A research-based approach to ELL instruction
A report by WestEd (2014) found that teachers of English Language Learners (ELL) must design their instruction to “amplify rather than simplify” concepts to offer the academic rigor necessary for students’ learning (p. 11). In other words, teachers must augment their lessons so that they include multiple pathways to learning, particularly when it comes to providing plenty of verbal and nonverbal messages (11). This can be challenging, especially for teachers who may teach a range of students.
Nearpod for ELL aligns to this model of amplification and supports teachers in implementing this instructional model. With Nearpod for ELL, ready-to-teach lessons provide an interactive, standards-aligned curriculum designed to engage and inspire English Language Learners across subject areas and grade levels. Nearpod lessons leverage digital activities and research-based formative assessments to seamlessly connect instruction and evaluation to meet the unique learning needs of ELL students. The lessons are designed to teach rigorous Math, English Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies content through scaffolded instruction and strategies to support language acquisition.
Building Interactive Lessons
Within the design of each Nearpod for ELL interactive lesson, ELL students are at the center of teaching and learning. As the WestEd report demonstrates, interactive lessons created for ELL students should begin with clearly defined learning goals and objectives. Nearpod for ELL lessons are guided by these constructs and use learning progressions and success criteria as indicators of comprehension. By promoting a continual process of instruction, assessment, and feedback, lessons allow teachers to design their own instruction by immediately identifying gaps between current levels of learning and expected levels of learning. With clear direction on learning goals, the Nearpod for ELL ready-to-teach lessons harness the power of interactive technologies and multimedia-rich content to highlight academic knowledge and academic language. As the lessons offer editable content, teachers can further customize lessons according individual needs and goals. In this purposeful process of planning in the building of interactive lessons, learning for the ELL student becomes an enriched experience with great opportunity for growth.
Engaging Students with Interactive Content
Best practice in instruction with ELL students facilitates learning through authentic engagement with interactive content and meaningful peer interactions and collaboration. Lessons within the Nearpod for ELL library balance direct instruction with experiential learning and continual practice in speaking and listening. Within a context of subject-matter learning, Nearpod lessons build on background knowledge by incorporating reference images and familiar multimedia, explicit references to key vocabulary, and metacognition and reflection. Through gradual release of responsibility, students are empowered to reach for levels of independence with activities following an I Do, We Do, You Do scaffolding of skill building. Nearpod’s On the Fly feature lets teachers respond to teachable moments during instruction and encourage ELL students voice and choice within the lesson. Open-ended tasks allow for multiple points of entry, a practice described by WestEd as effective in revealing ELL students’ learning by demonstrating their understanding through varying modes of expression, including writing, speaking, drawing, and reading. With a range of interactive activities (such as Polls, Fill-in-the-Blanks, Quizzes, Draw Its) and interactive content (including Nearpod VR virtual field trips, Nearpod 3D, and audio and video integration), students are supported in all forms of learning. ELL students participating in Nearpod for ELL lessons are not only part of the process of instruction, but they become creators of their own learning by assessing their personal understanding and determining their particular readiness based on feedback and supports embedded within each of the lessons.
Informing Instruction with Ongoing Assessment
Within an instructional program for English language learners, constant interpretation of evidence of student progress is needed to inform instruction. Nearpod for ELL provides teachers with real-time feedback and reporting based on student interactions and responses. This continuous feedback offers the status of students’ current learning and then provides direction for moving students toward identified learning goals. As the lessons are designed to minimize irrelevant language and unnecessary information, teachers can easily pinpoint and evaluate the intended learning targets. Based on feedback obtained in these embedded checks for understanding, systematic supports in the forms of modeling, prompting, and repetition can scaffold ELL students and move them toward content understanding. For both teachers and students, learning progressions within the Nearpod for ELL’s lessons allow for immediate feedback for in-the-moment adjustments to help anchor and monitor skills throughout the process of teaching and learning.
Formative assessment is essential when it comes to better ELL learning in both academic content and the development of academic language. The Nearpod for ELL curriculum was developed with this in mind and provides an interactive and engaging long-term solution for instruction. Following in the understanding that desired changes must start with dedicated teacher support, Nearpod for ELL trainings target ELL teachers and their unique instructional needs. Demonstrating best practice in use of Nearpod lessons for teaching, teachers participating in the Nearpod PD are able to discover ways to use Nearpod for ELLs for whole group instruction, independent practice, and enhanced learning opportunities. With a focus on “amplification” of learning and empowering ELL students in the classroom, Nearpod for ELL advances culturally responsive instruction and brings agency to all students in all classrooms.
Alvarez, L., Ananda, S., Walqui, A., Sato, E., & Rabinowitz, S. (2014). Focusing formative assessment on the needs of English language learners. San Francisco: WestEd.
It is my calling to improve the quality of life for others be it through education, entrepreneurship or anywhere needed. I obtained a BA in economics from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and received an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business. In 2012, I co-founded Nearpod, a mobile platform that empowers educators to create learning experiences that engage and inspire millions of students around the world. As CEO and co-founder, I oversee Nearpod’s everyday operations.