book—or from their own life—that
relates to the theme or conflict of the
class novel. Because Early Production
students can verbalize more than Preproduction students, they could use a
sentence starter, like “The theme (or
conflict) reminds me of [another book
or life event],” to accompany such an
Asking the right questions is also
important (Hill & Flynn, 2008).
During a categorization task matching
animals and environments, for
example, a teacher could engage Preproduction students at the Evaluation
level of Bloom’s taxonomy by having
students indicate the accuracy of
information through pointing. First,
she would show students pictures of
four environments: an ocean, soil, a
forest, and a desert. Then she would
place a picture of raccoons into the
ocean picture, ask whether raccoons
live in the ocean, and demonstrate
a correct response by pointing to a
frowning face. Then she might put a
picture of squirrels in the forest, ask
“Do squirrels live in the forest?” and
model pointing to a smiling face. After
a few examples, students will be ready
to respond on their own.
Early Production students
could evaluate and provide one-word responses judging correct
or incorrect environments. They
wouldn’t, however, be able to recommend a different environment
for an animal to raise its young and
defend the choice, as students with
more English could.
5 Don’t assess language when
you want to assess content
Assessment tasks can also reflect
all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. It’s
important, however, for teachers to
separate language ability from content
knowledge. If, for example, as part
of a secondary science lesson on how
the eyeball allows us to see, students
are asked to write a comparison of
the conditions nearsightedness and
farsightedness, the task would test a
Preproduction student’s language proficiency, not his or her content understanding. Here’s a more appropriate
way to measure understanding: After
an experiment using lenses to simulate
eyesight, have Preproduction students
use the results to construct models
of eyeball shapes that would result in
nearsightedness or farsightedness.
6 Do be aware of your own
In the classroom, there will be many
times when you transmit content
information. Remember that words
alone don’t convey meaning for
English language learners. To help
ELLs follow the presentation of information, slow your rate of speech,
speak in complete sentences, and use
one or more of the following:
n Manipulatives and miniature
n Visuals (photos, pictures, and
n Gestures, body movement, and
n Facial expressions.
Be careful not to overuse idioms or
pronouns; instead, use nouns, which
convey more meaning to someone
still learning the language. You might
record yourself and listen for idiomatic
expressions—as well as how often you
use pronouns—and adjust your presentation accordingly.
Being aware of the stages of second-language acquisition and following
these do’s and don’ts can help any
classroom teacher be more sure-footed
in their instruction. Teachers can set
rigorous, yet realistic, expectations
that ELLs of all levels can meet—one
spark at a time. EL
Author’s note: All names in this article
Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J.,
Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.).
(1956). Taxonomy of educational objec-tivities: The classification of educational
goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain.
New York: David McKay.
Hill, J. D., & Flynn, K. (2008). Asking
the right questions. Journal of Staff
Development, 29( 1), 46–52.
Hill, J. D., & Miller, K. B. (2013).
Classroom instruction that works with
English language learners (2nd ed.).
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Krashen, S. D., & Terrell, T. (1983). The
natural approach: Language acquisition in
the classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.
Jane Hill ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a managing
consultant with McREL International, in
Although ELLs need to be held to the same standards as native
English speakers in terms of what they understand, how they
get there will look different, depending on their English skill.