It is the goal of English Language Learners (ELL) teachers to make every lesson a language lesson. Using lessons with hands-on activities not only gets the children physically active in a lesson, but also provides opportunities for developing language. This has been the experience of Charlotte Park Elementary School first grade ELL teacher Dr. Juanita M. “Marti” Moore.
Dr. Moore’s first grade ELL students are always a diverse group of children. Her class last year had 11 Hispanic and four Somali students. The children come to her with diverse experiences, levels of language learning, and length of time in a school setting. Dr. Moore turned her experience writing the Vernier book Let’s Go! Elementary Science into an opportunity to bridge the common experiences of her students. Dr. Moore integrated the Go!Temp temperature probe into the Nashville, Tennessee math and science curriculum and found that Go!Temp not only provided a great starting point for learning math and science, it provided an authentic opportunity for language development.
One activity Dr. Moore used with her class is a modification of an activity from the book Let’s Go! Investigating Temperature. The students were given a cup of ice water and asked to put their hands in the water to see how it felt. They were then asked to use a Go!Temp (using Logger Lite software) to create a temperature graph of the water. The students described the graph, taking time to use appropriate adjectives in complete sentences. They quickly connected the way the water felt with what they saw on the computer screen. The class repeated the experiment using a cup of room temperature water. Next, the class discussed what they thought the temperature graph would look like for water that was too hot to touch. They tested their prediction in a demonstration setting, rather than having the children handle very hot water. Dr. Moore noted, “The amount of language in this very simple activity was really amazing. The children used comparisons, descriptions of temperatures, and listed liquids that might be at each temperature.”
After the initial exploration, the class continued with each child watching the graphical display while holding the Go!Temp in the air, and then grasping the end of the probe. The resulting change in the graph was very vivid, and they were able to connect the rising line with the fact that their bodies were warmer than the air temperature. They also compared the hand temperatures of three children on the same graph and learned to use more complicated comparative language, such as warm, warmer, warmest and to use them in complete sentences. Dr. Moore extended the language lesson by having the students explore different ways to say the same thing; for example, the same three children’s hand temperatures could also be described as cool, cooler and coolest.
While these experiences may seem very basic for many classrooms, English Language Learners often need springboards into language that are more linked to personal experience. Using the Go!Temp helped Dr. Moore turn a hands-on math and science lesson into an amazing opportunity for language growth for her ELL students.