Sheltered instruction

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Sheltered instruction is an approach to teaching English language learners which integrates language and content instruction. The phrase "sheltered instruction," original concept, and underlying theory of comprehensible input are all credited to Stephen Krashen.

The dual goals of sheltered instruction are:

  1. to provide access to mainstream, grade-level content, and
  2. to promote the development of English language proficiency.


Sheltered Instruction, also referred to as SDAIE in California, is a teaching style founded on the concept of providing meaningful instruction in the content areas (social studies, math, science) for transitioning Limited English Proficient (LEP) students towards higher academic achievement while they reach English fluency.

This method type is often used in mainstream secondary classrooms where the students have a foundation of English education. A variety of instruction is used including the theories of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development. Instead of providing watered down curriculum for LEP student, sheltered instruction allows for the content to be equal to that of native English speakers while improving their grasp of the language. The teacher provides varied methods of instruction that allow students to create meaning of multifaceted content in classroom discussion, activities, reading and writing. Teachers call on a number of different instruction methods such as the use of socialization practices to allow the content to be more accessible.

The differences between ESL instruction and the use of sheltered instruction or SDAIE is that sheltered instruction does not focus entirely on language development; instead, through various other topics or actual content material in the curriculum, English proficiency is achieved.[1]

Originally the intent of sheltered instruction was for students with a relatively strong grasp of the English language but lacking in writing and reading abilities. Since then the need for proficient teachers capable of sheltered instruction has increased. The ESL certified teachers and programs have decreased due to new legislation, but the number of LEP students is rising causing teachers to build upon their abilities to take on the linguistically diverse classroom.

Teacher Preparation[edit]

As in any instructional approach, the use of sheltered instruction is effective when the teacher is capable of administering the lessons effectively, although the causal direction of this tautologous observation is not clear. If the lesson is administered effectively, then, by definition, the teacher is capable of administering it effectively, but if it is not administered effectively, then it cannot be determined whether this is due to teacher factors or methodological weakness. Without a far more rigorous evaluation, the claim that this is a viable approach cannot be confirmed because it is assumed that any problems arise from teacher factors, not methodological weakness. Many pre-service teacher programs are working to equip teachers with the skills they need to be successful. Beginning with pre-service teachers achieving a strong foundation of cultural psychology, language theory and acquisition as well as certified content knowledge in their undergraduate major, the courses incorporate multiple field experiences as well as pedagogical methods and cultural diversity instruction. There are many alternative ways teachers can learn how to increase effectiveness of instructional delivery and create a culturally responsive classroom, including online resources.[2]

Some U.S. public schools receive Title III funding to help pay for these preparation courses. Title III is the part of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English Language acquisition programs, including Professional development for educators.[citation needed]


Since the basis of sheltered instruction or SDAIE is to provide a framework for language development then one of the simplest ways follow a set format of instruction. For example, beginning each lesson with an introductory activity that assesses the students’ knowledge in a non-threatening and non-graded format will allow the teacher to evaluate the students’ skill set. It is vitally important the teacher designs his/her lessons to clearly define language and content as well as make the activity meaningful through the linkage to past knowledge and present and supplemental materials. Some examples of lessons include hands-on and cooperative learning activities, vocabulary, and the use of visual clues. Teachers also place an emphasis on developing the students’ habits of organization and study skills.[citation needed]

Teachers may use sheltered instruction within a variety of program models (e.g., immersion, pull out, team-teaching). Teachers may use sheltered instruction in a mainstream class to support English language learners, or a class may be specially designed, such as "Sheltered U.S. History."[citation needed]

"Many ELLs are also refugees", thus sheltered instruction can be one of the useful strategies for their instruction.[3] The teacher should "speak more clearly and slowly", use more graphics and similar "multimodal" instructional tools, and speak using shorter "sentences and clauses."[3]

Such classes may include only English language learners, or "linguistically diverse" language learners and English-fluent peers.[4]

According to Michael Genzuk,[5] SDAIE strategies typically include:

