when they have a lot of water the rings are big and if they do not have water they are small T: Fine, then…the size of the rings depends on the amount of water that they will absorb per year.
Here we will replace how much water for quantity of water to write like the scientists do. Do you agree? S7: Silence T: Remember what we read yesterday. The informational text told us that the rainy season and the season of d…. S8: Oh… the drought. T: Ok…the drought season affects the growth of the trees…What do you think about it? S3: Thinner…smaller because they did not drink too much water… T: Ok, then…I will write in the circle map the sentence with a blue color and with red the word thinner because it is the word that we have been discussing. This instructional activity had multiple layers of analysis from questioning techniques to content specific vocabulary and discussion activities about sentence structure to reviewing previously learned science concepts.
Also, several academic language development areas were targeted. Students activated their prior knowledge through questioning techniques used by the teacher as they completed the circle map, recalled and defined content specific vocabulary, and recalled how to better construct sentences to convey ideas more clearly. The communicative exchange presented here also represented a more balanced example of Mrs. Table 8 provides a visual representation of the analysis.
This section provides an analysis of instructional activities according to the academic language framework described by Scarcella Table 9 represents the classification of the instructional activities into lexical and sociolinguistic components of the linguistic dimension of academic language.
Table 10 presents the classification of the instructional activities into knowledge, higher order thinking, and strategic components according to the cognitive dimension of academic language. In this layer of analysis, the instructional activities are classified into norms, values, beliefs, motivation, interests, and attitudes.
It also provides a summary of the instructional activities through which she fosters the socialization of her students toward science and a series of conceptual understandings about teaching and learning that frame her instruction. From the extensive amount of data collected and analyzed in this study, it is evident that academic language can be effectively taught through science content when teachers have the expertise to integrate language learning with science inquiry. While Mrs. A limitation of the study is that the small sample used for the analysis makes the findings difficult to generalize.
For students learning a second language, acquiring academic literacy is challenging. In an age dominated by standardized test scores, the development of the academic language of the different disciplines of study in school contexts is a necessary endeavor. Understanding what teachers do to support the academic language development of the students in the content areas is necessary and has several implications. The relevance of the study is more for improvement of teaching practice rather than for educational policy. The findings from this study offer two implications for language and science instruction in elementary classrooms with ELLs.
Instruction should include 1 inquiry-based lessons as a tool for academic language development, and 2 careful planning and integration of academic language and content topics. Because inquiry-based science instruction provides a medium for students and teacher to use academic discourse of the discipline, the findings suggest that knowledge of inquiry-based science and an expertise in weaving content and language are key elements for science instruction for all students, especially for ELLs.
When teachers plan their science instruction around inquiry-based lessons, they are able to provide students with more opportunities to develop academic language skills as they read, write, speak, and listen like scientists. The level of language used in an inquiry-based lesson is far more advanced than the levels of language students normally use to communicate in the classroom. When teachers can integrate language and science content at a higher level of sophistication, students are exposed to a more in depth discussion opportunities for the learning of academic language at different discourse levels Lee, Opportunities for appropriate levels of explicit language instruction and teacher support must be well thought out in order to help ELLs and other students accelerate their academic language growth in science.
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