195.  I am from Duplin County, NC. I teach ESL at an elementary school.  I want to know if your have an example of or steps to adapting a lesson or chapter to meet the ESL student's needs.

What a great question!!! YES!!!! In the following sections you will find a complete outline of most chapters of the book "Catherine, Called Birdy," a literature work usually recommended for the 7th grade. 

I had the opportunity to teach this book in its entirety over a period of six weeks to five different "sheltered English classes" at a K-12 learning center in Los Angeles. Most of the students (75%) were initial non-English speakers who by now --in the 7th grade-- can be placed in "regular" English classes. However, because the school, with over 4,000 students in three non-stop instructional tracks that run constantly throughout the year, has many lower SocioEconomic Status (SES) students, and 25% of them are African Americans with very poor academic achievement levels, a "regular" class turns out to be a "sheltered" class for English language development for ALL students. I would consider this class a high or advanced ESL class.

In such a class ALL core curricular goals and standards are to be met, especially in reading, reading comprehension and VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT. Thus, each chapter in the book was analyzed with the idea of ALWAYS introducing the entire vocabulary for the chapter FIRST, before reading the chapter. I used lots of visuals from books about the 1200's, and, as you can see, the vocabulary words are organized into MEANING categories, that is, they are organized by meaningful sets.

As I introduced the vocabulary, using visual whenever possible, I sort of "told" the story presented in the chapter, not necessarily the exact story, but, for example, I would comment that in the chapter we were about to read there would be a feast or a banquet; I would show pictures of the big "hall" in several castles; and then I would introduce the words relating to the feast or banquet included in the vocabulary lists for the chapter. I also, in a separate lesson, developed the idea of "cognates" that is, words from the vocabulary lists here included that were similar or very similar in spelling, pronunciation and meaning in both English and Spanish: castle/castillo.

The key idea is that STUDENTS SHOULD ALWAYS READ FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH 95-100% UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEY ARE READING, or, in other words, students are always to read at their independent level of reading proficiency.  Thus, (1) analysis of the vocabulary by the teacher PRIOR to introducing the lesson or reading, and (2) introduction of ALL vocabulary words BEFORE reading TO THE STUDENTS the lesson or reading are the key ideas in all lessons that promote reading comprehension AND vocabulary development.

In the case of "Catherine, Called Birdy" I was fortunate to find audio tapes that provided the reading for the students AFTER I had introduced the vocabulary. Now, as students heard the story read on tape, I provided copies of the chapter, not the book, so that students, as they read and recognized the vocabulary we had studied, could highlight or underline the words they recognized. Thus, through ACTIVE LISTENING --listening that requires underlining or highlighting newly studied words-- students confirmed their understanding of the story and WERE READY TO COMPARE AND CONTRAST CATHERINE'S LIFE AND THEIR LIVES at the end of the reading. Also, students, now with the story book, could read to each other in pairs and, in pairs, could prepare a summary of the chapter. A class-summary was then written by me with contributions from all students in the class.

Hope this analysis of the vocabulary helps you with all other chapters or lessons. The process is the same and the teaching steps are the same as indicated above.

Click here to view Integrated Unit #20 on "CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY," By Karen Cushman.


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

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5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
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7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
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