Message Abundancy – Amplify don’t Simplify the Curriculum

Amplify DON’T Simplify the Curriculum

Message Abundancy – Amplify don’t Simplify the Curriculum! That is the message from Professor Pauline Gibbons when she talks about how to present the curriculum to EAL learners from her excellent book English Learners: Academic Literacy and Thinking which I reviewed here

It is a key message for those of us that work with EAL learners and something that should always be at the forefront of our minds as educators when we are planning for our EAL learners no matter what their proficiency in English is. It’s too easy to give beginners alternative tasks because we might think ‘They won’t understand this’ or ‘it’s too difficult for them’ I feel very strongly that all EAL learners, regardless of their language proficiency, should have access to the same curriculum as everyone else in their class or school. Giving beginner EAL learners alternative tasks because we think that they should have something easy to do is tantamount to excluding them from lessons. I’ve heard some horror stories of EAL learners being giving completely separate tasks that are not related to the curriculum of what others are doing and to me this is unacceptable.

Message abdunancy as Gibbons (2009) states is about ‘key ideas being presented in many different ways.’ That is why we need to use a wide range of classroom strategies, a wide range of resources and a wide range of scaffolding to ensure that EAL learners have more than one opportunity to understand curriculum content and develop their control over language.

In her book Gibbons gives the example of science class that was learning about the processes of investigation in science. The teacher used a wide range of strategies and resources to ensure that there were ample opportunities presented to them to support their learning. Learners:

  • watched a video
  • had a teacher led discussion
  • saw key vocabulary from the lesson displayed on the walls of the classroom
  • completed group work
  • designed their own experiments

For a more in depth look at how the teacher delivered this amplified lesson on science investigations you can read about it in her book. The activities outlined above ensured that there was an abundancy of ideas presented in a wide range of formats.

For me we could apply the activities or activities similar to those above to a wide range of lessons in the mainstream curriculum. It is possible for us as teachers to create a multitude of ways in which we can amplify the curriculum for our EAL learners to ensure that key content is communicated and language is learnt.

How can we ensure that we amplify the curriculum for our EAL learners?

  • Teach key vocabulary in content. Use lots of visuals, word walls, use strategies such as,, these strategies are great ways to get EAL learners using and talking about the vocabulary they are learning. Remember key ideas presented in a wide range of formats.
  • In writing use writing frames, gap fills, sentence starters. Have sentence starters of the genre you want your learners to write in displayed around the classroom.
  • In reading, provide a wide range of strategies and resources for accessing texts. These could include pictures with words, highlighting key parts of a text for learners to focus on. are a really good way to present key ideas in different ways.
  • Build in multiple opportunities for structured talk that reinforces the content you are teaching. An earlier blog post I wrote outlined 5 effective speaking strategies that support message abundancy.
  • Scaffolding plays a crucial role in message abundancy. It is through effective scaffolding that we can give our EAL learners multiple opportunities to learn content. The scaffolding can come in many shapes and forms which include the types of materials and resources you use, the way instructions are delivered, and the groupings of your learners.

Message abundancy or amplifying the curriculum is something that is always at the forefront of my mind when I am working with mainstream teachers in trying to deliver content. It is too easy to think that if we make it simple then they will get it. This is often detrimental to the EAL learner’s progress and does not support them in the long term. We must ensure that we are presenting ideas in a wide range of formats to support our EAL learners in their mainstream classes.

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