DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION FOR EFL/ESL LEARNERS

by Shelia Ann Peace

Differentiated Instruction recognizes that even though Dick, Jane, Jamal, Soo-Bin and Hong are supposed to know the same things by the end of the course year; each student enters the classroom with different knowledge, skills and abilities based upon their origin, social and religious customs, and early learning environments. If an instructor intends to maximize learning success in the classroom, approaches must take into consideration social and cultural norms, as well as students’ traditional approaches to learning. This is the latest trend in teaching English as a Second Language, taught in TEFL, TESOL and CELTA studies. Current study trends for English teacher certification emphasize the “learner-centered” classroom. ELTs in Asia are being taught that knowledge of “Asian-context” learning will directly influence learning outcomes. For example, Todd Vercoe lectures that China’s is a family-oriented culture where students are first taught to read with the character of “Big Brother” vs. Americans’ memories of learning to read with Dick and Jane: “See Spot. See Spot run. ‘Run, Spot, Run!’” Therefore, a Western approach to teaching English would yield lower success rates, than an Asiancontext-adapted approach: understanding that relations and verbs play a stronger role in traditional Asian students’ L1 than in English. According to Confucian sense of community, everyone is family (e.g., a man will address one five years older than himself as “big brother,” whereas a man considerably older than himself will be called “uncle.” ). Therefore, differentiated approaches to English Language instruction can recognize and accommodate these structural roadblocks to some Asian students’ learning.

Traditional grammar-translation methods are still being taught, but in order to improve students’ TOEFL, TOEIC and college entrance scores - English Language Teachers are being guided to join teachers’ organizations like TEFL, TESOL, KOTESOL – in South Korea, and KSAALT -- in Saudi Arabia); and, to attend regular conferences to see what works for others. One popular presenter in South Korea is Sara Davila: task-based learning. She recently published “Creative Thinking Techniques and Lesson Plans” (http://saradavila.com/front/materials/creative-thinking-techniques-and-lesson-plans/) with many ideas for differentiated instruction in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College

3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

A good teacher-training course will allow teachers/students to create their own lesson plans. Online TEFL/TESOL courses will teach theory: to reach the end objective of student comprehension and application of language tasks via writing, speaking, and/or grammar. Differentiated instruction techniques can allow the EFL/ESL teacher to develop, or choose, approaches that are learner-centered based upon the cultural background*, starting points, abilities, and needs of each learners set (*remembering that the English L2 learner wants to learn the culture of her/his new language, as well). Since early ELT training, I’ve regularly administered external assessments at the start of each semester to measure students’ English comprehension and basic grammar skills based upon Kenneth Beare’s graded-level online tests at About u.com. Tailored conversation assessments and simple writing prompts, found at www.bogglesworld.com, allow measurement of students’ abilities to understand and express themselves in English; revealing strengths and areas for improvement (grammar, spelling, structure, etc.). In a typical Western classroom, differentiated instruction allows a teacher to use tools such as manipulatives (blocks, sticks, marbles, flash cards) to teach basic math skills before, or while, completing textbook concept applications: 1 + 1 = 2, and so on. Depending on the classroom structure, and evaluation time-allowance, students can be divided into learning groups according to learning styles. Additionally, in an English Second Language and Foreign Language classroom, differentiated instruction needs have allowed many teachers to employ such concepts as Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory. “Dr. Gardner indicates that by introducing a broader range of learning methods, (known as the intelligences) educators . . . can home in on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses by determining their preferred learning style. This would consequently give them the opportunity to learn in ways more productively [suited] to their unique minds.” (recorded from www.multipleintelligencetheory.co.uk/ ) Again, in the States, “The overlap between Differentiation and Response to Intervention is of increasing importance to school districts.” According to www.differentiatedinstruction.net/. However, Middle Eastern English Second Language scholars, such as Intakhab Alam Khan, believe that “the poor result in English is mainly due to the traditional approach to teaching of English . . .” He wrote about this in Learning Difficulties in English: Diagnosis and Pedagogy in Saudi Arabia, 2011. Differentiated learning needs can be met with multiple intelligences theory opportunities. I now use a “something-for-everyone” approach: as traditional evaluations and resultant groupings are Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College 3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

