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Teaching English Learners and Sheltered Instruction

Training and supporting classroom teachers in the effective instruction of English language learners (ELLs) is key in order to ensure that the fast-growing ELL student population meets rigorous academic standards. A professional development model called sheltered instruction reflects certain research-based principles, instructional best practices, and strategies designed especially to help ELLs master content and academic language. Sheltered English instruction is an instructional approach that engages ELLs who are above the beginner level in English Language Development in attaining grade-level content-area knowledge and academic skills, along with increased English proficiency.

Using a sheltered instruction approach, teachers in content classrooms (Science, Math, Social Studies, English language arts, the Arts, AP, Technology, etc.) use clear, direct English (that gradually increases in complexity as ELL students' English language proficiency grows), and a wide range of scaffolding strategies to make content and concepts comprehensible for students.

SIOP™ (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) and SDAIE (Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English) are two widely used professional development models that incorporate sheltered instructional principles, ELL best practices, and scaffolding techniques for English Learners.

Ron Rohac, an ELL teacher educator, experienced content teacher, and specialist in sheltered instruction strategies/SDAIE, developed the Teaching English Learners activities and lesson plans to directly reflect and support the sheltered instruction model and help content teachers easily integrate appropriate, effective, scaffolded instruction for English learners into their daily lessons. All of the activities have been tested in Ron's classroom and in the classrooms of the many teachers he has trained, with excellent academic results.


Dr. Zoe Ann Brown, an educational consultant with over 30 years of experience in teaching ELLs, evaluated the alignment of several hundred representative activities from Teaching English Learners (TEL) with key Sheltered/SDAIE/SIOP™/ Scaffolded instruction features (or what Dr. Brown calls "4S" features):

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Student Use of Strategies
Practice and Application

A representative sample of approximately 150 lessons and activities from TEL were selected for review, across the following areas:

  1. General Strategies (can be applied to any content area)
  2. General Vocabulary Building and Literacy activities (can be applied to any content area)
  3. English Language Arts
  4. Mathematics
  5. Science
  6. Social Studies
  7. Art


Sheltered/SDAIE/SIOP™ Scaffolded (4S) Strategy and TEL Alignment

As indicated in the graph below, the lessons and activities provided by are strongly aligned with the most significant components of "4S" instruction:

  • The activities and strategies are supplementary materials that scaffold academic content and provide an effective, supportive learning environment for ELLs.
  • The activities make academic concepts and content comprehensible.
  • The activities and strategies provide hands-on ways to engage students in meaningful, appropriately adapted content and academic concepts.
  • There are ample opportunities for teacher and peer interactions and use of important cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies.


The following are a few examples of activities and lessons from the Web Portal that are strongly aligned to the Sheltered/SDAIE/SIOP™/Scaffolded instruction ("4S") strategies and features:

  • The Nervous System (Science)
  • Cued Retelling: Addition and Subtraction Equations (Math)
  • 9-Square: All About Non Fiction (ELA)
  • Textbook Scavenger Hunt (General Content)
  • Cooperative Learning: Round Table/Round Robin (General Content)
  • How well do I know these words? (General Vocabulary)
  • Pictionary: Win-Lose-or-Draw (General Vocabulary)
  • The Identification Folder (Social Studies)
  • Two Point Perspective (Art)
of practical
for content