Six Key Principles for ELL Instruction

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Understanding Language District Engagement subcommittee has released a set of six key principles to support ELLs in meeting the rigorous, grade level academic standards found in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. The principles are meant to guide teachers, coaches, ELL specialists, curriculum leaders, school principals, and district administrators as they work to develop Common Core State Standards-aligned instruction for ELLs. These principles are applicable to any type of instruction regardless of grade, proficiency level, or program type.

1. Instruction focuses on providing ELLs with opportunities to engage in discipline- specific practices which are designed to build conceptual understanding and language competence in tandem.  Learning is a social process that requires teachers to intentionally design learning opportunities that integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening with the practices of each discipline.
2. Instruction leverages ELLs’ home language(s), cultural assets, and prior knowledge.    ELLs’ home language(s) and culture(s) are regarded as assets and are used by the teacher in bridging prior knowledge to new knowledge, and in making content meaningful and comprehensible.
3. Standards-aligned instruction for ELLs is rigorous, grade-level appropriate, and provides deliberate and appropriate scaffolds.  Instruction that is rigorous and standards-aligned reflects the key shifts in the CCSS and NGSS.  Such shifts require that teachers provide students with opportunities to describe their reasoning, share explanations, make conjectures, justify conclusions, argue from evidence, and negotiate meaning from complex texts. Students with developing levels of English proficiency will require instruction that carefully supports their understanding and use of emerging language as they participate in these activities.
4. Instruction moves ELLs forward by taking into account their English proficiency level(s) and prior schooling experiences.   ELLs within a single classroom can be heterogeneous in terms of home language(s) proficiency, proficiency in English, literacy levels in English and student's home language(s), previous experiences in schools, and time in the U.S.  Teachers must be attentive to these differences and design instruction accordingly.
5. Instruction fosters ELLs’ autonomy by equipping them with the strategies necessary to comprehend and use language in a variety of academic settings.  ELLs must learn to use a broad repertoire of strategies to construct meaning from academic talk and complex text, to participate in academic discussions, and to express themselves in writing across a variety of academic situations. Tasks must be designed to ultimately foster student independence.
6. Diagnostic tools and formative assessment practices are employed to measure students’ content knowledge, academic language competence, and participation in disciplinary practices.   These assessment practices allow teachers to monitor students’ learning so that they may adjust instruction accordingly, provide students with timely and useful feedback, and encourage students to reflect on their own thinking and learning.

Download the principles on our policy page.