Making Content Comprehensible

A foundational concept in language learning and teaching is "comprehensible input." It is important for teachers to provide input to students that is just beyond their current proficiency level - if it is too challenging, then they may shut down because they don't understand.

We should recognize that for secondary Emergent Bilingual students, teachers across all content areas also serve as language teachers. So, we should all strive to provide comprehensible content for our EB students.

Review the resources below for more strategies related to making content more comprehensible:

Adapting Your Speech

When speaking to EB students, adapting your speech will help them understand more easily. When working with Secondary EB students, we should try to use the Target Language (English) as much as possible, while still ensuring that students can understand enough to comprehend the message. Be careful of the following components of your speech:

We should be careful to not use students' Native Language (most often Spanish) as a crutch. If we are translating everything for students, it will actually slow down their English language acquisition! Take a look at this video to see how foreign language teachers in Anchorage, Alaska, work to use the Target Language as much as possible.

Building Background Knowledge

Sometimes a challenge for EB students, especially Newcomers, is having the necessary background knowledge to access the content of a new lesson. Even if students understand the language in a given lesson or text, if they don't have familiarity with the topic, then they will struggle to understand.

đŸ‘ˆ Listen to the teacher in this video discuss the importance of background knowledge for her EB students.

This blog post also provides more specific steps to help teachers build background knowledge.

Visuals and Realia

One of the best ways to activate students' prior knowledge or build their background knowledge is to use visuals and realia. Visuals can take many forms, including pictures, drawings, videos, maps, charts, etc. Visuals can also take the form 'realia,' which are physical objects that students can touch. Any time that you can use realia in class, it will help students make a stronger connection to the the content of the lesson. This blog post provides additional ideas about how teachers can incorporate realia into their instruction.

Anchor Charts

Like other visuals, anchor charts give students a reference and help them make stronger connections to the content that they are learning. When anchor charts are displayed in the classroom, they become a great resource for students when they are speaking, writing, or completing other tasks that require recall of certain vocabulary or information. If you have students assist in the creation of anchor charts (perhaps creating their own in an interactive notebook), their mental connections will be even stronger.

The sketchnote to the right and this blog post from Valentina Gonzalez provide additional ideas about how to create effective anchor charts for EB students.

Content & Language Objectives

Content and Language Objectives will not only help your students stay aware of what they are learning each day, but they will also help you stay on track as a teacher. Language Objectives in particular will help EB students know how they will use their budding English language skills each day.

In order to create effective Content and Language Objectives, keep the following points in mind:

Watch this video to listen teachers speak about the importance of using content and language objectives in their instruction.