Research Based Best Teaching Strategies for Multilingual Learners

My personal experiences in language teaching and learning are teaching adult learners and high school students English in China. My learning experience has been taking Chinese language as a learner in lessons each day for one hour a day and self study for two hours a day. This post will highlight two research based best teaching strategies for multilingual learners.

Integrated Skills Based Approach Teaching Strategy

In the Integrated skills based approach teaching strategy, teachers deliver lessons where more than one of the language skills are practiced by students. This method helps students to reach language proficiency because they can focus on the context of the target language through understanding the content and how it is applied. Teachers can provide a variety of teaching methods to meet the needs of learners when using this teaching strategy.

Discrete Skill Based Approach Teaching Strategy

The discrete skill based approach teaching strategy is used to target one domain of language the student wants or needs to focus on. For example this teaching strategy may include focusing only on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, or writing in perfect tense. Emphasis on specifically targeted skills helps students to focus on key areas of growth. This teaching strategy is best applied in addition to the integrated skills based approach teaching strategy.

Comparison Between Teaching Strategies

My teaching experience has been with the integrated skills based approach teaching strategy. My lessons include all four domains of language learning: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. I find that using this teaching strategy to deliver lessons helps to provide the students with an immersive experience in the English language. The readings support the idea that by using this method, students experience enhanced overall learning of the English language as they are focusing on more than one domain of the target language at one time. 

The challenges with this method for teaching English to Chinese learners is it can be overwhelming to use all four domains in each lesson. My lessons include a variety of media and opportunities for students to discuss and share, practicing appropriate grammar structures and applying appropriate grammar, vocabulary, and spelling with their writing activities. Depending on the proficiency level of my students, some may have a limited vocabulary with which they apply very well, while others have an extensive vocabulary with which they do not know how to use for speaking and writing. Generally speaking my students have expressed that reading is the easiest form of learning English while writing is the most challenging. 

The benefit of this learning style is that although a slower pace requiring meticulous attention to details throughout the lessons and students’ learning experience, it provides a well-rounded approach for them to learn how to master the English language by integrating all four domains of language into the lessons. 

In my learning experiences I have learned by the discrete skill based approach teaching strategy with my Chinese teachers as during our lessons they have focused on the target skills of grammar structures and pronunciation of tones for speaking and listening. During self study they direct me to focus on writing and reading and then assess me in classes for proficiency with these two skills. This method could also be integrated skills based approach teaching strategy depending on the lesson as my Chinese teacher will often combine the target skills, yet sometimes only focuses on tones with speaking. 

The challenge with this method is the time I need to make for more self-study to practice Chinese enough to gain proficiency in the language. The application of the four language domains is done very quickly in lessons and I need to arrange another Chinese teacher and friends to practice speaking and listening. There are also many opportunities in public as in Hainan most community members only speak Chinese. The benefit of the discrete skill based approach teaching strategy is with only focusing on target areas of language using this method, I am clear on the grammatical structures, tones, and characters. The remaining of my learning occurs through self-study and practical application through using reading applications on my phone, creating flash cards of vocabulary, and practicing in the community. 

I have heard feedback from my students that when we focus on a discrete method in lessons they are seeking more information outside of class for the other language domains they would like lessons about. 

With both research based best teaching strategies for multilingual learners presented here, I think it depends on the learners’ style and preferred method of learning. Some of my students are experiential learners and enjoy the practical application and immersion of the English language and create TedTalk like presentations using the vocabulary, concepts, and ideas discussed in classes, while others prefer a targeted approach to focus on only one skill which is usually speaking in a conversational tone. 

Conclusions About Each Teaching Strategy

I have found that with adult learners my teaching strategy is more collaborative with asking the learners for their own desired learning outcomes for our time together. This type of poll at the beginning of our time together in classes helped me to assign appropriately suited homework for each student. For the ones who wanted to practice speaking in more of a discrete method, I would ask them to read articles of their choice out loud, record themselves, listen to their recording, re-record and then send me the file. For listening I ask them to choose an English radio program and listen to a short five to ten minute topic discussion. Then, they make notes about what they understood from the radio program and include any new vocabulary and definitions along with synonyms. They would then send me their notes and we would discuss their experience.

