What is Sheltered Instruction?

Effective programs for students with a limited command of English include both ESL and sheltered instruction.  Sheltered instruction is content area teaching that also includes opportunities for language development.  Teachers who use sheltered instruction in their classes teach their regular content such as math, science, social studies, health, English etc. In addition they incorporate language learning objectives that help their English language learners (ELL) students practice the language of the content area.  When teachers use sheltered methodology, they incorporate the following key components:

  • language objectives to accompany each content objective,
  • comprehensible input
  • focus on vocabulary teaching
  • hands-on learning experiences
  • building students’ background knowledge
  • language practice opportunities (integration of listening, speaking, reading and writing about the content concepts)
  • alternative assessments
  • practice and application
  • learning strategies

ELL students in these classes are still learning the English language while learning content subjects in English. Sheltered instruction is carried out entirely in English per M.G.L. 71A. If native speakers of the child’s language are available, they can provide a valuable service to students by taking a few minutes of class time to work individually or with small groups of ELLs to clarify content concepts in the student’s native language. If native language speakers are unavailable, then the use of the components above becomes even more essential if ELL students are to grasp and retain the concepts and language of the content area.