  • Increase wait time, be patient. Give your students time to think and process the information before you provide answers. A student may know the answers but need more processing time in order to say it in English.
  • Respond to the student's message, don't correct errors (Expansion). If a student has the correct answer and it is understandable, don't correct his or her grammar. The exact word and correct grammatical response will develop with time. Instead, repeat his or her answer, putting it into standard English, use positive reinforcement techniques.
  • Simplify teacher language. Speak directly to the student, emphasizing important nouns and verbs, using as few extra words as possible. Repetition and speaking louder doesn't help; rephrasing, and body language does.
  • Don't force oral production. Instead, give the student an opportunity to demonstrate his or her comprehension and knowledge through body actions, drawing pictures, manipulating objects, or pointing. Speech will emerge.
  • Demonstrate, use visuals and manipulatives. Whenever possible, accompany your message with gestures, pictures, and objects that help get the meaning across. Use a variety of different pictures or objects for the same idea. Give an immediate context for new words. Understanding input is the key to language acquisition.
  • Make lessons sensory activities. Give students a chance to touch, listen, smell and taste when possible. Talk about the words that describe these senses as students physically experiences lesson. Write new words as well as say them.
  • Pair or group students with native speakers. Much of a student's language acquisition comes from interacting with peers. Give students tasks to complete that require interaction of each member of the group, but arrange it so that the student has linguistically easier tasks. Utilize cooperative learning techniques in a student-centered classroom.
  • Adapt the materials to student's language level, maintain content integrity. Don't “water down” the content. Rather, make the concepts more accessible and comprehensible by adding pictures, charts, maps, time-lines, and diagrams, in addition to simplifying the language.
  • Increase your knowledge. Learn as much as you can about the language and culture of your students. Go to movies, read books, look at pictures of the countries. Keep the similarities and differences in mind and then check your knowledge by asking your students whether they agree with your impressions. Learn as much of the student's language as you can; even a few words help.
  • Build on the student's prior knowledge. Find out as much as you can about how the ideas and concepts you are teaching build upon the student's previous knowledge or previous way of being taught. Encourage the students to point out differences and connect similarities.
  • Support the student's home language and culture; bring it into the classroom. An important goal should be to encourage the students to keep their home languages as they also acquire English. Let students help bring about a multicultural perspective to the subjects you are teaching. Encourage students to bring in pictures, poems, dances, proverbs, or games. Encourage students to bring these items in as part of the subject you are teaching, not just as a separate activity. Do whatever you can to help your fluent English-speaking students see all students as knowledgeable persons from a respected culture.

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol[edit]

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol is a research-based observation instrument that is used to measure sheltered instruction.[1][6] This is a concept-based methodology in teacher training, also called SIOP, which is used to measure a teacher's effectiveness in the classroom.[7] It is "one approach teachers use to help ELLs," or English Language Learners.[8] SIOP uses several related activities to accomplish the goal of second-language acquisition, including lesson plans, background, 'comprehensible input', strategies, interaction, practice/application, lesson delivery, and review and assessment.[1][7][8]


  1. ^ a b c "EAS Secrets Study Guide" (PDF). Metromix. 2017. pp. 22–25. Retrieved May 1, 2017. (work is copyrighted and cannot be copied)
  2. ^ "Knowledge Delivery SystemsI". Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "EAS Secrets Study Guide" (PDF). Metromix. 2017. p. 5. Retrieved May 1, 2017. (work is copyrighted and cannot be copied)
  4. ^ Postman, Robert (2015). Barron's NYSTCE: EAS, ALST, Multi-Subject CST, Overview of the edTPA (4th ed.). Hauppauge, New York. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-4380-0618-5.
  5. ^ Genzuk, Michael. "Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English (SDAIE) for Language Minority Students" (PDF). University of Southern California. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  6. ^ Echevarria, Jana (2001). "The SIOP Model". Preason Education. Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Structured Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP)". North Slope Borough School District (Alaska). Retrieved May 1, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Postman, Robert (2015). Barron's NYSTCE: EAS, ALST, Multi-Subject CST, Overview of the edTPA (4th ed.). Hauppauge, New York. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-4380-0618-5.

See also[edit]

Second-language acquisition[edit]

General learning & co-construction of knowledge[edit]

  • Social interactionist theory: An explanation of language development emphasizing the role of social interaction between the developing child and linguistically knowledgeable adults. It is based largely on the socio-cultural theories of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky.
  • Zone of proximal development: Learning through socialization where individuals are able to gain from the experience of their peers or teacher that they would not be able to on their own. The zone bridges gap between what is known and what can be known. Also largely based on the socio-cultural theories of Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky.
  • Instructional scaffolding: A learning process designed to promote a deeper level of learning. Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student achieve his/her learning goals (Sawyer, 2006). Although the term was never used in Vygotsky's papers, the concept is widely attributed to him as a necessary component of the Zone of proximal development.
  • Cooperative learning: Cooperative Learning defines teaching methods in which pairs or small groups of learners work together to accomplish a shared goal. The goal is the cooperation of learners to maximize their own and each other's learning.