For writing students would tell me the area of interest for writing skills, I would do a short pre-assessment and then assign homework accordingly. Most students being in business chose to learn the basics about writing emails and business proposals. The students who wanted to increase reading comprehension were assigned classical novels based on their level of proficiency along with chapter questions for them to write about after reading each chapter. My students all were required to read out loud for at least five minutes of their reading time and then complete the question sets and return them to me for review and discussion. 

For my high school students, I do a pre-assessment and then mix lesson plans between the discrete skill based approach teaching strategy and the integrated skills based approach teaching strategy depending on the skills needed, the language domain, and the content we need to cover. Although there is some room for collaboration with my lesson planning, I make the decisions for my high school students as the classes are much larger than with my adult students. As we move through the content though I start to hold individual meetings with my students to ask for their input about what they feel they need to practice with their English language studies. In both instances, I find there is an ownership of learning goals with both my adult learners and high school learners. 

Here are examples of a Discrete Skills Based Approach Teaching Strategy and Instruction Lesson Plan and an Integrated Skills Based Teaching Strategy Lesson Plan

Mini Classroom Activities
Discrete skill and Integrated skill based

INSTRUCTOR: Suzanne Marie, Youlyee Jun 

STUDENT’S GRADE: Grade 4

For this lesson plan activity we used the ‘Instructional Skills Workshop Mini-Lesson Plan’ model (ISW Handbook ,2021, p. 7). The ISW was developed in 1979 for Canadian colleges and universities. Initially it was intended primarily to provide new instructors with basic instructional skills and early participants found themselves engaged in a process that deeply affected them and their beliefs about pedagogy (p. 2). 

ISW was originally intended for competency based adult education working towards competencies required for performance in a given field like the trades. Competencies were clearly conveyed to participants in the form of performance objectives. Since then, ISW encompasses the learning outcomes approach which fits nicely with Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom’s Taxonomy, 2001). Learning outcomes integrates performances as well as mastery of basic competency components of curriculum. 

The overall purpose of ISW is to help educators develop increased competence and confidence and to provide resources to assist individually to become more reflective teaching practitioners. 

This is an overview of the ISW Mini-Lesson Planning  Model we used for this activity:

Discrete Skill Based Activity (Reading Comprehension)

Lesson Title: Trains (Vehicles that we use)

Grade level: Grade 4 (Since students are ELL Reading grade is one level lower)

Time Segment of Lesson: 15 minutes

Standards address in Lesson:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4
Read with grade level accuracy for comprehension.

Bridge-In:

Teacher will have an image on the overhead projector and screen of three different trains. 

Objective(s) of the Lesson:  Students will be able to …
List 3 types of trains.
Students will read a short story and answer questions related to the story. Assessment will include multiple choice questions and written responses.

Pre-Assessment:

Teacher will ask the students how many have taken a train to travel. 

Participatory Learning:

Trains        By Jack Hastings

Read the passage below.
The first steam engine to pull a passenger train was built nearly 200 years ago. It took two hours to travel 40 kilometers. The early steam trains burned coal to boil water and make steam. Trains have changed a lot over time. They use different sorts of power to help them travel faster and use less fuel. Some trains use diesel fuel and some use electricity. Trains that use diesel fuel have large, heavy engines that use less fuel than other engines. In many cities, passenger trains run on electricity. Some electric trains run underground through tunnels. One of the fastest trains in the world is called the bullet train. It is a Japanese electric train. It can travel at 300 kilometers per hour.

Post-Assessment:

Answer each question.

  1. When was the first steam engine built?
    ______________________________________________________________
  2. Some trains use diesel fuel and some use electricity.

a.    True        b.    False

  1. Which type of trains use diesel fuel?
    ______________________________________________________________
  2. Electric trains run underground through
        a.    Mine        b.    Tunnel        c.    Cave
  3. Which is the fastest train in the world and why?
    _______________________________________________________________

Summary: Teacher will lead a class discussion based on the following leading questions:
1. Where did you see trains?
2. What type of trains do you know?
3. Explain the differences of different types of trains.

