A Language Quest with Lifelong Impact, Part II

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Last month, in Part I of this blog series, we introduced the research behind active language learning and discussed why this model has become a best practice for advancing EL students. We pointed out the importance of actively involving LTELs (long-term English learners) in learning academic language as they engage with it in a variety of ways for multiple purposes.

Here we present some detailed strategies for making active language learning a regular practice in your classroom. When this active engagement is in place, your students are practicing—and growing—the academic language that empowers them to communicate with grade-level peers across the curriculum!

Active Learning Strategies for Advancing English Learners

  • Rather than avoiding challenging work for ELs, avoid oversimplify learning tasks that can cut student growth short. Include ongoing, frequent prompts and feedback, along with a variety of scaffolds that promote access while not compromising rigor.
  • Avoid imposing unintended ceilings on growth by providing a compelling mix of grade level literary works, informational text, poetry, essays, blogs, podcasts, and videos to engage students with content that spans the curriculum. These rich texts and media serve as the learning medium through which they will engage with academic language.
  • Employ a robust online version of students' texts that enable them to respond in writing to instructional prompts. This provides you with an ongoing way to monitor progress in the quality of their language usage and to offer rapid, online feedback in a seamless cycle of instruction and progress monitoring.
  • During a small-group reading lesson, when you prompt students to provide specific evidence from the text that supports a key concept you are teaching, have them enter their response in an online notebook to which you have access for reviewing and providing feedback.
  • Organize text and media into overarching topics that are relevant to students' age spans and that connect to content across the curriculum. This approach supports students in gaining deeper knowledge of the concepts and vocabulary they need to apply to a variety of subjects.
  • Build confidence and fluency with academic language by supporting students during structured, collaborative discussions on the topics they are learning.
  • Demonstrate how language usage differs across the different types of texts, and how important these distinctions are for producing academic content orally and in writing.
  • Provide opportunities for students to produce spoken and written academic language on an ongoing basis. Their language ability grows through daily, low-stakes engagement in practice—when articulating their growing understandings in small groups, debating claims with a peer, completing language-rich activities, always responding using language in an active process. When this happens, LTELs will grow deep, lasting knowledge about the topic, along with the language needed to express that knowledge.
  • When students struggle with learning how English works, provide frequent prompts and scaffolds that make the grammar concept in question transparent. Take examples of the grammatical forms directly from the texts and topics students are studying, and encourage them to generate additional examples both orally and in writing.

Teachers can have an undeniable impact on a student's quest for growing the language they need for full participation in today's society. When equipped with the right tools and knowledge, our LTELs can reach their goals. Academic and career success—and leading enriched lives as curious, passionate learners—will be within reach with the support of these practices.

Watch one former long-term English learner—and current HMH employee—describe her elementary school experience and explain how these practices would have made a difference.

To learn more about how to engage your English learners and help them master academic language and literacy, visit our website.

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