An ongoing discussion on how to work with English Language Learners

Common Core logoCommon Core is headed to a classroom near you. According to the Common Core homepage, 45 of the 50 United States have adopted these national standards. State educational departments are now working on how to go about implementing these new standards.

But while the Common Core spells out the English language standards for regular education students, the new guidelines allow states to create their own protocols for English Language Learners and students with IEPs.

One thing is clear with regard to Common Core and ELLs — the focus on English education is going to be on academic language acquisition rather than grammar instruction and social language development. And while switching to Common Core is going to be a huge undertaking for all teachers and administrators, those who work with ELLs will need to focus their attention on reading and evaluating academic texts across all subject areas. No longer is language instruction solely the responsibility of the ESL teacher. Common Core will almost require constant collaboration between the content teachers and the ESL teachers.

One effort underway to help parse the components of Common Core is at the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment consortium, otherwise known as WIDA. The organization — which currently has 28 member states — is working on aligning its guidelines to the Common Core standards. WIDA’s new guidelines are due out this summer when the consortium will begin offering trainings on the new standards.

There’s also a team out of Stanford University led by Dr. Kenji Hakuta that will provide free resources to educators and administrators including example lessons to help teachers understand how to design units for ELLs using Common Core standards. Stay tuned for more information. I’ll be monitoring Stanford’s new Website, Understanding Language, and providing links and information.


i-9 formRegardless of your political views, President Obama’s most recent policy change on immigration is going to affect some of your immigrant students. On June 15, the President said the government would halt deportations and allow work permits for children and adults who came to this country illegally under the age of 16. The new rules say that applicants for work permits need to have graduated or be currently attending an American high school and must be under the age of 30.

Many undocumented students don’t realize their immigration status until they reach high school when they start applying for a driver’s license or filling out financial aid forms. Sometimes when students find out that they are undocumented, they begin to lose motivation to go to school.

This new policy will give undocumented immigrant students a reason to be motivated in school. They will now have the option of getting a job legally. For students who might have thought their only future was working under-the-table jobs, this new law is huge. It means that they have more of a reason to be in school, to learn English, and to go to college.

While the Obama administration is still ironing out all of the details of how these new rules will work, eligible immigrants should contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to find out more information.

One important thing to note is that this new policy does not create a path to citizenship: it only allows undocumented immigrants to defer deportation proceedings and apply for a work permit. The application is, however, renewable every two years.

Also important to note is that if Obama does not remain president, his successor can rescind the executive order.

Welcome to Teaching-ELLs. This blog is for anyone interested in learning more about teaching English Language Learners. I’ve been a high school ELL teacher for about eight years and wanted to start this blog as a quick and easy place where all educators of ELLs can stop by to get ideas of how to work with their ELLs. There will be information for ESL teachers as well as content or grade-specific teachers who have ELLs in the mainstream classroom. Thanks for stopping by!