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 1a

Domain 1: Classroom Environment, Student Engagement and Commitment to Learning

Teachers promote student engagement, independence, and interdependence in learning and facilitate a positive learning community through:


1a. Creating a positive learning environment that is responsive to and respectful of the learning needs of all students

A positive learning environment is crucial for English learners because, according to the Affective Filter Hypothesis (Krashen, 1982), emotional variables such as anxiety, motivation, and self-confidence affect language acquisition. In addition, the need to recognize and access the funds of knowledge that ELs maintain (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992) is a guiding principle of the 2015 CELP Standards.

Specific practices and strategies that create a positive learning environment for English learners may include:

  • Learning to pronounce English learners’ names correctly and using their names when addressing them.
  • Recasting errors in a gentle way, e.g., “I eated breakfast.” Teacher responds, “I ate breakfast, too. I ate toast. What did you eat?”
  • Inviting discussions about culture and language into the classroom through consistently
  • Acknowledging and incorporating students’ cultural, ethnic, social, and developmental diversity, including differences between speakers of the same language, to enrich learning opportunities.
  • Holding appropriately high expectations for students based on the English language proficiency levels of students, using the CELP proficiency descriptors as a guide.
  • Clearly labeling areas of the classroom in multiple languages.
  • Using leveled scaffolds appropriate to the English language proficiency level (see the Linguistic Supports in the CELP Standards for supports by level) of students that allow access to rich and complex content may include:
    • activating background knowledge;
    • native language supports;
    • leveled text supports (shortened text, alternate texts, or native language texts).
    • leveled sentence starters;
    • increased wait time and slow rate of speech;
    • 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
    • opportunities to develop pronunciation without fear.
 Magnifying glass

Sample “Might See” for 1a

In an eighth-grade social studies classroom in which 12 of 23 students are Spanish-speaking English learners primarily from Puerto Rico and half of the 12 students are newcomers, an observer might see the following:

  • Posters in English and Spanish displaying collaboratively determined goals for students in student handwriting. One goal reads, “I will use primary sources in my research.” Another goal reads, “I will adapt how I write depending on who the audience is.”
  • The teacher states, “Today we are going to work collaboratively in groups. When you think of the word collaboratively, what does it mean to you? When I think about collaboratively from my culture, I think about certain characteristics, but I want to make sure we all understand the cultural expectations of this classroom before we get started. Take two minutes to talk in groups to discuss this question. If you need help getting started, think about using this sentence frame: Collaboratively means working (fill in the blank).” Teacher hands out several images of diverse students and adults working together on projects.
  • Teacher states, “You say that Juan isn’t listening to you. What assumptions may you be making about Juan’s intentions? How can you be sure?”

Sample coaching and reflection questions

  • When you think of the rapport and positive social interactions you have established in your classroom, how might you be considering your ELs?
  • In what ways have you set up the learning environment to promote inclusivity of ELs’ funds of knowledge?
  • How might you design your classroom to be a place where ELs can learn the grade-appropriate curriculum and take intellectual risks?
  • How might you design your classroom environment so it is clear that all cultures and languages are valued?