English Learner Student Supports Part 3

By Mary Rakes, Director of EL Strategy

Let’s get right down to it: Teachers of English Learners are always asking the same question: How do I know I am giving my students the right supports? In two previous posts, (part 1, and part 2,) we talked about how teachers can use class data mapping and individual student interest surveys to better know their students, and therefore know better ways to support them.

Once a teacher knows the ELP (English Language Proficiency) of their students and more about their background and interests, they can start choosing supports for those specific students to add into their lessons. When there are hundreds of ideas out there, the task of choosing supports can easily become overwhelming. Today, I want to share a resource with you to make this task a bit simpler.

We can break student supports down into three common categories:

  • Graphic Supports: These supports use text to help students process and categorize information, and are often some of the more common supports that come to mind. Graphic organizers, thinking maps, and sentence stems are all examples of graphic supports.
  • Sensory Supports: Sensory supports leverage the value of a students’ senses to better understand concepts and ideas. Audio books, math manipulatives, and science experiments fall into this category. These supports are often the pieces of a lesson that students remember the most!
  • Interactive Supports: We all know that students are social creatures. Teachers can use this to their advantage, by incorporating supports that allow students to interact with each other in their learning. Cooperative groups, first language partners, field trips-these experiences with other learners often sear the objectives into students’ minds.

When planning lessons, think about the students in your class and the types of supports you want them to utilize. Do you want them to verbally process what they have learned? Use an interactive peer support. Do you think they might struggle with organizing the information in a reading? Try a graphic support. Do you hope to get students actively engaged in discovering something? Incorporate sensory supports.

This chart shows examples for each of the three types of supports, based on student ELP. Download it and keep it next to you when you are planning your next lesson. It will help you think through what your English Learners of all levels will need to be supported in the content.

Which of these supports have you used in the past with great success? Is there anything that’s missing that you love to do in your classroom?

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