Big Ideas to be Addressed in the Lesson: 

Talk about different types of trains.

Integrated Skill Based Activities (Speaking, Listening, Writing)

Lesson Title: Measuring Distance in Kilometres

Grade level: Grade 4 

Time Segment of Lesson: 20 minutes

Standards address in Lesson:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.4.4

Relate reading to real-world relevant to students; experience and culture through discussion, writing, and speaking presentation.

Bridge-In:

Teacher will have a Google map open on the overhead projector and screen with the distance showing between the school and the teacher’s home town. 

Objective(s) of the Lesson:  Students will be able to …

Explain distance in kilometres.

Students will discuss distance in kilometres to their families who do not live in the same city in which they live and go to school. Students will write the outcome of their think-pair-share discussion in a journal entry and present their writing in a short speech to the class. 

Pre-Assessment:

Teacher will ask the students if they have family members who live far away from their home and classroom community. 

Participatory Learning:

Activity 1: Students will think-pair-share for five minutes to discuss the distance from their home and school to a relative who lives in another city or country. They will research the distance in kilometres from their home and school community. 

Guided Discussion Questions:

  1. Who in your family Iives farthest away from you?
  2. What is the distance in kilometres your family member lives?

Activity 2: Students will write about the distance of their family members in a one paragraph journal entry. (5 mins)

Journal Entry Includes:

  1. Names of family members and relationship to the student.
  2. Name of the city, town, or community in which the family members live.
  3. Distance in kilometres from the student’s home and school community to where the family members live.

Activity 3: Students will organize in groups by the distance their family members live and present their journal entry in a speech to the class. (10mins)

The teacher will draw a line on the white board starting with point 1 being the home community and school. Then add 50km, 100km, and 500km+.

Home        50km        100km            500km +

Organization Method:

  1. Teacher will ask for a show of hands how many have family who live 50km, 100km, 500km or more away from their home community and school.
  2. Teacher will ask students to join up into three groups along the line on the white board.
  3. Starting with the shortest distance in kilometres, students will read their journal entry to the class. 

Post- Assessment:

Students are assessed based on their understanding of distance in kilometres as presented in both their journal entry and in their speech to the class. 

Students are assessed in Speaking by the grammar structures learned in previous classes and how they present their journal entry.

Students are assessed in Writing based on grammar structures and spelling learned in previous classes for their journal entries. 

Students are assessed in Listening based on how they organize in distance at the white board. 

Summary: Teacher will lead a class discussion based on the following leading questions:
1. When was the last time you visited your family members?
2. What do you like most about travelling to visit your family members?
Big Ideas to be Addressed in the Lesson: 

Talk and write about real-world examples as they relate to personal experiences. 

Further Reading:

Integrated Skills in the ESL/EFL Classroom

A Discrete Approach to Teaching ESL

Integrated Skills Approach in the EFL Classrooms

References

Blooms Taxonomy :: Resource for Educators. (2001). Www.bloomstaxonomy.net. https://www.bloomstaxonomy.net/ 

Englishlinx.com. (n.d.). Englishlinx.Com. Retrieved June 23, 2021, from https://englishlinx.com/cgi-bin/pdf_viewer_5.cgi?script_name=%2Fpdf%2F3rd-Trains.pdf&x=55&y=9

Integrated Skills in the ESL/EFL Classroom. ERIC Digest. (2019). Ericdigests.org. https://www.ericdigests.org/2002-2/esl.htm

ISW Handbook | Instructional Skills Workshop Network. (n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2021, from https://www.iswnetwork.ca/isw-handbook/ 

Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills. (n.d.). Www.youtube.com. Retrieved June 25, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quBofiRPP_A

Published by suzannemarie

Living life to its fullest. I believe in courageously honouring my truth. I am a published author & educator who helps current and future leaders. Lover of meaningful conversations, coffee, food, and learning, I am a global citizen and spiritual badass by day and aspiring yogi by night.

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