Sheltered Instruction for ELLs: Supporting Meaning with Realia - Down River Resources

Sheltered Instruction for ELLs: Supporting Meaning with Realia

Howdy, friends.
I appreciate you joining me again as I share my knowledge on the components of sheltered instruction. This is another installment in my new blog series. In the event, you missed last week's blog on activating background knowledge and creating shared experiences with your students, click here.
I want to share with you more information on how to involve students in their learning. A new buzz word I want you to learn is realia.
Educators use the word realia (pronunciation ree-ah-lee-ah) when describing the objects from real life used in classroom instruction to improve students' understanding. Teachers of English Language Learners employ its use to strength students' associations between academic vocabulary words and the objects themselves, hence another way we bride the academic gap.
These language learners make more rapid progress in mastering content objectives when they are given multiple opportunities to practice with realia. In my school district (West Texas), we are often immersed with the idea of students have concrete (2-D if you will) practice before they apply the concept in an abstract way (3-D if you will). I will be completely honest, I have never once heard where this learning theory came from or what training it was originally discussed at, but it made it way into the casual conversations at many afterschool trainings.
In my preparation for this blog series, I tracked down this idea in learning theory. David Kolb, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University, is credited with launching the learning styles movement in the early seventies.
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There are four main steps in the experiential learning model are as follows:
  • Concrete experience (feeling): Learning from specific experiences and relating to people. Sensitive to other's feelings.
  • Reflective observation (watching): Observing before making a judgment by viewing the environment from different perspectives. Looks for the meaning of things.
  • Abstract conceptualization (thinking): Logical analysis of ideas and acting on intellectual understanding of a situation.
  • Active experimentation (doing): Ability to get things done by influencing people and events through action. Includes risk-taking.

    Kolb describes that experiential learning has six main characteristics as seen in the photograph above.
    The component we are focusing on, supporting meaning with realia, is emphasized in the second and fifth characteristics. Learning is a continuous process grounded in experiences. We need to use real-life objects to support student learning.
    Often times, concepts studied in schools focus on objects we do not have access to bring into the classroom. For instance, as we study organisms in the winter season, we have a unit on penguins. I am not able to bring in a penguin for the students to experience so I bring in a colored photograph of a penguin. This helps the students conceptualize the organism, before applying abstract thinking.
    Having transactions between the learners and the environment, Kolb says, is also important in experiential learning. When exploring texture in our physical properties of matter unit, it is significant that students are touching different types of materials. This transaction helps have understanding of the topic.
    Realia, it may be a new word for you, but I know it is not a new practice! What is your favorite way of supporting meaning with its use? Let me know and comment below.
    Happy Supporting!

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