To share this information: About Constructing Meaning 

To ensure the academic achievement of English learners, a comprehensive approach for developing English proficiency is essential. Integral to such an approach is explicit language instruction in every class, every day.

Constructing Meaning provides teachers with the process and tools for weaving explicit language instruction into content area teaching. Lesson planning is driven by the content and academic language demands of discipline-specific learning. Based on backward design and a gradual release of responsibility model, the Constructing Meaning process prompts teachers to:

  • understand the role language plays in content learning
  • decide what language knowledge students need to access content and express understanding
  • provide appropriate, explicit oral and written language instruction and practice

The work of the Common Core and other content standards assumes native English proficiency. Constructing Meaning offers an accelerated approach to instruction that emphasizes both academic English and critical literacy skills, thereby supporting English learners in acquiring the analytical language necessary to meet the demands of the Common Core. As students move through their academic careers, they must continually build their content knowledge and academic language foundation to be prepared to meet the increasing demands of each grade level.

Critical Research-based Features of Constructing Meaning Instruction

  • Promotes learning goals that include both content and language objectives.
  • Uses a functional language approach organized around the critical tasks and text structures needed to engage in rigorous, grade-appropriate, content-area coursework. Focuses on high-leverage academic language that is applicable across content areas.
  • Provides an organized method of content and language instruction that divides a lesson or unit into discrete, measurable skills, tasks, or objectives and prepares students for successful completion of a larger, more complex outcome or expectation.
  • Is explicitly taught and emphasizes oral and written language skills to ensure that students develop the analytical language and processes necessary for college-ready work.

Constructing Meaning Institutes

Our five-day Teacher Strand incorporates reading, presentation, discussion, and collaborative practice to apply newly learned skills and for facilitated planning. Teachers plan lessons that address both linguistic and content demands, and that build from a cognitive task or analysis of student work.  

Each participant receives a handbook with a research-based framework and vision of instruction, along with plenty of practical tools. The Secondary Constructing Meaning Handbook includes content-specific modules for English Language Arts, Mathematics, History, and Science.

The Administrator Strand includes time for site and district administrators to participate alongside their team of teachers for selected one- to two-hour sessions on each of the five Teacher Strand days.

The Administrator Strand also includes three full-day sessions for principals and other administrators to become familiar with a systems approach for purposeful and sustainable implementation. Site leaders prepare to set up their schools to effectively launch the new initiative – from rolling out initial Institutes to creating support structures and setting expectations. They learn the what and how of explicit language instruction, how to support teachers in doing their fieldwork, and what to look for in classroom practice. They visit classrooms, gather data, and practice calibrating their analyses to provide purposeful feedback.

All Institute days are strategically spaced to allow time for fieldwork that guides participants in trying out new learning and collecting information to bring back for discussion and reflection.


Capacity-building Model

E.L. Achieve’s initiative work is not a one-time event. Throughout all phases of implementation – planning, launching, and sustaining – district teams work toward established goals. After initial training, there is ongoing support for improving classroom instruction. We provide videos to discuss, guides for self-reflection, rubrics for developing key teaching skills, and protocols for facilitating collaborative, results-driven discussions.

As part of our district capacity-building model, partner districts join E.L. Achieve’s expert networks through leadership seminars and ongoing support. Our goal is for districts to take ownership of the initiative and achieve deep, system-wide classroom implementation that leads to increased English learner achievement.

Click here to view our partner districts.

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