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The Coaching and Self-Reflection Tool for Competency in Teaching English Learners

The Coaching and Self-Reflection Tool for Competency in Teaching English Learners

Indicator 3a


Domain 3: Instruction for Active Learning

Teachers implement instruction to engage students in rigorous and relevant learning and to promote their curiosity about the world at large by:

icon3a. Implementing instructional content for learning

When teachers of English learners are aware of their students’ language needs and implement instructional content to meet those needs, English learners have more success. As stated in indicator 2a, differentiating for English learners based on English language proficiency levels allows English learners to achieve at higher levels (Fairbairn & Jones-Vo, 2010). It is essential that teachers understand how a student’s English language proficiency level affects performance on grade-appropriate content tasks. During a lesson, a teacher has a great opportunity to build in points of access for English learners through a variety of approaches.

Specific practices and strategies that allow teachers to implement instructional practices for English learners may include:

  • Instructing based on grade-appropriate, content area practices and the CELP Standards.
  • Building targeted Tier II academic vocabulary for English learners.
  • Explaining language targets/language objectives to communicate language expectations to students.
  • Building on or activating prior knowledge, acknowledging cultural or linguistic differences.
  • Providing additional wait time, processing time in the native language, or nonverbal processing for English learners.
  • Incorporating opportunities for use of four modalities of language—speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
  • Increasing the use of pair, small group, and whole group discussions that focus on the content allowing for language practice.
  • Strategically using the native language.
  • Employing leveled scaffolds appropriate to the English language proficiency level (see the Linguistic Supports in the CELP Standards for supports by level) may include:
    • activating background knowledge;
    • variety of leveled text supports (shortened text, alternate texts, audio support, and/or native language texts);
    • use of leveled sentence starters, word or phrase banks, or model responses;
    • strategic use of increased wait time and slow rate of speech;
    • focus on using visual supports like pictures, gestures, video, and realia;
    • flexible grouping with a range of English Language Proficiencies of students;
    • discussions about appropriate register to use with different audiences; and
    • teaching foundational reading skills (even at the secondary level), when necessary.

Sample “Might See” for 3a

In a sixth- to eighth-grade ESL pullout group, all nine students are English learners. All of the students in the class are intermediate or level 3, according to the annual English language proficiency assessment, with trends of need in reading (fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) and fluent writing. The teacher focuses the lesson on social studies content. An observer might see:

  • The teacher states the learning and language targets of the lesson: “Today I will learn how to compare my own country’s history with that of another country. Today I will learn how to determine the meaning of words I encounter when reading. Not only are we focusing on building our background knowledge for social studies, but we are also learning how to develop our vocabulary skills. What kind of language might you use if you are discussing comparison?”
  • In grade-level groups, students are constructing grade-level specific social studies vocabulary words using four affixes (e.g., re + construction, ante + bellum, segregate + tion, carpet bag + er) and reading passages with vocabulary words with the target affixes to determine meaning.
  • Students are using their native language in small discussions, and teacher says to students, “I see you are using your Arabic to speak about this is in your group. I encourage you to process in Arabic. I am going to push you to think about how you can articulate what you are thinking about in English for members of your group who don’t speak Arabic. What kind of words can you draw on that are cognates (words that have the same base in different languages: familia, famiglia, family)? How might you communicate your thoughts if you don’t know all the words in the accurate order?”
  • Students use three different leveled graphic organizers (e.g., with sentence frames, word/expression banks, images, glossaries) to compare their home country with the social structures of the country being studied (e.g., eighth-graders compare resolutions of military conflicts of their home country with Reconstruction in the U.S.; seventh-graders compare issues of leadership in their home countries with those of Latin America).

    Sample coaching and reflection questions

    • How did you know what to do to support your ELs in accessing the content?
    • How might you allow your ELs to engage fully in the grade-appropriate curriculum?
    • In what ways can you build scaffolds during instruction to allow ELs access to the relevant content?
    • How might you implement the progression of the lesson so ELs can access the content? 
    • How are you focusing on the language of your content area in the lesson? What impacts does that have on the participation of students in the classroom?
    • How might you integrate academic vocabulary strategies in your lesson?