In thinking about teaching ELLs and native speakers, I'm also struck by the truth of this "more alike than different" saying. In fact, last week I attended a two-day workshop given by Dr. Sandra Mercuri, the co-author with Denise Rea of English Language Learners: How to Reach Goals and Meet Standards, K-8 and the similarities between how all children learn was brought home even more. As Dr. Mercuri spoke, it was hard not to see how so many of the strategies that work in teaching ELLs resemble good pedagogy for all students.
Here are the key strategies Dr. Mercuri shared in her presentation and in her book:
Modeling (i.e., thinking aloud, fishbowl) gives students an opportunity to listen in on an expert reader's processing of text. Students get to hear how the teacher thinks and problem solves which gives them ideas of how they themselves can think about text as they read.
Contextualizing (i.e., visuals, manipulatives, collaborative grouping, moving to learn) helps to engage students in learning and makes ideas, concepts, and information more concrete.
Thinking about thinking (i.e., tea party, metaphor lesson, test debriefing) allows students to actively participate in their learning and bring to each new experience what they already know.
Reframing information (i.e., readers theater, mini-performance, poetry, murals, tableaus ) allows students to revisit information and text and interpret it in a different way.
Since it's unlikely that most of you will get the chance to hear Dr. Mercuri speak, I recommend that you read her book. Although I frequently shy away from books that address such a wide audience (K-8), this slim volume is jam-packed with wonderful ideas that can be adapted across grade levels. It gives us sound strategies to help bridge the gap between ELLs and native language speakers, and it reminds us of pedagogy that works well with all our students, but especially those in the primary grades, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and children with special needs. And it reminds me, of course, that we are more alike than different.