The Performance Of English Language Learners (Ell) In Integrated Science Through Sheltered Instruction

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Integrated science plays a vital role in Nigerian Science Education programme because it prepares pupils at the Junior Secondary School level for a study of core science subjects at Senior Secondary School level which in turns brings about students’ interest in science oriented courses at the tertiary institutions. The purpose of the study was to verify the impact of Sheltered Instruction on ELL’s performance in some concepts in integrated science, performance of male and female ELLS, their attitude to science and students perception of Sheltered Instruction as an instructional strategy. As an experimental research design, the study population comprised all junior secondary school two students in Lagos. Out of this population, two intact classes were drawn from Educational District 1, in Lagos State.

The instrument used for collection of data included Achievement test, Students attitude Scale on Science and an oral interview on Students’ perception on the use of Sheltered Instruction. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive Statistics .It was found that there is significant different in performance between students exposed to Sheltered Instruction in some concepts in integrated science and those not exposed. Based on this finding, the researcher recommends that Sheltered Instruction should be use a mode of instruction for science at all levels.



The acquisition of English language skills and proficiency has been implicated in the performance of students in the other school subjects. The importance of English language as a medium of communication in schools in Nigeria derived mainly from its utilitarian value to the larger Nigerian society. English is the official language of administration and commerce. Salami (2002).

An English language learner (ELLS) is a person who is learning the English language after acquisition of his/her native language (mother tongue). Hence the term is used to refer to learners of English as a second language (ESL) in schools where English is the language of instruction (Wikipedia, 2011).

Although, English language learners (ELL) students come from diverse backgrounds and they have several common needs. Certainly, they need to enhance their proficiency in English. They also need to acquire reading and writing skills in English as well as maintain a learning continuum in the content areas (E.g. mathematics, science etc).

Researchers agree that mastering academic English language skills is essential for ELL students’ academic achievement and educational attainment (Ballantyne et al, 2008: Gersten & Baker, 2000: Slavin & Chueng, 2005) Also, point out that poverty, language and in particular proficiency in the medium of instruction is the largest single factor that affects learners’ performance at school. For ELL in the science classroom they are confronted with learning the subject matter as well as cope with language comprehension too.  Taylor and Prinsloo (2005). Therefore, Teachers are therefore faced with double challenges of teaching a particular content area using English language as a medium of instruction to ELL while learners are still grappling with English language.

Language is an integral part of science and science learning .Scientists and students used language to make sense of new information and develop new ideas. Reading, speaking , writing and listening are fundamental components of scientific literacy(Norris and Philips,2003).One of the major difficulties experienced by learners when learning science is learning the language of science(Wellington and Osborne,2001). The need to pay attention to language used in the classroom is very important to improve the quality of science education and every lesson should by implication be a language lesson. (Shaffer 2007,Jaipal, 2001;Wellington& Osborne,2001).To do well  learners should be able to extend their knowledge of concepts beyond basic vocabulary and be able to engage in, and manipulate the appropriate discourse (Shaffer,2007).

The peculiar language demands of science represent serious challenges for students (Lemke, 2002), especially ELLS.  Science uses language in specialized ways, different from the everyday language of many students. According to De Oliveira (2010) these language demands in science may include:

1. Technical terms and their definitions: Technical terms occur through science textbooks and typically some are set in bold and defined, but some may appear without definition or the definition may be difficult to find. Moreover, definitions may contain complex language that ELLS may not understand.

2. Conjunctions with specific roles: Conjunction (e.g. or) may have multiple, targeted roles in science and all may occur within a few paragraphs: The conjunction or, for instance, can introduce an explanation or paraphrase and a more abstract or technical term.

3. Everyday questions and words with specialized meanings: Paragraphs in science text often begins with colloquial, informal questions but continue to provide answer with highly technical language. Words with specialized meaning in science may appear repeatedly and confuse ELLS who may know only the everyday meaning of the word.

4 .Noun groups presented in a Zigzag structure: Several noun group structures tends to appear in science text head only, pronouns, nouns with pre or post modifiers and nouns with both pre and post modifiers. Zigzag structuring involves the introduction of a nominal group in one sentence and the tracking of these nominal groups in other sentences, creating a Zigzag movement lexical content is accumulated through these complex and expanded noun groups, creating high lexical density. (De Oliveira & Kathryn, 2010)

For English language learners to succeed, they must master not only English vocabulary and grammar, but also the way English is used in core content classes. Students must be able to read and understand expository prose such as that found in textbooks, write persuasively, argue points of view, and take notes from teacher lecture. They must also articulate their thinking skills in English make hypotheses and prediction, express analyses, and draw conclusions. They must, however, also learn how to do these tasks-generate the format of an outline, negotiate roles in cooperative learning groups, interpret charts and maps, and such. The combination of these three knowledge bases-knowledge of   English, Knowledge of content topic, and knowledge of how the tasks are to be accomplished constitutes the major components of academic literacy (Short, 2004).


