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Rethinking Instructional Strategies with English Learners in the Content Areas

Written by: Scott E. Grapin, Lorena Llosa, Alison Haas, Okhee Lee
Published on: Aug 9, 2021

Instructional Strategies
Image credit: Purestock/Getty Images

The latest content standards in U.S. K–12 education are academically rigorous for all students, including a fast-growing population of English learners (ELs).

Because these standards are different from previous standards in terms of not only their rigor but also their theoretical underpinnings, enacting instruction aligned to the standards will require shifts in how teachers conceptualize the nature of content and language learning.

In this article, the authors argue that instructional strategies traditionally used with ELs in the content areas need to be rethought in light of contemporary theoretical perspectives.

After providing a brief overview of these perspectives in content area education and language education, the authors highlight three instructional strategies:

  1. Preteaching vocabulary
  2. Providing sentence frames and starters
  3. Using visual aids.

They describe how each strategy has traditionally been used and tensions that may arise in using the strategy in light of contemporary perspectives.

Drawing on examples from their curriculum development work in linguistically diverse elementary science classrooms, the authors propose ways that teachers can adapt when and how they use each of these strategies to deliver more theoretically sound instruction. Implications of the adapted strategies for teachers working with ELs in content classrooms are discussed.

TESOL Journal