Sunday, September 13, 2009

Language Povery and 21st Century Tools

Language Poverty students need specific scaffolding and strategies in order to access the required content. At the secondary level, content is accessed through language: reading, writing, speaking and listening. English Language Learners (ELL) require more focused attention on listening and speaking than native speakers. However, children who live in poverty have had less access and exposure to literature and rich vocabulary. Therefore, students who live in poverty and students who do not natively speak English enter school with a deficit of language. In order to access the content presented them in the secondary classroom, these students require additional support.

I believe the greatest support these students of "Language Poverty" require is through vocabulary instruction. This vocabulary instruction must be contextual. It cannot be separated from the content. Students must experience a concept: hear, see, taste, touch, smell, and manipulate it. As children, when we learned a new word/concept it was through our experiences. We did not take notes on a word! In addition, we compared the word to concepts we already possessed.

My nephew, for example, upon being presented with a grape for the first time called it a, "berry." He CATEGORIZED it as being sweet, small and red, therefore it must be a berry. His mother responded, "No Kia, its a grape. Can you say, grape?"

To learn a new concept we compare it to what we already know, our SCHEMA, to truly grasp the concept so that we can use it.

How can secondary teachers offer meaningful experiences to students inorder for students to access the content THROUGH the concept? How can we do this through the medium of 21st Century Tools?