Context-Rich Instruction and English Language Learners

September 12, 2018

Nearly three out of four classrooms include at least one English Language Learner and this subgroup represents the fastest growing student population in the United States. One of the biggest challenges for these students and the schools and teachers that support them is that instruction needs to simultaneously build English language fluency AND subject-level mastery.

It’s an important issue. Consider this: the achievement gap between ELL and non-ELL students has remained constant for nearly two decades. Highly effective, easy to implement resources such as digital curriculum can help. But not all digital curriculum is created equal. English language learners need solutions that provide context-rich instruction to accelerate their comprehension so that they can build language fluency while mastering subject-level content.

Context-Rich Instruction

English language learners learn the vast majority of new words through context and only a small number through direct instruction. Context-rich instruction dramatically accelerates the development of English language fluency. 

With context-rich instruction, students have multiple ways to make meaning of an unfamiliar word or concept, by combining visualizations, text, audio, and active learning opportunities. Context also includes leveraging familiar examples to activate prior knowledge connecting the new word to a familiar concept. The power of context is strengthened through personalization, such as offering tailored support and individualized feedback throughout the learning experience.

Each new representation, grounding example, and personalization presents students a new chance to assign meaning to the word, giving language learners the greatest chance of understanding the material and expanding their vocabulary. Context-rich instruction stands in contrast to context-limited instruction, where students have just one way of deciphering content in any given moment (e.g., simply a video or just a text) or lack the opportunity to access meaningful supports or scaffolds as soon as they need them.

The Apex Approach

Context-rich instruction is a centerpiece of Apex Learning’s instructional design. It grounds each new concept in familiar, relevant, intuitive examples, and presents them through a combination of responsive learning activities, images, video, audio, text, and on-demand supports. If students do not understand material when presented one way, they always have a range of immediately accessible alternatives to deciphering it —whether they are struggling with a word, a concept, or both. Furthermore, students actively engage with the material during every step of the learning experience, which allows them to receive instructive feedback to reinforce and refine their understanding. By designing curriculum with multiple points of access, relatable examples, individualized feedback, and a wide range of on-demand supports, Apex Learning offers the context-rich instruction essential to accelerating the development of both English language fluency and grade-level subject mastery.

There are other strategies that digital curriculum from Apex Learning  incorporates to help English language learners. You can read about them in this helpful Special Report that investigates the best ways to support English language learners.

Building English language learner’s language fluency AND subject-level mastery provides student the foundation needed to excel in school and beyond, which also raising districts’ performance and community standing. When ELL students succeed, everyone succeeds. We at Apex Learning are fully committed to this success.

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