Identifying Barriers in Instructional Material


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Participants will be able to determine how instructional material affects ELL achievement.

Pre Assessment

Write the answer to the following question on paper or on a digital document. Be as detailed as possible in your answer.

1) Imagine you were to explain the water cycle to an ELL. How would your approach be different from a scenario where you taught a native English speaker? Name some differences in the presentation, work or activity.

Key Words

Instructional Material: These are the objects, activities, and tools used in a lesson. This encompasses everything beyond the spoken instruction and discussion that take place during a lesson.


Using the same example as the pre assessment, your typical classroom setup may look something like this:

In this example, Ms. Lin is at the board, explaining and illustrating the water cycle. The students, at their desks, are following along with the lesson, while completing the simultaneous activities in their worksheets. Take notice of the materials: a whiteboard and a worksheet.

During the lesson, Ms. Lin draws the following picture on the board:

Ms. Lin describes the water cycle. She says the water evaporates from the ocean, condenses in the clouds, and then precipitates down back to the ocean. Brittany does not understand what evaporate, ocean, condenses, clouds, precipitates, or back to mean. She tries to use the board for hints but Ms. Lin has only written "H2O," which makes no sense to Brittany. When Ms. Lin calls on Brittany to explain any aspect she learned from the instruction, Brittany cannot come up with a response. Ms. Lin gives Brittany a repercussion for not paying attention.

For Question #1 on the worksheet, Ms. Lin tells the students to cross off the question words, and make sure to indent on the first line. Marco has difficulty understanding directions. He goes to question #1 and begins writing his answer, thinking those were the directions. She then tells the students to include 2 details to support their answers. Marco, hearing "2" continues to Question #2. When Ms. Lin circulates the room, she finds Marco moving ahead, without any of the specific directions she explained reflected in Marco's work. She tells him he must erase his work, and start over.

Eakra is familiar with the water cycle, and remembers learning some of the vocabulary in her last school. As she is working on her written response, Ms. Lin gives a direction about sharing with partners. When Eakra notices, Ms. Lin is repeating the directions again, but this time, Ms. Lin speaks quicker and Eakra cannot identify which question or content she has to discuss. When Eakra turns to talk with her partner, she is confused and isn't sure what to say. Her partner gets frustrated with her and also refuses to talk because she doesn't want to give Eakra the answer.

During independent work, Ms. Lin has the students complete the written responses in complete sentences with details. Two students, Raisa and Muhammed, are still learning to read and write. Raisa spends this work time copying the question, and Muhammed asks to go to the bathroom. Ms. Lin congratulates Raisa for her neat writing, and tells Muhammed to skip the work when he returns from the bathroom.


Using Slide 4 on Jamboard, write down your reactions to the information presented above. You can use the following questions to guide your thoughts:

1) What challenges were the students facing during the lesson?

2) How are these challenges connected with the materials used in the classroom?

**You can add a sticky note, text box, drawing or image on Slide 1. There are no requirements for this space; just use this time to react as you see fit! Keep in mind that this is a public collaboration space, so you and others will be able to see the responses.

Mini Lecture

When educators fail to accommodate for ELLs, they are increasing the likelihood of ELLs falling behind, and effectively diminishing the amount of learning that can take place. Instructional materials play a vital role in supporting students. Here are some examples:

  • white board
  • smartboard
  • worksheets, dry erase boards
  • videos, images, slideshows
  • projectors or screen share tools
  • iPads, chromebooks, cell phones
  • other manipulatives

Here are some challenges that accompany insufficient or ineffective use of instructional materials:

  • When the teacher does not show her own worksheet, students do not know where to look on their worksheet.
  • Without written or drawn supports, students fail to understand directions.
  • Lack of multimodal representations leads students to misunderstand or not know the meaning of vocabulary.
  • Without additional methods of conveying instructions, students cannot participate in discussion.
  • Students with low written or reading abilities will not be able to complete work that requires these skills.

Assess Your Learning

In your own classroom or learning environment, are you able to identify materials, or a lack of materials, that may pose challenges for ELLs? Write your answer on Nearpod


Common Core State Standards: For English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities Special Considerations in Relation to Common Core Standards. (2014) K-12 Blueprint.

Haynes, J. & Zacarian, D. (2010). Teaching English Language Learners: Across the Content Areas. ASCD.

Continue to Unit 3!

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