Help with the ELPS

Science Explored | Published  November 29, 2012

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Nancy, a veteran educator and ELPS (English language proficiency standards) curriculum writer from Seidlitz Education, to get the inside scoop on teaching with the ELPS in mind.

To understand the frustration ELL students face when learning English, Nancy showed us a series of optical illusions.  Puzzled, scrunched faces filled the room as we looked at some of the classics:  the Ponzo Illusion, the Müller-Lyer Illusion, and the Autokinetic Effect.  Learning English can lead to the save contorted faces for ELL students.  While some could easily see the truth behind the illusion, some of us weren’t able to make out anything no matter how hard we tried.  This struggle really helped us understand the challenges of learning English while trying to learn the content.

Nancy modeled a variety of ELPS strategies to help make the content comprehensible and develop academic language for our ELL students.  These included vocabulary strategies, sentence stems, and structured dialogue.  One specific strategy was called “Q, Triple S, A.”   Here is a model of how the Q, Triple S, A strategy could be used:

Question:  When organisms die, what happens to them?

Signal:  When you are ready to respond, stand up.

Sentence Stem:  When organisms die _______________________.

Share:  Share with someone who is about your height.

Assess:  Choose a student who is wearing a red shirt to share.

The strategy above helps meet the needs of our ELL students in multiple ways.  First, the question is presented to the whole group and every student is expected to develop a response.  By delineating a signal, the teacher can then ensure that every student is prepared with a response before moving ahead.  The sentence stem can help all students to have the necessary language to respond to the question.  Then, by asking the students to share with a partner, all students are able to hear another response.  Finally, Nancy reminded us that it is important to always end with a random assessment to ensure that all students are participating.  In this example, the teacher would call on a student wearing red.  Next time, it could be a student who is born in June.  This random assessment helps to keep all students accountable for participating.  

As a general rule, when developing ELPS strategies, Nancy recommended using the following questions to guide the process:

1)   How are we making content comprehensible?

2)   How are we developing academic language?

3)   How will we measure if students are meeting these goals?

4)   What linguistic accommodations will support students at each proficiency level in this lesson?

STEMscopes is busily working on addressing the ELPS standards for our new 2.0 launch.  We know that addressing the ELPS helps us not only better reach our ELL students, but also helps us better meet the needs of all students.  We look forward to our ELPS rollout soon!


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