We’ve allowed a natural approach to language instruction to dominate our schools, hoping our English learners “will just figure it out.” (SCOE, 2009) This approach suggested by Kevin Clark proposes that teachers explicitly teach ELL by giving them a set of skills. Teacher will have to teach students not just vocabulary, but the sound system of language, the words and their word parts and meanings, and also rules for structuring sentences grammatically. Teaching students from this perspective can support a deeper understanding of the language. When the concept is thoroughly supported by background knowledge, explanation as to why, activities that strengthen skills, and consistency in lesson structure that follows this pattern, students are more likely to understand the concept and create a platform from which to launch higher level thinking and conclusions on following concepts and content area. Students learn more efficiently when they have prior knowledge on a presented concept.
If the student can link content to a concept that they gained from previous knowledge on from their own unique background or culture, it will inevitably spark interest in that subject area. By sparking interest the teacher is now adding value to the lesson. Since students synonymize interest with value, the teacher would prove effective. Now a sense of purpose has now been infused into the lesson, and the student/students may begin to contribute more. (NCREL, 1990) This approach is rather intriguing, and teachers should be trained in linguistics prior to teaching ELLs. I would learn the subparts of linguistics via a course: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. By learning each subpart in-depth, I can better compose lesson plans and activities that explore those areas for the ELLs to better benefit. Understanding the mechanics of a language is just as important as understanding the language itself, for both teachers and students.
The concept of prior knowledge should not be limited to the students but teachers should utilize this concept for their own effective instruction. If teachers have prior knowledge of the subparts of the English language, as well as knowledge of the diverse cultures he/she is instructing can help the teacher create and blend a comprehensive and student-inclusive lesson plan and curriculum. Prior knowledge influences how the teacher and students interact with the learning materials as both individuals and a group. (Kujawa and Huske, 1995) Prior knowledge assists in segue of appropriate instruction and retention, because it is a foundation from which to build from and facilitates the idea of making sense of the educational experience.
As the students are learning from the linguistic perspective, especially under syntax and semantics, students would be primed for grammatical instruction, also. As they learn how, where and when to use appropriate vocabulary, I will insert instruction on main grammatical principles and rules and branch off into further instruction where applicable. I would try to make sound non-confusing connections with the native language grammatical principles, so there is a prior knowledge foundation established in that arena as well. I would also have a grammar day in the middle of the week to review prior concepts and morph new grammar lessons into the lesson plan and utilize formative assessment strategies to see what needs to be reviewed and further defined.
Kujawa, S., & Huske, L. (1995). The Strategic Teaching and Reading Project guidebook (Rev. ed.). Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Restructuring to promote learning in America’s schools, videoconference #2: The thinking curriculum. (1990). Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Sonoma County Office of Education. (2009) Structuring language instruction to advance stalled English learners. Aiming High Resource. Retrieved September 16 2014.
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