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Sheltered instruction is an approach to teaching English language learners which integrates language and content instruction. 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 proximal development and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. 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, and the multiple intelligences 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 in the curriculum, English proficiency is achieved. 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[]

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 [1]. 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. 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." Such classes may include only English language learners or English language learners and English-fluent peers.


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. 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." Such classes may include only English language learners or English language learners and English-fluent peers.

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol [2] is a research-based observation instrument that is used to measure sheltered instruction (Guarino, Echevarria, Short, Schick, Forbes, & Rueda, 2001) and provides a model for lesson planning.

Sheltered Instruction for CTE[]

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Terms & Concepts[]

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences:

Verbal/Linguistic - increasing vocabulary through: text, lecture, audio tapes, journals & discussion

Logical/Mathematical - charts, graphs, problem-solving, deductive reasoning, seeing patterns and relationships

Visual/Spatial - graphic organizers, lists, charts, graphs, paintings, form and construction, imagination

Bodily/Kinesthetic - drawing, dance, sports, comprehension through action, hands-on work, role-playing

Musical/Rhythmic - recordings (both musical and spoken language), written sensory response to music, singing, playing a musical instrument, video - dance and music

Interpersonal - work and communication with others, cooperative learning, empathize with others, teamwork, listen to others, negotiate with others

Intrapersonal - self-awareness, abilities and limitations, concentration, awareness, ability to see self as others see her, work effectively through large and small goals

Vygotsky Theories - Cooperative Learning & 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 for cooperation of learners to maximize their own and each other are learning. • 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.

Classroom Concepts[]

Hands-On: Refers to the many activities and realia that LEP/ESL students can engage with bodily.

Controlled Vocabulary: A list of the key concepts in an article or selection of literature that the students are assigned for reading. The goal is to alert students with terms that may not already be familiar in order for them to understand the concepts involved in the reading.

Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a metaphor which demonstrates the process of gathering knowledge of concepts. Layers of information are gathered and stored to ensure a sound basis for continued learning.

Authentic Assessment: Authentic Assessment is the practice of evaluating a student on their final product and the skills developed through its completion instead of evaluation of individual skills.

Heterogeneous Grouping: Refers to grouping students by grade/age-level regardless of ability. As a result, students in heterogeneous classes will have a wide range of abilities, which a teacher could address by differentiating assignments.

Homogeneous Grouping: Refers to the grouping of students in classes by ability range instead of by grade/age-level such that all students have approximately the same level of ability.

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