SIOP Feature #10:  Use Speech Appropriate for Students' Proficiency Level

One part of comprehensible input is speech.  What we say and how we say it is important to the overall comprehensibility of our speech.  This SIOP feature examines how to make our speech more appropriate to the students' proficiency levels.

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SIOP Feature #10:  Use Speech Appropriate for Students' Proficiency Level

This 10th SIOP feature is a very important component of making content comprehensible.  Making content comprehensible is important to insure that students are getting the gist of the lesson.  While it may sound like a minor thing, the kind of speech the teacher uses can make or break a lesson.  

How can we use appropriate speech?

TESOL Trainers K-12 PD SIOP John Kongsvik

As teachers, we are always striving for ways to make things more comprehensible, more accessible, and more digestible for our students.  Our speech is a critical component of this comprehensibility.

While it may seem quite easy to do, there are a number of layers to making content comprehensible that SIOP helps to shed some light on.  There are a number of things that we, as educators can do to moderate the kind of language they use.  

​Here are three things to pay attention to:

  1. Idiomatic expressions: (E.g. get the hang of, drive someone up a wall, fixing to, etc)can be daunting to non-native English speakers as can the plethora of phrasal verbs.  Just think of how many verbs you can make with the infinitive 'to get' (e.g. get over, get up, get by, get through, get pissed off at something)
  2. The use of academic language may also trip up some students who seem to be fluent socially but may have never been explicitly taught academic language such as content specific language (e.g. rational in  math class) or words & phrases that help to create meaning (e.g. transition words, passive language, etc).
  3. Regional language differences can pose their own challenges as well whether that be vocabulary usage (e.g. in northern New England you will often hear 'for that' being used over 'because'). There are also obvious regional pronunciation differences (e.g. in the South it may sound like long vowel sounds are held longer).
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Never Assume They "Got it".

One of the challenges when working with English language learners is determining what they are getting and what they aren't getting.  We should never assume that students understand us.  Rather, we should challenge them to show us what they understood.  Here are two strategies you can use to make sure students are understanding the language you are using.

  1. Ask a student what the word means.  There's nothing wrong with stopping the class and asking students, "what do I mean by that?"  This not only engages them, but it gives us a chance to clarify the issue if they need it clarified.
  2. Write the word/phrase on the board so students can see it.  Never underestimate the value of writing unknown words on the board.  It piques student interest and encourages students to determine the meaning themselves.

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