Content and Language BlogListenwise values the recommended instructional best practice of integrating content and language learning. Doing so is one of the four “Big Ideas” framing the updated WIDA 2020 ELD Standards Framework.

Content–language integration means “multilingual learners develop content and language concurrently, with academic content as a context for language learning and language as a means for learning academic content.” (WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020, p. 19) 

The Understanding Language (UL) Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Education explains that “unlike traditional ELD instruction which often focuses on decontextualized grammar and vocabulary exercises (e.g., grammar worksheets, vocabulary flashcards), an effective ELD curriculum focuses on developing language for authentic purposes.

Here are some ways to develop language intentionally and authentically while building content knowledge.


Providing Multimedia Content to Increase Engagement & Understanding

When language is connected to meaningful content, it has been shown to increase motivation and engagement. According to the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, learning through multiple modalities offers alternate pathways for engagement, understanding, and expression. 

Therefore, in order to engage English learners (and all students), lessons need to connect to their interests and provide multiple access points through listening, speaking, reading, and/or viewing to be meaningful and accessible. High-interest multimedia lessons in Listenwise that feature podcasts and video provide information in a variety of formats and opportunities to engage students in meaningful learning.


Developing Language & Building Knowledge about Key Concepts

While teaching with podcasts, there are many ways to use a lesson for different instructional purposes. One useful strategy is to ask students to listen to a story multiple times with different focus each time. 

The first close listen might focus on language for students to engage with new vocabulary.

The second close listen might address both content and language objectives, inviting students to focus on key words in context and highlighting ideas that are important to the story. According to Goalbook Toolkit’s UDL Strategy index, cloze sentences help direct students’ attention to certain words in a sentence, which can help students understand how language works. They can also encourage English learners to think critically about a text and monitor for meaning while reading or listening. 

The third close listen might focus more squarely on content. Listening comprehension organizers can guide students in taking notes on important ideas in the audio story as they listen. 

Erin Reaves, an English Language Development instructional coach at Taylor Elementary in Santa Maria Bonita, CA shared how she extends one podcast lesson as the core of instruction for a week of lessons in her ELD classes. She embeds listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills into the week of instruction for her ELs.


Embedding Opportunities to Hear and Use Academic Language

For English learners, speaking practice is critical to acquiring English and building academic language. 

Research shows that oral proficiency will not increase without opportunities to practice speaking using academic language. Broadening students’ academic vocabulary promotes deeper understanding of curriculum content, as the specificity of language helps to clarify and differentiate meaning. English learners need to hear academic language in the context of authentic speech, and they need to practice speaking using academic language. 

“Students need to hear spoken academic English, and they need to hear a lot of it. They need to hear it from multiple voices and about a wide range of topics. My students, who are primarily Spanish speakers, have great social language skills, but do not have the vocabulary, background knowledge, or exposure to academic English that their peers have.”

-ELL Teacher Coordinator, Sojourner Truth Academy, Minneapolis, MN


Instructional strategies can include:

Stronger & Clearer Strategy – great for practicing summarizing content

Scaffolded Retell – great to deepen comprehension as another speaking opportunity

Using Listenwise to Teach Content & Language

Lessons on Listenwise that incorporate multimedia resources, including podcasts and video, offer English learners helpful opportunities to learn content and language together. 

While students are still mastering reading skills, listening to podcasts can help ELs develop comprehension strategies and expose them to more complex concepts and new vocabulary. This allows them to practice meaningful skills like making inferences and identifying the main idea without strong decoding skills. You can learn more about the benefits of using podcasts with English learners in our blog post, “How Podcast Lessons Can Build Critical Listening Skills with Multilinguals.”

Images and videos included with multimedia lessons can serve as a learning hook to build anticipation and provide foundational background knowledge in both content and language before students begin the podcast portion of the lesson. 

Listenwise’s new ELD Lesson Library includes multimedia lessons designed specifically for emergent bilingual students — with built-in scaffolds and language supports. All of our ELD lessons include suggested content and language objectives, which can be adapted to suit specific instructional needs. The ELD teacher’s guide prompts educators to encourage students to use words and phrases related to the lesson’s language objective, noted during close listening, as they participate in the reflection protocols. 

In these lessons, ELs encounter academic language in the context of topical multimedia content, including audio, video, and print. Each lesson includes embedded scaffolds and recommendations for differentiation to ensure that students can access content and demonstrate understanding regardless of their English proficiency levels. 

Click to hear what an educator from Oceanside, California says about Listenwise’s ELD multimedia content.


Have you tried using Listenwise’s multimedia ELD lessons to address content and language goals? Be sure to sign up for a free trial if you haven’t already!