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SDAIE strategies to implement in today's linguistically diverse classrooms

SDAIE: Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English
California Migrant Education Program

With the number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in American schools increasing from 4.1 million in 2003 to over 4.7 million in 2011 (National Center for Education Statistics), educators must find ways to meet the linguistic needs of these students. While there are many resources and programs to assist transitioning ELLs, nothing is more effective than providing these students access to the curriculum within their own classrooms, and Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English, or SDAIE, does just that.

Following is a list of seven effective SDAIE strategies that teachers can start implementing in their classrooms today:

1. Word Wall: Most elementary school classrooms have Word Walls but to make these effective for ELLs teachers will want to attach pictures to illustrate each word on the wall.

2. Vocabulary Vault: This is a twist on a Word Wall but rather than posting words and images on a wall, the teacher designates a corner of the classroom to display actual objects and artifacts that relate to a given lesson or unit. For example, in a fourth grade lesson on the Gold Rush, a Vocabulary Vault might include a map, gold dust or nuggets, a sleeping bag, and a journal.

3. Prior knowledge: Tapping into students’ prior knowledge, through the use of brainstorming activities such as KWL charts, helps students make connections to what they are learning.

4. Cooperative learning opportunities: Providing ELL students time to interact with their English-speaking peers gives them access to positive role-models and opportunities to practice their English.

5. Front-loading vocabulary: Pre-teaching key words and phrases at the beginning of a lesson increase the potential for student understanding throughout the lesson.

6. Wait time: When posing questions to the class, teachers should give students ample time to process the information. This is especially important when working with ELLs because, in addition to processing the information into an answer, they also have to formulate their response to English.

7. Technology: The use of technological tools, such as audio books, language computer programs, and videos, exposes students to the English language through multiple modalities.

SDAIE strategies, best used with ELL students who have a basic knowledge of the English language but are lacking the ability to grasp the curriculum, supply teachers with a toolbox of instructional strategies that increase the comprehensible input for students learning English (Genzuk, 2011).


Genzuk, Michael, PhD. (2011). Specifically Designed Academic Instruction n English (SDAIE) for language minority students. Center for Multilingual, Multicultural Research Occasional Paper Series. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics (n.d.). Retrieved from

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