11. I need help teaching the language of the content areas. My students can hardly read their textbooks or write about the content area.

Dr. Josefina Villamil Tinajero, from the University of Texas, El Paso, recommends 10 helpful strategies for content area teachers of Limited English Proficient (L.E.P.) students. These strategies are:

Analyze textbook material from the L.E.P. student viewpoint. I interpret this recommendation to mean that teachers –IN PLANNING THEIR LESSONS, BEFORE THEY ACTUALLY TEACH ANY LESSON-- must find within the textbook material, in the new content area lesson they plan to teach, experiences with which L.E.P. students are familiar, and information that L.E.P. students already possess (prior knowledge). If this is not the case, and most of the time it is NOT the case, then teachers must:

Provide background experiences. This is a crucial step in the PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION of any successful lesson. If students are to gain full understanding of the new concepts presented by the textbook material, in the lesson the teacher plans to teach, then teachers must provide for students real experiences that allow students to perceive, observe, recognize, and identify these new concepts. Through these experiences –demonstrations, displays, actions, simulations, a variety of visual aids, manipulatives, realia, concrete objects, models, tangible definitions of the new concepts—students become part of the lesson, the experiences become their own experiences, and the teachers has succeeded in personalizing the lesson.

Identify and teach the essential vocabulary. This is another crucial step in the PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION of any successful lesson. Teachers need to read the textbook material and make reasonable, educated guesses: Which words in the reading material students already know? Which ones students do not know? The answer to this second question is very important. The teacher, while planning the lesson, needs to begin grouping the new, unknown words into meaningful categories. For example, to teach a History lesson about Marco Polo’s travels through China, teachers may find many new words in the textbook material in reference to the following meaningful categories: People, places, geographical locations, professions and occupations, means of transportation, types of clothing, foods, dwellings, animals and their use, family units, social organization, values, beliefs, etc. Teachers need to list all new words into their respective meaningful categories, and include into these categories other words known by the students. Now the teacher is ready to begin teaching.

Present the lesson orally, and

Use lots of visuals. Teachers could begin by introducing the meaningful categories through which students will learn the key vocabulary in the lesson. Orally, and using lots of visuals, the teacher could ask students to recognize the types of people they see in a painting of China at the time of Marco Polo’s travels. On the board or on chart paper, the teacher could begin to write the words known by the students and the new vocabulary terms. In this manner, orally and visually --using visual aids and by writing the new and known words on the board in meaningful categories--, the teacher has provided the needed background experiences and identified and taught the essential vocabulary.

Use manipulative materials and hands-on activities. Teachers could now provide students with opportunities to use the new words and apply the new concepts learned in the lesson through active learning strategies. For example, the teacher could pretend to be Marco Polo, back from his travels through China, and students could formulate questions, as in an interview, and ask in greater detail about the peoples, places, professions, occupations, etc., Marco Polo saw in China.

Reinforce language learning while teaching content. Throughout the active learning part of the lesson, teachers and students need to make an effort to use the key vocabulary that the teacher has introduced orally and visually, and that students will read in the textbook materials.

Simplify grammatical structures and paraphrase. While introducing the new vocabulary and the new concepts, teachers may have to simplify the grammatical structures of their utterances, especially at the beginning of the lesson. Teachers may have to paraphrase and rephrase the sentences in the reading material during their oral presentation of key vocabulary, thus facilitating understanding of the reading material by the students.

Teach study skills and use of textbook aids. The teacher may read aloud key portions of the textbook material. In so doing, the teacher can point out, and help students use, chapter headings, summaries, questions, guide words, etc. In preparation for written assignments, students can practice taking notes, doing follow-up research, etc.

Monitor students’ progress continually. Through constant questioning at all levels of critical thinking skills, from “Knowledge” to “Evaluation,” teachers can effectively monitor students’ progress in understanding and mastering the key concepts and the key vocabulary presented in the lesson.



For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


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