Instruction for Diverse Groups of ELLs

Aída Walqui and Margaret Heritage

The population of English language learners is enormously diverse. Teachers face the complex challenge of providing them with opportunities that allow them to attain the Common Core State Standards despite their various needs and abilities. 

The authors offer and discuss five principles of instruction for ELLs, which can be enacted within classrooms in ways that are responsive to individual students:

Principle 1: Learning is always based on prior knowledge and experience. ELLs must have equal access to knowledge that is valued in school.

Principle 2: Language and cognition develop together and progressively. As ideas and relationships become more complex, so does language.

Principle 3: The goal of learning is to develop the stance of generativity and autonomy. This is accomplished through apprenticeship in which the learner is invited to become a member of a community of practice.

Principle 4: The goal of language use is to make it contextually appropriate; students need to be competent navigators within a range of different registers.

Principle 5: Assessment is integrated into the process of teaching and learning. Assessment-elicited information is used by both teachers and students to consistently keep learning moving forward.

Margaret Heritage: Formative Assessment and Common Core


Margaret Heritage says teaching should be responsive to students—both the assets they bring to the classroom and their unique needs. It should also build on formative assessments and help students take responsibility for their own learning.

About the Authors