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The Importance of Quality Instruction for ELLs


Cheung & Slavin (Dec, 2012) synthesized research on English reading outcomes for Spanish dominant English Learners and conclude that in the end, instructional quality is more important than language of instruction for English reading.  (Of course, we need to remember that language of instruction may not matter if you are only concerned about students learning English, but you'd have to have Spanish instruction as well to become literate in both languages...)  However, their research did show that bilingual classrooms did give students an advantage (an effect size of +.21).  Whether you are critical of their research or not, it is important to attend to instructional practice and recognize another study that emphasizes it's importance.  What does quality instruction include?  The interventions that Cheung & Slavin describe with the highest effect sizes for English reading outcomes are: a program with cooperative learning among 4 member teams, a program with peer-assisted learning, and small group instruction.  I find it interesting that the higher effect sizes seem to be for interventions that involve students learning with one another.  Discussion and interaction are key components of language acquisition theory and may be a key to effective practice.

Here are a few teaching tips and materials that promote interaction:





Reference: Cheung, A.C.K. & Slavin, R.E. (2012).  Effective programs for Spanish-dominant English Language Learners (ELLs) in the Elementary Grades: A Synthesis of Research.  Review of Educational Research, 82(4), 351-395.

7 Signs You Are Teaching Your English Learners Well


The U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse examines programs and practices intended to support English Learner achievement.  The following classroom practices have been shown to have a positive or potentially positive effect on educational outcomes.  For more details on the practices visit the What Works Clearinghouse.

1) My students often work in pairs or small groups discussing and interacting to complete academic tasks.

2) My students frequently engage in teacher-facilitated small group discussions about key concepts from readings.

3) My students often respond in writing in a literature log to a prompt about readings.

4) I teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies.

5) I teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes.

6) I provide high quality vocabulary instruction throughout the day.

7) I provide focused and intensive small group instruction for readers who are struggling.

Websites Offering Learning Activities for Young ELs


The National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition has published a list of websites with younger ELs in mind.

Websites Offering Learning Activities for Young ELs

  • language games, songs, and stories

  • activities to learn numbers, colors, shapes, reading and writing letters and words

  • reading instruction and reading games

  • language-related activities and stories

  • stories and language-learning activities

  • a variety of reading, writing, and learning activities

  • learning activities to prepare children for school

  • stories read by actors from the ScreenActors' Guild.

  • reading and writing activities

  • science content from Houghton Mifflin Science Series 


    (Source:, Winter 2012 Issue of AccELLerate!)

Tactile Review


Tactile Review - For K-2ND GRADE, have them trace letters, numbers or key vocabulary words listed on the board, on their partner's washed hand and the partner guesses the letter or word.  A list of possible words can be listed on the board or on a chart.  Switch roles.

Poll Says Half of Americans Support Immigration Reform and More Support English as a Requirement


A new poll by HuffPost/YouGov found that about 60 percent of Americans support immigration reform and even more - 81 percent - support a policy that requires immigrants learn English to become citizens.  This brings up a lot of questions.  What does it mean to learn English?  What to Americans think about the first language(s) of immigrants?  Resource or not? How might this effect policies and funding for English as a Second Language compared with Bilingual Education?  Are our goals as a nation to be monolingual or bilingual?  What does this mean for parents and children that we serve in our schools?

(Reference: Huffington Post, Emily Swanson, Feb. 1, 2013)

California Proposed New State Tests with Accomodations for English Learners


California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be sharing proposals for new state tests that will be more aligned with the Common Core State Standards which require more critical thinking and elaborated responses and fewer multiple choice questions.  The committee recommended that "students starting to learn English, for example, should be tested in their primary language, have tests with simplified instructions and glossaries, and even have exams delivered by audio. With computerized testing, that can all be done easily" (Hoag, 2013).  How is your school preparing students for the heavy linguistic load of the Common Core State Standards?


(Reference: CHRISTINA HOAG/Associated Press; Created:   01/08/2013 07:37:41 AM PST)

Building Language with the PWIM (Picture Word Inductive Model)


PWIM (Calhoun, 1999) is an oft-used and well-cited strategy for students to develop their reading and writing from a picture.  I like it because it engages so many research-based strategies for language acquisition.  Students develop background knowledge, study and play with words, engage in repeated exposures to vocabulary, and all within the context of a single picture. The basic steps are the following:

  1. Choose a picture from a newspaper, magazine or picture cards and display it.
  2. Ask students, "What do you see?"
  3. The teacher labels the objects in the picture, repeating each word and directing students to spell and say the word aloud. (See photo example above.)
  4. Ask, "What do these words have in common?" Next, read and group the words by commonalities in a chart.
  5. Review the chart by reading it and saying the words and their spelling aloud.
  6. Ask, "Can you think of more words to describe the picture?"  Chart any additional words.
  7. Ask, "What would be a good title for the picture?" Discuss and record the title.
  8. Ask students, "What can we say about this picture?  What sentences can we write?"  Record (sentence strips and a pocket chart are great for recording and moving sentences around) and work together to group alike sentences.  Rearrange the sentences into a paragraph, describing aloud why you are putting sentences in a particular position in the paragraph.
  9. Read together a few times.

Looking for Picture Cards?  Buy Now.

Looking for Sentence Strips? Buy Now.

Looking for a Pocket Chart? Buy Now.

Common Core Reading Anchor Standard, 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. Common Core Writing Anchor Standard, 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

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Everyday ELL is now Every Language Learner.