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 3b

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:


3b. Leading students to construct meaning and apply new learning through the use of a variety of differentiated and evidence-based learning strategies

As stated in indicator 2b, in implementing 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, 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 using appropriate scaffolds for an English learner’s proficiency level, the teacher allows students to successfully access the grade-appropriate content and perform according to their English language proficiency level as outlined in the CELP Standards.

Specific practices and strategies that allow teachers to lead English learners to construct meaning and apply new learning may include:

  • Engaging in experiential, hands-on tasks with visual supports, and discussion before engaging with text (e.g., simulations, role-play, realia, investigations, images, videos, manipulatives).
  • Chunking, shortening tasks, or providing alternative tasks that allow students to demonstrate the same key concepts and understandings, depending on English language proficiency levels.
  • Integrating the four modalities of language—speaking, listening, reading, and writing in tasks.
  • Developing academic vocabulary and language structures (i.e., grammar and text structure) necessary to understand and complete the tasks and answer questions through use of videoimages, role-play, or discussion.
  • Using the native language and drawing on previous learning experiences.
  • Drawing from leveled sentence frames, word or phrase banks, or model responses, depending on language proficiency level.
  • Using sequenced questions that scaffold to higher order thinking.
  • Using culturally relevant instructional materials and resources to support diverse learners.
  • Using modified texts based on language proficiency levels, age, interests, native language, and cultural identity (e.g., shortened text, alternate texts, audio support, and/or native language texts).
  • Providing 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 (e.g., 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 3b

In a first-grade classroom, seven of the 24 students are English learners. In a literacy lesson, the teacher identified fluency as affecting the students’ comprehension in reading. An observer might see:

  • A word wall of emotions and feelings with pictures of the students demonstrating that emotion to which the teacher refers during the lesson.
  • The teacher tells the class, “Today we are going to focus on increasing our fluency by paying close attention to the expression in our voices and our faces while we read. We have read the story Amazing Grace this week, and today we are going to practice how to use our voices to communicate these emotions” (teacher refers to the word wall).
  • Students work in triads with character puppets rehearsing various sections of the text. Two students perform and the third student gives feedback. The group discusses why the character would express the lines as they are reading it.
  • One student who already reads in her native language uses the native language version of the text to refer to while discussing with her group.
  • One group is given a simplified version of the text with labeled visual supports.

Sample coaching and reflection questions

  • How did you know how to differentiate for your ELs?
  • 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 content?
  • What strategies might you employ to allow all ELs to access your content?
  • How might you group your ELs to ensure you are maximizing their potential?