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 1b

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:


1b. Promoting developmentally appropriate standards of behavior that support a productive learning environment for all students

School is the primary place in which immigrant students encounter and learn the norms and values of the majority culture (Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). While not all English learners are immigrants, the level of acculturation, even across generations of immigrant families, affects successful transition into society and growth of language (Guarnaccia & Lopez, 1998; McKlintock, 2014; Oppedal, Roysamb, & Heyerdahl, 2005; Zhang, 2012). Therefore, how a teacher addresses standards of behavior with English learners can affect the stress level and subsequently the learning of language and content.

Specific practices and strategies that promote developmentally appropriate standards of behavior may include:

  • Using visual supports (e.g., images, video, role-play) and discussion to define appropriate behavior in a variety of situations and locations.
  • Providing newly arrived English learners with a student ambassador to help the new student to model appropriate practices and behaviors.
  • For newly arrived English learners, modeling appropriate behaviors physically.
  • Discussing differences between behavioral norms consistent with culture or language (e.g., modes of interaction; addressing people at different levels of authority; conceptual understandings about power, education, and collaboration).
  • Modifying adult language (e.g., rate, wait time, avoiding idioms) to explicitly teach, model, and/or positively reinforce social skills and routinely building students’ capacity to regulate and take responsibility for their actions.

Sample “Might See” for 1a

In a third-grade classroom, two of the 21 students are English learners. One student speaks Mandarin Chinese and the other student speaks Bengali. Both English learners are level 3 in reading, level 4 in speaking and listening, and level 2 in writing, according to the annual English language proficiency assessment. In this classroom, an observer might see:

  • A classroom contract in English with visuals.
  • The teacher says, “As we enter into this next activity, we will be working in learning stations. Let’s review our expectations. One of the things we have been working toward is everyone having an opportunity to share the responsibility of the learning. Speak in your group now and discuss your understanding of sharing responsibility. What does that look like? What does that sound like? How can you support each other? How might this be different from the understanding of this term from your culture?”
  • The teacher gives the two ELs a handout with visual representations of ways of participating (e.g., students with different roles working in a group, rowers in a boat, children playing tug of war) to remind them of the expectations. He asks the students to explain the visuals to the group.

Sample coaching and reflection questions

  • How might your classroom space reflect the differences in students’ cultural understandings of behavior in different situations?
  • What resources might you access to investigate how your ELs may understand cooperation differently than you do?
  • Given what you know about the different understandings of good behavior, how might you support your students’ positive behavior in your classroom?
  • What have you noticed about the behavioral needs of your students? How might you address the needs of your students?