Educator Resources

Middle School Literacy and Leadership Institute on English Language Learners

This nine-day institute (currently five) is designed to address the pervasive challenge for today’s middle school instructional leaders serving linguistically diverse populations: How to ensure that their classrooms and instruction are designed to develop students’ advanced literacy skills, rather than basic literacy skills. The institute, running from October 2013 to May 2014, is designed for middle school principals and their school-based instructional leaders.  Meeting once a month, sessions focus on developing participants’ core knowledge about ELLs’ literacy development; the design and implementation of literacy instruction to advance ELLs’ academic achievement; and how to lead for literacy success. Institute sessions serve two functions: building school leaders’ knowledge about middle school literacy instruction and building their capacity to lead literacy-based reform processes. The institute and its related materials are designed around five specific objectives for participants’ professional learning, each of which is detailed below:

  • To revisit current knowledge about ELLs’ literacy development and literacy needs during the middle school years.
  • To revisit the separable skills that comprise advanced literacy, with emphasis on the language of schooling and print and how these manifest across content area.
  • To learn high- impact instructional strategies that promote and integrate formal and informal instruction to build oral and written language.
  • To analyze key literacy data at the classroom and school levels to surface patterns and trends in order to strengthen the instructional core.
  • To gain the ability to lead effective literacy instruction (objectives 1-4) at the school-level, position teachers to gain professional tools to support ELLs, and establish successful professional learning communities.

Note:  A special thank you to Dr. Nonie Lesaux and her team from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as all of the participating NYC DOE principals.  The work of this institute and the continued collaboration it has fostered has been both informative and inspired: we hope those reviewing the below materials and Webinars agree.








1. An overview of the Institute.

2. Who are the ELLs in your school?

3. Why middle school literacy?  Unpacking the promises and challenges of literacy instruction in today’s middle schools.

4. The Blueprint Process: starting with our case school site.

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Webinar # 1: Advanced Literacy Skills

Note: There is a handout related to this webinar.


1. Institute purpose and objectives.

2. Institute guiding principles.

3. Institute design and products.

4. Conceptualizing literacy breakdowns.

5. ELLs and literacy breakdowns: code vs. meaning.

6. Unpacking oral language to support ELLs.

7. Case study students.

8. Sources of breakdown.

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1. Reviewing institute purpose, objectives, and products.

2. Professional learning communities.

3. Identifying the challenges of complex texts: a text analysis.

4. ELLs and literacy breakdown: code vs. meaning.

5. CCSS: key instructional shifts.

6. An instructional continuum.

6. Teaching complex texts: beyond strategies.

7. Knowledge application: an activity.

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1.Unpacking a prototypical ELL reader.

2. A series of research based articles:

a) Kieffer and Lesaux (2007) draw data that suggest that morphology instruction may be a beneficial addition to a comprehensive program for upper elementary school students.

b)  The authors present a series of instructional considerations for teaching academic vocabulary text and talk, including multiple planned exposures to the words, and providing strategies for word learning.

c)  The authors discuss vocabulary instruction that is attuned to the developmental needs of adolescents, and views them as knowledge holders.

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Webinar #2: Academic Language


1.Best practices found in content-embedded, academic language-focused instruction for ELLs:

-Element 1: Selecting a topic to guide inquiry.

-Element 2: Selecting texts, generating discussion, and teaching vocabulary.

-Element 3: Engineering opportunities to read, speak, and write.

2. Crafting language and content objectives.

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1. A review of academic language in curriculum and instruction.

2. Supporting teachers through observation and feedback.

3. Instructional implementation: A school-level cycle.

4. Planning to promote effective use of materials.

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Webinar 3: Using Data to Support Literacy


1. The role of data in a long-term improvement strategy

2. Promise Academy: A case Study

3. School -based leadership

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1. Leading data-driven Instruction: A Case Study

2. Connecting data-driven Instruction to your school

3. Connecting data-driven Instruction to case studies

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