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Successful strategy: How Southport trains teachers to work with English Learners

Students in an English-learner class at Southport High School work on an assignment during the last period of the day.
Students in an English-learner class at Southport High School work on an assignment during the last period of the day.
Shaina Cavazos

Southport Principal Barbara Brouwer didn’t want to take any chances when it came to being prepared for the school’s recent influx of English language learners.

The best way to make sure the students, many of them refugees, were able to succeed in the classroom meant making sure teachers were prepared. One method of training teachers to work with students new to English, called “Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol,” has proven especially effective, Brouwer said.

The program involves intense instruction in lesson planning and both verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as strategies for how to test students and gauge progress. As one Southport teacher said, it’s really just good teaching, but the method works especially well for students who need additional support.

Learn about SIOP and how it works in the videos below. You can find out more about it and how to access training and other materials on the program’s website.

Lesson preparation

While planning lessons on specific subjects, teachers must first understand what students know or can do based. Then, they use the state’s and WIDA standards to create the lesson.

Building background

Teachers have to connect their lessons with students’ background knowledge, either before or after they came to the school. They also have to connect to previous lessons so students understand how concepts are related. Most importantly, teachers should build student vocabulary around a subject before they teach it.

Comprehensible Input

Teachers need to make sure their vocal presentation, and any materials they use, are accessible to students. That might meaning slowing down speech or enunciating but also includes showing visuals and using textbooks that have clear and uncluttered information. If those materials don’t exist, teachers should create them or edit existing ones.


Students might still be learning English, but they still must understand how to be good readers by summarizing, underlining important information, making predictions and synthesizing information. These cognitive and metacognitive skills must be taught while language learning is happening.


Students need time to interact with the teacher and with each other outside of classroom lectures. This requires teachers to carefully plan so kids can do tasks together and create discussions that get them to use English and share with their peers.

Practice and application

Teachers should give students a chance to practice a skill and then carry it over to another activity, as seen in the “multiple meanings” video linked below.

Lesson delivery

See how one teacher delivers a lesson on words with multiple meanings:

Review and assessment

Teachers should consider that there are many other ways to assess student learning aside from tests — portfolios, which show progress over time, are one good strategy.

All videos by Pearson.

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