By Shveta Miller, published on Edutopia, 2020
Using sentence frames and explicit feedback thoughtfully can provide the right balance of structure and scaffolding for English language learners.
When I started teaching English language learners, I avoided addressing my students’ language errors in class because I was just grateful that they volunteered to speak at all. I was also unsure how to provide feedback in the moment. On top of that, I thought that I simply lacked the time to address all the errors that students were making.
One day, I had the chance to explain to a student why he needed the article a before certain nouns. He told me this was an “aha” moment for him, and I was reminded of the value of corrective feedback.
Here are some ways to address students’ language errors in class while also building their confidence with spoken and written academic language.
HOW TO GIVE CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK THAT BUILDS CONFIDENCE
Teach and practice how a vocabulary word is used in different situations: When introducing a new vocabulary word, I also teach the correct conjugations, prepositions, parts of speech, and collocations of the word when used in different contexts. (A collocation is a series of words that are often found together. For example, after defining the word indicate, I explain that it’s typically paired with that, why, or how.)
If the word is a verb, we practice using it in different tenses and paired with different subjects. I include the correct prepositions alongside the vocabulary word on our class word wall. If students use the word with an incorrect preposition, I direct them to the word wall and ask them to choose one of the correct pairings.
Explicitly model how to correctly complete a response frame: Language teachers commonly use response frames to model the academic language their students need to practice. For example, to practice using the word persuade, we might use this frame: “Citizens can persuade political leaders to _____.”
I improve the quality of students’ shared responses when I demonstrate how to generate the correct language in the blank. In this example, first I clarify the meaning of the word citizens. Then I highlight the word to as a grammar clue in the sentence. When paired with persuade, the word to signals that next we need a base verb (an action word with no changed endings). I write improve public transportation in the blank as I think aloud, “People are late to work because the buses don’t arrive on time. Many people want to persuade our mayor to improve public transportation.”
I recite the completed sentence aloud, modeling the correct pronunciation and emphasis. I prompt students to repeat out loud together so they will be more comfortable sharing their own examples. With this added step, students build fluency.