This blog post explores teaching and learning strategies for comprehensible input for student learning using The SIOP Model.
The SIOP Model
The SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) Model (CREDE, 1996) is an empirically-tested, research-based model of instruction used as a framework for planning and delivering instruction in core subject areas for second language learners, as well as students who need to strengthen their academic language and literacy skills (2020).
The SIOP Model is an instructional framework that guides teachers in unit planning and lesson planning and focuses on the acquisition of academic language and content knowledge and helps them to appropriately scaffold instruction given the students’ level of language proficiency.
How Teachers Use the SIOP Model
Teachers use the SIOP Model to plan, implement and evaluate high level instruction in a variety of subjects according to their students’ needs and language proficiency.
Components of the SIOP Model
- Lesson Preparation
- Building Background
- Comprehensible Input
- Practice & Application
- Lesson Delivery
- Review & Assessment
The model is underpinned by the following principles:
- Ongoing language instruction for student achievement is the primary instructional component for second language learners.
- Content instruction with higher level instructional practices is a valuable vehicle for second language learners’ language and literacy learning.
- Content teaching should involve students in purposeful instructional strategies to guide the learning process.
- Lessons should be sequential and include a beginning, middle, and end with an exit ticket.
Comprehensible input is the interrelated importance of the messages the educator sends and how they are interpreted by students. Three parts of an educator’s message are evaluated in this stage: the teacher’s speech, the language of the task, and how the message is interpreted by students. It is important for educators to give clear and comprehensible instructions to students for each task in a lesson for student learning and an enhanced learning experience.
These instructions should focus on the overall objective of the task as well as the procedure for completing it. The language used to instruct students should match their level of development, and also be written in a manner that is clear and easy to understand. In addition, educators should constantly monitor student progress in understanding the lesson and adjust the language used accordingly.
The language of a task should be clear and plain. If students are given a task that is too difficult and incomprehensible, students won’t have a clear idea of what they are supposed to do, which will result in the complete loss of their interest. When teachers give clear and simple instructions for each task, the students will be able to perform the tasks with ease and will be more motivated.
Teachers sometimes feel rushed and make mistakes in providing meaningful instruction to students. One mistake educators often make is not giving enough information about the lesson or task. The clearer the instructions, the more accurate the interpretation. In addition, it is important to give instructions at the right time and in the right place.
Types of Explanations
Subtle clues in words, tone of voice, body language, and/or gestures can provide additional information that gives meaning to the task and facilitates learning.
Questioning and comprehension checking helps to ensure students received meaningful communication. The question “what do you understand about the task?” is helpful for students to describe what it is they are to do in the lesson.
The instruction should be composed of small, comprehensible chunks. As the teacher lectures, they should encourage students to repeat what they say so that they can hear their own speech and can become aware of their own errors.
The teacher should encourage students to ask questions when they don’t understand the task or instruction. This will maintain an interaction between the teacher and the students to ensure all students are continuing to listen and that no one is feeling left out or frustrated.
Motivational input is the degree to which students are motivated to make a meaningful interpretation of the task at hand. Teachers can do this by setting up an environment in which students will take part in meaningful tasks and by creating a context for learning through interactive activities. When an educator provides a positive environment for learning and interaction, students will be more likely to engage in the activity and will have the motivation to do so with more vigour.
Teaching Language Learners
Teachers of language learners should practice speaking and giving instructions for ten percent of the lesson. The remaining ninety percent of talk time should be done by the students. Students need to be given the opportunity to model their own language learning.
The teacher, when speaking, should give instructions that are explicit, with fewer than six words per sentence. The teacher should be a model of clarity and simplicity in speech, slowly and clearly enunciating and pronouncing each syllable. The teacher should also be a model of good listening behavior.
Communicative language instruction is becoming more important than ever. A major shift away from grammar-focused instruction has occurred in language classrooms throughout the years. Listening and speaking should be the primary skills developed in classes. “The teacher’s role is to guide communications, to encourage conversation, to respond to questions, and to correct errors as needed” (Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2006, p. 532).
Teacher Talk Time (10%)
Here’s how a ten percent strategy could work in a classroom. The instructor asks the students to create and practice some teaching exercises. Students review these first as a whole class. Then each student is separated into a group with a single native speaker. One by one, each of them is asked to demonstrate the exercise to their partner. Volunteers are then called on to correct the errors of their peers and finally, each group shares their results as a whole class.
This video from TEFL/TESOL about Teacher Talk Time (TTT) shares examples of how to reduct TTT:
It’s important to note that while this approach helps the students to overcome their reluctance to speak, it might not be ideal in every situation. If the native speakers are too busy correcting mistakes, they may give up on the exercise altogether and if the students are too busy speaking, they might not get much practice with their grammar or pronunciation. In addition, asking volunteers to demonstrate the exercises can be a little intimidating. You know your students best and can determine if this strategy is a good fit. I find it useful in my English classes as I am teaching all Chinese students learning English in a Chinese high school. The students welcome corrections and feedback from the native English teachers and students with higher proficiency in the English language.
Having said that, this type of exercise makes a lot of sense in a classroom where students are getting their first taste of speaking and listening in an intermediate class. It’s great preparation for students who are going to be put on the spot, and who need to practice their speaking skills in a low-stress environment.
This allows students to hear the language pronounced successfully and then offers them the chance to speak, correcting the errors of others.
The results of this method are clearly visible in class. After 15 minutes of practice with a native speaker or highly proficient English speaker, students are able to correctly pronounce words and emphasize syllables and intonation.
Formative Assessments Strategies
During the ten percent, the instructor should be speaking slowly with the intonation of English clearly pronounced. Then the instructor should act as a model to the students by using a tape recorder to play back to them so they can correct their own speech. The instructor should give specific instructions on how to pronounce a word correctly or how to say a sentence correctly.
As the teacher sees fit, this process can be repeated, broken down into smaller groups, or expanded to more complex activities. One tool I like to use is FlipGrid. This tool allows students to each share a short video clip of their discussion about a topic. It is a great tool to use for expanding a lesson and assessing a student’s use of the target language.
Two other techniques to use when testing out new material are:
- Student Questionnaire- Students fill out a questionnaire after each lesson on the degree of difficulty and whether they feel they understood the instructions.
- Student Submission- Students practice presentations or feedback in front of a recording camera and play back their videos for review.
Using Voice Clips
One strategy for formative assessment I use with my English language learners is to ask them to send me a voice clip of a topic area of discussion. Prior to sending me the voice clip, they listen carefully and correct any errors by making notes. They then send me a corrected voice note and a written summary of what they noticed from the first attempt to the second submission.
Using these strategies for comprehensible input has helped me to enhance my teaching and learning experience with my students. The students have done a great job of correcting errors from other students—both in person and on-screen and developed confidence in making corrections in think-pair-share activities and group discussions. It all depends on your student’s age and stage of their language development. I suggest using technology as much as possible with your students as it helps to make the lessons more engaging and memorable.
Teaching with The SIOP Model
If you are an educator, parent, or grandparent and looking for practical strategies to use with children, concepts to understand, and ideas that can be easily implemented about how to create space for self and others, you have landed in the right spot.
Children learn how to solve problems the same way they learn how to read, write, and add. Like reading, writing, and adding, there are three specific components to solving problems. These are teachable skills children can learn at any age.