Educator Resources

Supporting ELLs' Literacy Development

Advanced Literacy Guide

The Advanced Literacy Guide designed in collaboration with Dr. Nonie Lesaux and Emily Phillips Galloway from the Harvard Graduate School of Education aims to build the capacity of all educators to engage in important conversations about what matters in the education of ELLs. Additionally, this guide offers practical tools for school leaders and their teams to proactively engage ELLs in secondary schools, and ensure that the instruction in all classes reflects high expectation and moves beyond basic skills that often trap ELLs and prevent them from reaching college readiness skills.

Supporting ELLs' Achievement: Oral Language  Unpacked 

Oral language is the system through which we use spoken words to express knowledge, ideas, and feelings.Developing English Language Learners’ (ELLs) oral language, then, means developing the skills and knowledge that provide the foundation for their listening, speaking, and writing. Broadly, oral language is made up of five components. Click
here  to


Disciplinary Literacy for ELLs 

Disciplinary literacy  refers to the specialized skills and knowledge that students use to read and  write about content in the academic disciplines, such as science, social  studies, mathematics, and literature. Each academic discipline has its own  particular ways of making meaning from texts,so the skills and knowledge that  help students read and write some texts for particular purposes will not be the  same for other texts and other purposes. For instance, math students reading  algebra word problems to solve them will use very different strategies, content  knowledge, and language knowledge than science students reading a textbook  chapter to learn about earthquakes, both of which use different skills and  knowledge from history students reading a speech by Abraham Lincoln to analyze  his perspective on slavery. Unlike other approaches to literacy across the  content areas, teaching disciplinary literacy starts with the authentic goals for reading and writing held by real scientists, historians, mathematicians, and literary critics. All students deserve access to these complex  disciplinary practices and ELLs, in particular, need thoughtful and explicit instructional  support to learn to use them. Click
here  to


Text Complexity 

The Common Core State English Language Arts Standards require that students read and understand texts of increasing complexity. This requirement is in place to help prepare students to be college and career ready, because both college and workplace readings tend to be of greater complexity than those typically found in K-12 programs, and there is a greater emphasis placed on independent reading in both college and the workplace.  Click here to read more.  

Distinguishing Language Acquisition from Learning Disabilities

The single biggest error made in placing English language learners (ELLs) into special education is misinterpreting language acquisition as a learning or language disability. In this guide, several questions are raised about how to distinguish language acquisition from learning disabilities (LD) and offer answers for each. Click here to read more.  

What is Scaffolding?

Both a structure and a process, scaffolding refers to dynamic and responsive supports that enable learners to develop their full potential and eventually become autonomous learners.  With appropriate scaffolding for academic practices, students are able to simultaneously build conceptual understandings, academic skills, and the language needed to enact them. Click here to read more. 

Vocabulary Unpacked 

We label ideas with words:  common ideas are labeled with words that children learn very early (e.g., juice, ball), while complex ideas are labeled with words that are rare (e.g., photosynthesis, fusion). We record our ideas in texts and, with only a few exceptions (e.g., a lecture in a college class), texts contain more sophisticated vocabulary than does oral language. To successfully comprehend texts, readers must have a deep and rich vocabulary. In fact, vocabulary is the strongest predictor of success in comprehending texts. Click here to read more.

Academic Language

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS, 2010) call for students to be engaged in increasingly more rigorous academic inquiry—often by engaging with multiple, authentic (and more complex) texts on a single topic—has once again made reading comprehension instruction a central concern for all educators of adolescents. Adolescent readers require many kinds of knowledge and skills in order to comprehend these complex texts (for instance, background knowledge and the skill to apply reading strategies). However, the ability to understand the language of academic texts, also called ‘academic language (AL),’ is fundamental.  Click here for more information.  To view the accompanying webinar, click here