How to Adopt Sheltered Instruction Strategies (SIOP Model)

How to Adopt Sheltered Instruction Strategies (SIOP Model)
The Editorial Team December 2, 2023

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Communities are often filled with students and teachers from diverse backgrounds and cultures. You’ll find a mix of native English speakers, bilingual learners, and students exploring English as a new language. As an educator in this dynamic environment, you’re tasked with not only teaching your subject but also ensuring that every student thrives on their learning journey. The SIOP model is a comprehensive educational framework designed to facilitate inclusive and effective teaching practices in diverse classrooms.

What is SIOP?

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) model was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Jana Echevarr√≠a, Dr. MaryEllen Vogt, and Dr. Deborah J. Short. They created the model as a response to the growing need for effective instructional strategies in classrooms, particularly those including English language learners (ELLs).

The primary purpose behind the creation of the SIOP model was to provide a framework for teachers to deliver content effectively while supporting the language development of ELLs and other students who needed additional language support. The model aims to bridge the gap between content learning and language development. It focuses on these aspects of teaching:

  • Lesson preparation
  • Building background
  • Comprehensible input
  • Strategies
  • Interaction
  • Practice and application
  • Lesson delivery
  • Review and assessment

SIOP emphasizes the integration of language and content instruction, focusing on specific language objectives parallel to the academic content. It offers a structured approach to lesson planning, implementation, and assessment to make academic content easier to grasp by all students, especially those learning English as an additional language.

With this model, teachers have a toolbox of instructional techniques to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment for students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Eight aspects of the SIOP model

The SIOP model comprises eight components that guide lesson planning and delivery to support language learners and promote overall academic success for your students. This framework helps you integrate academic language into your instruction so the vocabulary used across all subjects is understandable to everyone.

It comprises a systematic approach to consistently deliver content and instruction that’s just beyond a student’s level of language competence. Each of the eight strategies breaks down the SIOP meaning and provides ways to modify your instruction to support your English language learners.

1. Lesson preparation

At this stage, teachers prepare the content, language objectives, and background knowledge necessary for the lesson. They consider the varied language proficiency levels in the classroom. Teachers begin by determining what students will learn in the lesson and the language skills they’ll need to succeed. They also assess students’ prior knowledge and plan how to make the content accessible to all learners.

2. Building background

This stage involves connecting new concepts to students’ existing knowledge and experiences. Teachers may use various techniques, including:

  • Pre-teaching key vocabulary
  • Using visuals
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Providing context

These techniques help ensure students can relate to the upcoming content.

3. Comprehensible input

Here, teachers focus on presenting content in ways that students can understand, regardless of their language proficiency. Teachers can use:

  • Visuals
  • Graphic organizers
  • Gestures
  • Demonstrations
  • Simplified language 

The goal is to support students’ understanding despite language barriers.

4. Strategies

Teachers employ various instructional strategies that encourage interaction and engagement among students. This might involve:

 These methods encourage active participation and enhance learning for everyone in your class.

5. Interaction

This component emphasizes the importance of students engaging with one another and with the content. Teachers create opportunities for pair work and other forms of collaborative activities to encourage language practice through interaction.

6. Practice and application

Next, students get opportunities to apply what they’ve learned through activities and assignments. This stage might involve:

  • Writing exercises
  • Creative projects
  • Problem-solving tasks

These tasks enable them to use both language and content skills, reinforcing their understanding of the lesson’s objectives.

7. Lesson delivery

This stage involves the actual teaching process. Teachers implement the strategies planned in the earlier stages, delivering the content while supporting students’ language development and understanding. They maintain a focus on both content and language objectives using diverse techniques, such as visuals or tactile activities, to cater to varied learning styles.

8. Review and assessment

Teachers review the key concepts covered in the lesson and provide feedback. You can use various assessment methods to gauge student understanding of the content and language objectives, such as:

  • Quizzes and tests in various formats (multiple choice, matching, short answer)
  • Creative projects such as artwork or presentation slides
  • Class discussions
  • Observations of classroom behavior 

This last component ensures teachers can adjust their instruction based on the students’ needs.

Lesson plan activities leveraging the SIOP model

When you leverage sheltered instruction, you can more effectively meet the needs of each student in your classroom. Here are some SIOP lesson plan examples and methods to get you started:

  • Building background with pictures: Utilizing real-life objects or picture cards related to the lesson topic engages students and activates their prior knowledge. For example, in a science lesson about animals, you could bring in animal figurines or use pictures to discuss the different species.
  • Visual organizers and graphic aids: Concept maps, diagrams, or charts break down complex information. For a history lesson, create a timeline or a visual map highlighting key events or figures.
  • Pair/group discussions: This not only promotes interaction but also allows students to share their ideas and practice language skills. This could be applied to literature analysis or problem-solving scenarios in math. 
  • Jigsaw learning: Implement a jigsaw activity in social studies or science where students research and present different aspects of a larger topic. Let them become experts on specific subtopics and then teach their peers.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Start with individual thinking time, then pair students to discuss their thoughts, and finally, allow them to share their ideas with the class. You can use this strategy in any subject to stimulate thinking and encourage participation.
  • Text modifications: Provide readings at varying levels of complexity, ensuring all students can access the content. This can be applied across subjects, allowing students to engage with the material at their proficiency level.

Professional development opportunities for SIOP training

An article such as this only touches on the surface of an instructional strategy model. If you’re interested in learning more and adding this skill to your repertoire of certifications, here are some places where you can receive SIOP training:

When considering a program, you’ll want to ensure it:

  • Is taught by certified SIOP trainers
  • Covers all eight model components
  • Offers ways to adapt the model to your classroom
  • Provides hands-on application and practice
  • Encourages collaboration among colleagues

Be sure to ask for recommendations from other educators and read reviews of the program before enrolling. The ultimate goal of the SIOP model is to equip educators with the knowledge and skills to create an inclusive and effective learning environment for all students.

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