Sheltered Instruction

Formerly known as SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol), the renamed Sheltered Instruction better captures the essence of how both ESL and content area teachers may provide a supportive, yet rigorous, environment that challenges not only ELLs but also mainstream students to learn and master new content and academic language.

In Sheltered Instruction, teachers provide meaningful instruction in the content areas with the explicit purpose of transitioning English Language Learners towards higher academic achievement while they reach English fluency. Most of the strategies and methods promoted as part of the Sheltered Instruction model may be used in any classroom setting, not just those where ELLs are present.

  • 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. Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English 15
  • 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 and ideas and concepts you are teaching and the student’s previous knowledge or previous way of being taught. Encourage the students to point our 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 Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English 17 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.


Several times throughout the year, Linden provides professional development opportunities for teachers to learn more about these strategies and how they may become more expertly used in the classroom. For more information about having such a workshop provided in your school contact Mrs. Alphonsina Paternostro, whose information is available on the Contact Information tab above.