Content Conversations: Strategies for ELLs

Editor’s Note: Oakland Unified School District’s ongoing partnership with Teaching Channel has involved producing videos, building capacity on Teaching Channel Teams, and creating interactive video for #TchVideoLounge.

Recently, the Oakland Unified School District partnered with Teaching Channel to launch a three-part video series on Engaging ELLs in Academic Conversations. We were at the beginning stages of using classroom discussion as a district-wide strategy to more explicitly integrate language development into content area instruction.

A little over a year later, our learning continues! Oakland teachers are still hard at work, exploring the ways they can best support both language development and content understanding through whole-group and peer discussions. We know from research that language learners need regular opportunities to rehearse new language and apply it in authentic contexts. We also know that teachers need to be intentional about engaging all students, especially our ELLs, so that no one can hide and everyone can experience success. And anyone who has spent time in the classroom knows fostering authentic conversation among ELLs is no easy task.

In this new series, we visit or revisit Oakland elementary and high school teachers taking on the challenge of integrating language instruction for their ELLs in content instruction. You’ll see them trying new strategies, fine tuning old ones, and reflecting on student learning to hone their craft.

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Why are Academic Discussions So Important for our ELLs?

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series ELLs and Academic Conversations

One of the many things I love about working for Oakland, California schools is serving a community rich in diversity of culture and language. At the same time, it is no easy task ensuring that our English Language Learners (ELLs) are meeting grade-level content standards while mastering a second language.

Much of ELL instruction has been focused on 30-60 minutes of English Language Development (ELD) each day. Taken alone, this daily block of language instruction, isolated from any grade-level content, is not going to get us the results our students need and deserve. Rather, we need to see language-rich instruction throughout the day, embedded in and woven through the content areas.

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