neither timely, nor priority in the Saudi Prep Year program due to mixed-ability classrooms and timepaced instructional materials. This speaker has tailored PowerPoint slideshows cover Gardner’s identified intelligences; paired with classroom instruction, using varied tasks to engage students’:       mathematical intelligences (employing sentence, and form equations for sentence structure and grammar targets); kinesthetic/interpersonal intelligences (using role-plays, and whiteboard engagement); linguistic/interpersonal intelligences (listening to and repeating lexis, applications include target language use: role-plays, questions and answers, class discussions); musical intelligence (choral input, rhythmic pronunciation); intrapersonal intelligence (critical thinking exercises for meaning and context); Spatial/naturalistic (visuals for vocabulary input with color-theory applications for grammar and parts of speech input). Arab students’ language structure is different from previously-taught L2 students’ Korean and Thai languages; so, books like Richard Harrison’s Keep Writing I and Keep Writing II (designed for L1 transference resolution unique to Arabic L1 students) are valuable investment. In addition, Speaking and Writing in English, by Ajay Rai includes valuable differentiated instruction ideas. TESOL Diploma Thesis included research into Multiple Intelligences Theory applications for the EFL/ESL classroom, combined with color theory (published at www.scribd.com and with Lulu Press). As a teacherpractitioner, PowerPoint slideshows as “textbook support” allow Computer Assisted Language Learning as differentiated instruction; which can be employed in the classroom and at the student’s own pace when e-mailed for home-study (also published at www.scribd.com ). In A Call for New Benchmarks at Saudi language Schools (Asian-EFL Journal International TESOL Conference, 2008) -- Dr. Raina Jarf bemoaned how “Despite the fact that the lowest GPA for high school graduates admitted to [King Saud University’s] COLT in Fall 2007 was 98.3%, results of final exams were exceptionally shocking with only 21.8% passing the reading course.” Saudi has open admission policy, and the King’s provision of paid tuition for any high school graduate who wishes to attend university. These policies have eliminated previously imposed basic proficiency standards. In effect, any student who wants to learn English can enter language programs. Prof. Jarf’s abstract called for a return to “benchmarks” for admission into Saudi Arabia’s English language programs. Nevertheless, for English Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College 3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

instructors here, this means near uniform mixed-ability classrooms pose difficult challenges for educators. Paced lessons and rigid semester-end requirements result in many students repeating the Prep Year program 3-5 times. “The percentage of freshman students who successfully complete the program is between 20%-25% of freshman enrollees,“ Prof. Jarf wrote. While challenging for seasoned instructors, this situation also allows fertile ground for differentiated instruction: elevating challenged students while holding the interest of high-level students; meanwhile allowing the mid-level students to just learn. This instructor’s approaches include tailored PowerPoint “Study Guides” for Prep Year core skills of Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking and the function of Grammar; in addition, incorporation of Online Learning Center tests for Quiz and Major Exam review. Topically-selected Ehow and YouTube videos aid Communication Skills students’ comprehension and task execution. Results: when students who started a core skills/function or Communication Skills class too timid to utter one English sentence -- complete the course, and later approach us in the hallway to ask, or tell, us about Summer vacation, we know that some progress has been made. When we receive emails from students requesting additional information about a Writing assignment, we know that integration of computer technology and networking is encouraging these students to use English for additional purposes of gathering information to complete assigned tasks. Confidence and competence in communication – allowed by differentiated instruction -- enhance students’ knowledge, skills and abilities to complete required semester’s work, and beyond. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Right now, we’re going to complete a Hands-On Workshop demonstration of Story Strips used to focus Reading students on “input” and “comprehension.” Open the folders, please, and remove the papers held together by the large paper clip. This task takes 5 minutes for eight student groups to complete: You must read headings and organize paragraphs to match the heading: employing critical thinking skills and eliciting (vs. teaching) reading comprehension. Each group’s work is peer-checked with a whiteboard plenary before gluing strips into place. There is group work requiring peer-teaching and cooperation. Furthermore, students use two-page texts as handy reference to answer textbook questions for each reading: no longer flipping back-and-forth over as many as 10 pages to find a question’s answer. Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College 3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Employing these “Story Strips,” Reading vocabulary is initially input via context clues; students reinforce vocabulary by matching “words” to “meanings” in another 5 minutes. PowerPoint slideshows (which open with vocabulary and visual definitions; as well as end with a traditional vocabulary/ definition list) are bi-weekly e-mailed to Reading students’ personal accounts. This experience provides stimulation of interest and focus for mixed-ability students who appeared lost/disinterested when following the traditional routes to learning.

Thank you for your cooperation and thank you for listening.

Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College

3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

BIO
Shelia Ann Peace is an English Instructor at a Saudi Royal Commission Prep Year university college. She has taught English as a Second Language in the U.S.A., South Korea, Thailand, and now in Saudi Arabia. She has a TESOL Diploma (Asian-EFL Journal/Time-Taylor International College) with a published thesis on Task-Based Teaching and Multiple Intelligences Theory for the ESL/EFL Classroom (www.scribd.com and Lulu Press). She also holds TESOL Certificate and TESOL Teacher Trainer Certificate (Asian-EFL Journal); as well as CELTA Certification (Certified English Language Teacher of Adults learning English Second Language: University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations). She graduated with a B.A. in Communication Arts from Rhodes College. Work experience includes radio and TV (announcer/writer/associate producer, news), and newspaper (journalist). She worked in professional theatre for several years, earning memberships in Actors’ Equity, Screen Actors’ Guild and Writers Guild of America. She became an educator after making the choice to homeschool her daughter; later, teaching as a full-time substitute in American public school for four years. Her family moved overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language/ Second Language in 2007: where she hopes to continue working until retirement. Her hobbies include piano, singing-along with YouTube, dancing to K-Pop videos (Big-Bang, Super Junior and Wonder Girls), and practicing conversational French. Teaching English as a Second Language allows her to use previous job experiences to make English exciting and fun to learn. Her secret ambition is to later work as an EFL/ESL materials developer.

Presented by: Shelia Ann Peace English and Communication Skills Instructor ______________ College

3 December 2012 Faculty Development Workshop _____, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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