English language learners or Limited English Proficient students have diverse differences and needs based on unique academic needs, abilities, backgrounds, experiences, languages, cultures, personalities and attitudes towards instruction. Because of such differences and diversity, students react differently to classroom environments provided by their instructors, and institutions as a means of meeting their individual needs. The aim of differentiating instruction is to address the diversity of needs, backgrounds and abilities of students given their underdeveloped English lingual skills.
Tomlinson & Imbeau (2010) define differentiation as the creation of balance in terms of academic content and their respective individual needs. Such a balance is achieved through the modification of four primary elements that are related to curriculums and classroom instruction in diversity-oriented classrooms. They include content, process, product and affect. Content refers to the skills, information that students deem necessary to undertake successful learning; process refers to the manner in which students decipher or make sense of content instructed; product defines the manner in which students demonstrate individual knowledge from the learning process and affect refers to the attitudes and feelings developed from the differentiated classroom instruction (Tomlinson, & Imbeau, (2010).
This would address the needs of the students with respect to their high levels of diversity and differences in three primary areas namely interest, readiness and learning profile. Readiness is affected through enhanced preparation of students towards learning specific skills and information that they can relate to with ease. Interest amounts to developing content that appeal to individual needs of the students and in the process motivating them to learn. Learning profiles are differentiated based on individual approach towards tasks provided by an instructor during instruction (Tomlinson, & Imbeau, (2010).
A learner-centered ideology is highly appropriate for the needs of students in an elementary setting. At such a young age, the elementary students should be provided with instruction that primarily focuses on individual needs, abilities and diversity. Using differentiated and individualized instruction provides a means of enhancing their awareness towards their abilities and educational needs. This results in interest and motivation towards active participation in classrooms. Individual growth is the main theme towards this instructional approach (Tomlinson, & McTighe, 2006).
The learner-centered ideology holds the view that individuals are stimulated towards growth and construction of individual meaning of learning through interactions with their respective intellectual, physical and social environments. Thus, learning is viewed as a function that enhances individual interaction with the environment. Providing the students in the elementary classes with content that is geared towards enhancing their interactions with their environments would improve the overall success of the learning process (Tomlinson, & McTighe, 2006).
An individual’s interactions with the environment are deemed as unique to the person. in addition, they are also assumed to be as a result of learning or construction of the meaning of learning. Such differences inform the need to develop content that provides avenues for enhancing individual interaction with the environment and in the process developing successful learning. Hence, the curriculum that should be developed can be viewed as environments, contexts, units of work that provides the students with individually differentiated meanings through interactions with other students, toys, ideas, concepts and their teachers.
Culture can be used as a primary strategy towards enhanced learning outcomes for English language learners in elementary classroom settings. Culture is considered as essential towards learning a new language. In addition, communication amounts to the ability to use languages in culturally sensitive means. The first language for a student provides positive results in terms of instruction outcome and learning. However, a majority of educational institutions do not have4 dual language programs for diverse students, which limits the use of this approach. Another strategy that can be applied for effective instruction of elementary students is the use of Sheltered Instruction – The SIOP Model (Tomlinson, & McTighe, 2006).
The Sheltered Instruction Model focuses on developing content that is highly comprehensible and accessible for English language learners or Limited English Proficient students the sheltered instruction approach is made up of a variety of models. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is an effective means of developing classroom content and controlling individual professional development on part of the teacher. In addition, it is effective in linking first languages with content of instruction thus providing high levels of success in student instruction especially among ELLs (Tomlinson, & Imbeau, (2010).
Lesson planning using the thirty components provided by SIOP models can be effective for instruction in a majority of curriculums with respect to the needs and differences of English language learners. In addition, the systemic application of scaffold components of this model are effective in providing successful instruction for students who English is not a first language. In addition, it is important to note that the SIOP model is learner oriented by focusing on active participation and engagement of students for overall success in interactions and the learning process.
Tomlinson, C. A., & Imbeau, M. B. (2010). Leading and managing a differentiated classroom. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.
Tomlinson, C. A., & McTighe, J. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction & understanding by design: Connecting content and kids. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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