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 2b

Domain 2: Planning for Active Learning

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

icon2b. Planning instruction to cognitively engage students in the content

In designing instruction for English learners, it is necessary to consider the language of the content area and how teachers are supporting language growth. While vocabulary is an important component of language for use in questions, strategies, and tasks, other aspects of language, including the four modalities of language use, grammar and structure, and appropriate language use are equally as important. English learners need a lot of practice with language before they can master the output. The Comprehensible Output Hypothesis of Second Language Acquisition (Swain & Lapkin, 1995) contends that by using the target language and recognizing the gaps between the native language and the second language, English learners will modify the language to improve language performance. An English learner also needs multiple opportunities to practice and use vocabulary to “own” it (Calderón, 2007). By planning appropriate scaffolds for an English learner’s English language proficiency level, the teacher ensures that the student can successfully access the grade-appropriate content and perform according to the English language proficiency level outlined in the CELP Standards.

Specific practices and strategies that allow teachers to engage students in the content may include:

  • Providing opportunities for experiential, hands-on tasks with visual supports, and discussion (e.g., simulations, role-play, realia, investigations, images, videos, manipulatives) before engaging with text.
  • Chunking, shortening tasks, or providing alternate tasks that allow students to demonstrate the same key concepts and understandings, depending on English language proficiency.
  • Integrating the four modalities of language—speaking, listening, reading, and writing in designed tasks.
  • Integrating academic vocabulary and language structures (e.g., grammar and text structure) necessary to understand and complete the tasks and answer questions.
  • Planning opportunities to process in the native language and draw on previous learning experiences.
  • Providing leveled sentence frames, word or phrase banks, or model responses, depending on language proficiency level.
  • Planning sequenced questions that scaffold to higher-order thinking.
  • Selecting culturally relevant instructional materials and resources to support diverse learners.
  • Selecting or modifying texts based on English language proficiency levels, age, interests, native language, and cultural identity (e.g., shortened text, alternate texts, audio support, and/or native language texts).
  • Designing additional processing time and wait time on tasks or in response to questions.
  • Deliberately and strategically grouping students, appropriate to the demands of the task and the language and social needs of the students (i.e., opportunities to use native academic and social language and to engage with fluent, native-English speakers using social and academic language). 

Sample “Might See” for 2b

In a third-grade transitional bilingual Portuguese classroom, all 23 students are English learners. All but four of the students are in their third year of bilingual services. The students demonstrate trends in higher levels of English proficiency in reading, listening, and writing than in speaking, according to the annual English language proficiency assessment. In a nonfiction literacy lesson, the teacher has selected a focus on identifying the main idea. An observer might see:

  • Plans for using culturally relevant texts that provide information on animals that are familiar.
  • Plans to group students by English proficiency level in speaking.
  • Plans to integrate technology that allows students to rehearse speech before they are asked to speak in a larger group.
  • Plans to use native language texts for newly arrived students and short passages in English with plans to identify key words about animals (e.g., habitat, food, physical characteristics, behavior) with translations of key words in Portuguese.

Sample coaching and reflection questions

  • When you consider the lesson/unit you’ve planned, how have you planned to differentiate for your ELs based on their English language proficiency levels?
  • How might you engage ELs with the texts/materials that you have selected?
  • How are you building access to the task for your ELs?
  • When you think of your newly arrived ELs, what supports or strategies might you plan to use to ensure they understand the key concepts and ideas of your lesson? 
  • In what ways might you plan to structure the student groups in the classroom to benefit the language growth of your students as they work on this task?
  • What are some of the questions you might ask your students? How might you need to alter those questions so your ELs can understand them?