Eriba (2004) defined integrated science as a discipline designed to allow the learner possess a holistic view of science. In this regard, they are to gain an understanding of the fundamental unity of science through effective lesson delivered by the teacher.

Ango (1999) describes integrated science as undifferentiated course designed to show the unity, wholeness and interrelationship of separate disciplines that made up science. There is no doubt that integrated science is the foundation of learning science in Nigeria. Integrated science may also be referred to as a first course that exposed students to sciences. This is in line with the assumption of the National curriculum for integrated science which stated that “A large number of school children entering junior secondary schools may not have been exposed to primary science core curriculum which has been nationally adopted; therefore integrated science teacher should assume little”. The Nigeria integrated science curriculum for JSS is meant for the current 6-3-3-4(now 9-3-4) system of education in Nigeria. It is intended to provide modern integrated science course for three years to all junior secondary school students.

The objectives of the curriculum were derived from the National policy of Education (NPE, 2004). The cardinal objectives of the curriculum are to prepare pupils to acquire:

1. Adequate laboratory and field skills in integrated science;

2. Meaningful and relevant knowledge in integrated science;

3. Ability to apply scientific knowledge to everyday life in matters of personal and community health and agriculture; and

4. Reasonable and functional scientific attitudes.

These cardinal objectives are appropriate and meaningful because they emphasize:

1. Enquiry and experimentation as vehicle for science learning/teaching.

2. Relevance of knowledge and skills taught and

3. Functionality

These ideals are the pillars of modern science teaching today. Secondly, they cover satisfactorily the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of learning.


Majority of language minority students do not have access to rigorous subject matter instruction or the opportunity to develop academic language-the specialized cognitively demanding language functions and structures that are needed to understand, conceptualize , symbolize, discuss, read, and write about topics in academic subjects(Lacelle-Peterson and Rivera, 1994)

English language learners acquire basic social communication skill but less readily acquire the complex-subject-specific language skills require for academic success. Science, have a linguistic register-norms and patterns of language use essential to the practice of the discipline. The science register uses academic language features that include formulating hypotheses, proposing alternative solutions, describing, classifying, use time and spatial relations, inferring, interpreting data, predicting, generalizing, and communicating findings(National Science Teachers Association,1991).The use of these language functions is fundamental to the process of inquiry science(National Research Council(NRC),1996).

National Association for Education progress report (National Center for Education Statistic, 2000) shows that in core academic subject’s .Mathematics, science and reading, the scores of language minority student is significantly behind that of their native English speaking peers. The development and use of language functions such as describing, predicting, hypothesizing, reasoning, explaining, and reflecting, parallel the process used in the learning of science.

Research on second language immersion programmes find that contextualized, content-based instruction in student’s second language can enhance the language proficiency of English language learners with no detriment to their academic learning (Mckeon, 1994; Met, 1994).The subject matter content provides a meaningful context for the learning of language structure and functions, and the language processes provide the medium for analysis and communication of subject matter knowledge.

The context of language use refers to the degree to which language provides learners with meaningful cues that help them interpret the content being communicated-visual cues, concrete objects, and hands-on activities. The contextualized use of language in science instruction also promotes the understanding of science concepts (Rosebery et al; 1992).In science, language tends to structure the way concepts are developed, organized, and communicated.

The relationship between science learning and language learning is reciprocal and synergistic. Through the contextualized use of language in science inquiry, students develop and practice complex language forms and functions such as description, explanation, and discussion in inquiry science, students enhance their conceptual understanding.


One approach found useful by content teachers to assisting their ELL students is known as sheltered Instruction.

Sheltered Instruction provides ELL students with the support and time needed to work on improving language proficiency as well as providing the students necessary information in content areas that will be mandatory for graduation(Echevarria et al;2004,2006).

Echevarria et al (2004) explain that enrolling ELL students in sheltered instruction content area classes provides them with opportunities to develop knowledge of English, knowledge of content topic, and knowledge of how the tasks are to be accomplished.

Sheltered instruction is an approach to teaching learners which integrates language and content instruction.(Wikipedia,2011).The purpose of sheltered instruction is to deliver subject matter content in a manner that is accessible to all learners.(Wikipedia,2011)

In a sheltered instruction classes, delivered by a core teacher, students receive comprehensible core content instruction throughout the day. Sheltered instruction uses a communicative approach-emphasizing communication and functions over grammar and form to teach language and content. The approach highlights use of language functions such as negotiating, explaining, describing and defining when discussing content concepts.

The content is taught using instructional strategies that scaffold the content learning by building background knowledge and through use of visuals, gestures ,manipulative, paraphras-ing etc. Each lesson has clear content and language objectives. Higher-order language especially within questioning (Echevarria et al; 2008), and use of critical thinking are also important components of sheltered instruction.

