Sheltered Instruction 101 for ESL Teachers

Updated on: February 1, 2019

Sheltered Instruction is a method used to teach English Language Learners (ELLs) which combines content teaching with language learning objectives, allowing them to transition to mainstream instruction while reaching English fluency.

Sheltered Instruction is also a great way to provide students with level-appropriate academic content while still allowing them to improve their English fluency. Through the use of this method, English becomes more comprehensible for ELLs, but they don’t have to fall behind on their courses and skill development.

The term “sheltered” can be traced to the origins of this method when ELLs were taught in classrooms separate from their English-speaking peers, thus “sheltering” them while they learned the language. These days, however, ELLs usually study in the same classroom as English-speaking students and share the same curriculum.

In recent years, the influx of ELLs and the cultural diversification in classrooms has made it more necessary to use Sheltered Instruction. It is most commonly used in English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, where you might find subjects like sheltered Physics, sheltered History, and so on.

Examples of Sheltered Instruction

There are many different strategies and activities that teachers can use to apply Sheltered Instruction in their classrooms. Some examples of Sheltered Instruction techniques include:

  • Increasing wait time: this simply means giving students the time they need to process new information. Keep in mind that ESL students might require more time to come up with an answer or understand new concepts than they would in their first language.
  • Using native language support: perhaps you have an English-speaking student in your class who also speaks an ESL student’s first language. Pairing or grouping these students together for different tasks can help ELLs feel more confident and become familiarized with English words and expressions.
  • Promoting interaction with other students: create activities that involve student interaction, in order to allow ESL students to communicate with their classmates during lessons.
  • Using simple language: explain concepts in a way that emphasizes the most important words, being as concise as possible. You can also use body language to help an ESL student understand concepts and instructions faster.
  • Creating sensory lessons: aid language comprehension through the use of senses. Teach lessons where students aren’t simply required to write or talk, but smell, hear, and touch. Use these lessons as an opportunity to teach descriptors and adjectives.
  • Don’t water the content down: Sheltered Instruction seeks to help students improve their English without falling behind on their curriculum. Adapt the content to their level of English, but don’t “water it down.” The whole point of Sheltered Instruction is to make it easier for ESL students to transition into mainstream education seamlessly.

Sheltered Instruction for ESL Teachers

If you’re interested in adopting Sheltered Instruction, there are many steps you can take. Sheltered Instruction teachers have to be certified in their content area, while also managing ESL techniques to create language objectives for their students.

One of the best ways in which teachers can help ESL students is by learning more about the students’ cultures and background themselves. This will help you communicate betters and create associations that can be useful when you need to explain meanings and concepts.

There are different models that can be used for Sheltered Instruction. These models all share certain characteristics, and they provide instruments to review and assess the success of a teacher’s Sheltered Instruction techniques. The most common models of Sheltered Instruction include:

  • Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP)
  • Guided Language Acquisition and Design (GLAD)
  • Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE)
  • Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA)

This article is used with permission from VIPKid.

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