Teaching ELD: What every educator ought to know

There’s an exciting convergence moving our collective thinking forward. With new ELD standards expanding on and building from the work of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and other content standards, we are encouraged – obligated! – to think about how we equip English learners with the language they need for all aspects of their academic day.

We are evolving beyond the limited notion of ‘sheltering’ instruction to considering how we integrate ELD into content instruction so students learn the language needed for subject-matter demands. And rather than thinking of ELD as a time to teach basic vocabulary and grammar – or relying solely on integrated ELD to teach English – the field is acknowledging that English learners deserve a daily designated ELD block that builds foundational knowledge of English into and through the content.

blueprint graphicThis refined approach to providing language support for English learners aligns beautifully with E.L. Achieve’s Blueprint for Serving English Learners Throughout the School Day. Our research-based and federally compliant model illustrates how school systems can structure the school day to ensure English learners receive explicit language instruction for these two related, but distinct, purposes:

  • Integrated English language development within content instruction (Constructing Meaning), and
  • Designated ELD (Systematic ELD) to grow students’ proficiency in English.
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Explicit Language Instruction: Why does it matter if students understand how English works?

While the Common Core English Language Arts Standards do not prescribe specific instructional approaches, there are several key shifts that have significant implications for classroom practice. 

  • With a focus on reading increasingly complex texts, students must learn to respond to questions based not on factual recall, but rather on the relationships among ideas and between different texts, and on their interpretation of those texts.
  • Learning to use evidence from text and their own experiences, students must articulate their thinking to demonstrate a depth of understanding, research skills, and analysis.
  • The emphasis on gaining knowledge through higher-order thinking skills means that providing a brief written response or selecting a correct answer from a list of options is no longer sufficient to demonstrate learning.

Each of these shifts has a critical point in common: a lot of language is needed to accomplish the work. To successfully meet academic demands, English learners need an internalized knowledge of written and spoken English – the ability to confidently and adroitly make skillful language choices to express their thinking.

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