Researchers have found improvement among ELL student who have had teachers implement the sheltered instruction observation protocol (SIOP components).During 1998 to 2000, a study compared two large groups of ELL middle students from the east and west coasts who were taught by trained ESL teachers. One group of students was taught by teachers who received training on the SIOP model. The other group of students had instructors who were unfamiliar with the SIOP model. The two groups of students were given prompts in the fall and spring that required expository writing using the Illinois measure of Annual Growth in English(IMAGE) assessment rubic,results showed that the teachers using the SIOP model out-performed their ELL peers who had not(Echevarria et al;2006).

Another study conducted by Honigsfeld and Cohan(2008) investigated a group of teachers from a New York public school district who collaborated to learn more about and implement the SIOP model. These teachers noticed the effectiveness of the model by analyzing ELL student artifacts. The students’ writing samples improved and so did their use of graphic organizers. The teachers also noticed an increase in their ELL students’ creativity, engagement and understand-ing (Honisfeld and Cohan, 2008).As demonstrated by these studies, sheltered instruction can lead to positive results for ELL students’ language abilities if implemented correctly.


One of the current educational problems of public interest is that of poor level of achievement especially in public examinations (Kolawole and Dele, 2002).This poor level achievement in many subjects area may be due to poor foundation in English language at primary school level .There are several research reports, which view that language inefficiency invariably leads to poor academic performance (Onukaogu, 2002)

Reports from the senior secondary certificate examination (SSCE) support the language related factors to students weakness in the areas of reading and writing such as inability to follow instructions, make observations and to make correct inference WAEC Chief Examiners report (2002).

Dale and cuevas (2002) observed that students learning English language as a second language have difficulty in interpreting the meaning of logical connectors in science language. As Maleki and Zangani (2007) observe having difficulties in grasping fully the contents and concepts of various subjects of the curriculum taught in the target language (English language) seems to be one of the most serious problems that ELL students face in their particular course of study. This might be due to their weakness in English language, the medium of instruction, which may have negative consequences on their overall academic achievement. Therefore, the overall performance of Nigerian ESL students depends to a very large extent on their English language proficiency.

Based on the chief examiner’s report (2000) the following problems are associated with science subjects.

-Inability of students to express themselves well in English language on scientific concepts

-Lack of in depth knowledge in the content areas

-Inability of students to record observations during experiments.

-Lack of equipment and facilities to teach some topic in the curriculum

-Students have the notion that science subjects must be memorized, thus they are unable to transfer the knowledge of basic concepts learnt in their lower classes

-Students are weak in written English (spelling mistakes)

-Failure to adhere to instructions on the question paper

-Lack of self confidence resulting in copying and repeated cancellations in presenting work.


The main objective of this study is to investigate the impact of an intervention programme (the use of sheltered instruction) on enhancing English language learners’ performance in integrated science. Specifically, the study attempts to:

1. Verifying the impact of sheltered instruction on ELL’S performance in some concepts in integrated science.

2. Verifying the impact of sheltered instruction on the performance of male and female ELLS

3. Verifying the impact of sheltered instruction on students attitude to science

4. Verifying students’ perception of sheltered instruction as an instructional strategy.


This study will be useful in verifying the impact of sheltered instruction on English language learners’ performance in some concepts in integrated science.

However, this study will verify the performance of male and female English language learners exposed to sheltered instruction and the impact of sheltered instruction on students’ attitude to science. It will also verify students’ perception of sheltered.


Is  there any significant impact of sheltered instruction on English language learners performance in some concepts in integrated science

Is there any significant impact of sheltered instruction on the performance of male and female English language learners?

Is there any significant impact of sheltered instruction on students’ attitude to science?


1.      There will be no significant different in the performance between students exposed to sheltered instruction in some concepts in integrated science and those not exposed.

2.      There is significant different in achievement test scores between male and female English language learners.

3.      There is significant difference in students’ attitude to science when exposed to sheltered instruction.


This study will be delimited to Education District 1 in Lagos state. Similarly, junior secondary school three (JSS 2) students will be involved in this study.

1.8                               USE OF ACRONYMS

ELL-                 English Language Learners

ESL-                 English as a Second Language

S I                    Sheltered Instruction

SIOP               Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol

ELP                 English Language Proficiency

LEP                 Limited English Proficiency

SDAIE            Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English

STAN             Science Teacher Association of Nigeria

WAEC            West African Examination Council

CESAC            Comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre.

NERDC           Nigeria Education Research and Development Council

NISP                Nigeria Integrated Science Project

NSSSP             Nigerian Secondary School Science Project

NPSMP           National Project Science and Mathematics Project

NPE                 National Policy on Education

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