What should be the main goal for teaching ELLs in the content areas?

It is difficult to isolate one primary goal for all content area instruction. However, in terms of literacy, the main target in the content area classroom should be reading comprehension. For English language learners, this usually means focusing on building vocabulary and background knowledge.

One of the most effective comprehension strategies you can use is to make sure you always have "before, during, and after" activities for any reading assignment students are given.

Activities that take place before reading might include:

  • introducing unknown vocabulary
  • previewing the text
  • making predictions about what the text will be about
  • activating students' prior knowledge about the topic

Activities during reading should be designed to check that students understand what they are reading. This might include:

  • having students stop from time to time to evaluate how their initial predictions about the text have turned out.

After reading, having students write summaries or complete graphic organizers such as timelines can help them make sense of what they have read.

A great resource for activities such as these is a book called Literature-Based Reading Activities, by Ruth and Hallie Yopp. It has a wealth of "before, during, and after" activities that, despite the book's title, are excellent for the content area classroom.