How to Effectively Use Online English Language Development Tools in the Classroom – Part 2

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 54 seconds

In Part 1 of this blog, we examined the brain science behind multi-sensory learning approaches. Why is that important? Understanding how the brain works can help shape your pedagogical approaches in the classroom to make them much more effective. In addition, a new generation of online instructional tools that embed multi-sensory techniques can assist teachers to engage students' brains like never before.

Here in Part 2, we will go over techniques for using online tools in the classroom. We’ll cover:

  • Multi-sensory input
  • Chunking and chewing strategies
  • Scaffolding directions
  • Previewing key questions and concepts
  • Opportunities for productive language

Now that you know how different parts of the brain interact with information, we will show you how to use multi-sensory input with your students — in the classroom or in remote learning situations.

Combine Multi-Sensory Input with Chunk and Chew Techniques

As an example, let’s look at a video lesson from the Language Tree Online English Language Development program.  This is from the Collaborative Listening and Speaking module in the ELD 2 program.

Notice that this video lesson contains visual, auditory, and text information. Here, we are engaging both the occipital and the temporal lobes.  We can also activate the parietal lobe through conversations with the students about what they saw and understood.

This brings us to the strategy of “chunk and chew”, which is highly effective at deepening understanding and retention.  With this strategy, you break down longer pieces of information into more digestible chunks so students can more easily process both language and content.  Preventing cognitive overload is especially important for our English learners who have to contend with learning subject matter content while learning English at the same time.

Using the example video on Explanatory Techniques, we can discuss how you might apply “chunk and chew”.  First, play the video until it gets to the end of the first explanatory technique (To Compare). This would be the first chunk of information.

Once the video stops, provide opportunities for students to “chew”, which is to actively process the information by engaging in oral and written productive language. Ask the students to write down the commonly-used comparison words and phrases in their language notebooks. Then, actively engage students and get oral language practice by asking if someone can come up with a comparative statement.  Based on the complexity of the topic, it’s not unreasonable to spend a good 5-15 minutes on “chewing.”

"By actively chunking the information into smaller bits and chewing the information by engaging oral and written productive language, you will be supporting your students’ retention of the information."

Upon completion of the first video segment, the class can then move on to the next explanatory technique (To Contrast), and repeat the process. This method also gives students an opportunity to build on their prior knowledge. When it comes to language skills, we want to create the opportunity for them to make linguistic connections.

Finally, note that a “chunk” can be visual, text, or auditory information. Below are examples of multi-sensory input “chunks” as well as some ideas on how you can get students to “chew.”

Chunk Examples  Chew Examples 
  • Video segments
  • Thinking maps
  • Close reads
  • Simulations
  • Diagrams
  • Outlines
  • Google slides
  • Summaries (oral or written)
  • Quick write
  • Jamboard
  • Zoom chat
  • Assigned Google slides
  • Learning buddies (turning and talking)
  • Embedded video response
  • Response posts
  • Polls

Remember to Scaffold Directions to Help with Tasks

Now that you understand how to “chunk and chew”, let’s talk about scaffolding directions to help English learners successfully complete a task in an online learning program. It’s important that scaffolding directions be succinct and multi-sensory. This is particularly important when having a student use the program independently.

Giving examples is a great way to support these directions. Another way is to use icons. In our program, we use visual icons so students can recognize the task (collaborate, write, read, etc.) that they are being asked to do. They can understand the expectation more quickly because visual icons engage the occipital lobe!

Lastly, encourage students to use Google Translate to listen to and read the translated instructions. When students can read the text and hear the audio, they have the context needed in order to perform the task. On the other hand, if you only give oral directions that address the temporal lobe, the students will likely forget them fairly quickly.

Preview Key Questions and Concepts

Sometimes, we ask too many questions of our students! And as a result, they lose the main idea or the purpose. Even with an online program, consider previewing key questions and concepts so students have a place to focus. Cue the students as to what they should be listening for before they hear or see the lesson or task.

For English learner students who are trying to interpret language and learn content at the same time, it is especially important to give them opportunities to pick up on what they should focus on, or what you’re asking them to do.

In our ELD programs, we took care to frontload certain reading sections with questions so students know what to look for before they read or listen to a passage.

Provide Opportunities for Productive Language

We always want to look for opportunities for students to use productive language in the classroom. Of course, if you’re teaching in a block schedule or have 50 minutes of designated ELD, you have limitations on how you can use your time.

So, one way to make the most of the time you have is to look at opportunities for productive language beforeduring, and after the online instruction. We as teachers often get caught up in giving students as much information as possible, but not as many opportunities for processing.

Here are some examples:

Before: Prior to introducing a new concept, try reflecting on your students’ prior knowledge. What do your students know about this topic? Students bring with them unique experiences, so create opportunities to talk about them.

During: Check often for understanding. Stop to ask questions, such as,  “What pronoun could be used in place of Amelia Earhart?” Our ELD courses include check-ins for teachers to ensure that students are tracking along with the progression of the lessons.

After: Apply the new knowledge. How can they tell or show you what they’ve learned in their online lesson? You can ask the students to take turns reviewing work and explaining in their own words. An example may be, “Write or construct two sentences that contain a subject and a subject pronoun.”

In the Language Tree Online program, our Collaborative Listening and Speaking module offers lessons and practice assignments that emphasize productive language, both speaking and writing. For example, we have lessons on asking questions, paraphrasing, and summarizing. These are all very important productive language skills that are often not taught explicitly to English language learners.

There are also focused online lessons on presenting, writing, justifying, and arguing, as well as using appropriate language based on the audience, message, and subject. For additional practice, our program provides self-recording exercises, sentence frames, examples, and language frames to speak off of or from.

How our Programs Serve English Language Learners

We hope you found our suggestions useful. When researching an online program for your English learners, consider one that is aligned with the latest English language development standards. Also, look for one that is age-appropriate and that offers differentiated instruction for different proficiency levels.

When we developed both our ELD 1 and ELD 2 programs, we used backward planning to ensure the curriculum was in lock-step with the latest state English Language Development (ELD) standards. We also employed culturally-responsive pedagogy throughout to ensure that the learning content was relatable to multi-cultural middle and high school learners. In our course, learners get exposed to academic language as well as relevant and current topics, such as the environment, health, and part-time jobs.

Lastly, our program is very simple and straightforward, both for teachers to implement and students to use. We know that the past year or so has been really challenging, so we wanted to make teachers’ lives easier by minimizing the need for lesson prep. Our programs are designed to be flexible enough to serve your instructional needs, whether you want to use them in your classroom or with remote learners.


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