(I’m republishing posts on my My All-Time Favorite Posts list. This one appeared in 2023. You can see them all here.)


Peggy_Marco / Pixabay


Last year, I shared our strategies for “accelerating learning” for our ELL students (see HERE’S A SLIDE DECK I USED TO TALK ABOUT ELLS & ACCELERATED LEARNING), and we’ve learned from that and have taken it up another notch this year.

Many of these strategies support ALL our English Language Development students, but our particular emphasis is on our Newcomers.

Because of the support from our administrators, and from scheduling wiz/teacher Katherine Bell, here are some of the strategies we are able to apply:

* I teach two periods of English to Newcomers (My Tentative Plans For A Two-Period ELL Newcomers Class Next School Year). Last year, because of scheduling issues, I was only able to teach one period, while they went to another teacher for extra support. Obviously, having the same teacher for two periods is much better for consistency.

* In addition, I “teach” another period of English support before school, which is basically about sixty percent of the Newcomers working online (primarily with Quill, Raz-Kids, Learning Chocolate, LingoHut, ReadM, Speakable, and a number of other AI-powered sites) with the support of seven peer tutors.

* Most of the Newcomers have another period of English instruction right after their two/three periods with me. Ms. Mondragon is a terrific educator who has taught Newcomers during two summers.

So, most of our Newcomers are receiving four hours of English instruction. Next year, they will likely double-up on Social Studies classes, and they’ll be much more accessible to them because of what we’re doing this year.

* All their classes have multiple peer tutors (see THE BEST RESOURCES ON PEER TUTORS). In fact, there is a one-to-two ratio in my two hour class, with each peer tutor permanently assigned to support two newcomers (see What Happens In A Typical Day During My ELL Newcomers Class to learn how it worked last year). It’s more intensive this year. I have a two room classroom “suite,” and I’ve set one room up in permanent “pods” where I teach Newcomers, while I teach my TOK classes in the other room. Each pod has three desks, with the peer tutor facing two students, and each desk has large baskets where students keep all their materials (that maximizes learning time by eliminating having to distribute materials each day). When it’s time for peer tutors to work with their students, they can take them outside or into my other room – they’re not tied to spending all class period in their pods.

We end each class with a classroom game (Quizizz or Blooket), which also functions as a formative assessment. During that time, our bilingual aide stays in the room while I often will debrief with the tutors.

Most of our other ELL classes have peer tutors, though not as many as in my class. This was another great idea from my colleague Katherine Bell.

* All student teachers at our school are required to work at least two periods a week in my Newcomers class, though one (Ms. Bell’s) is there every day

* I’m applying the only successful strategy I’ve ever had to get students to do English homework, and it seems to be getting off to a good start.

I’ve approached the Newcomer students who appear to be most motivated (about nine of them) and told them if they would commit to doing homework in a special multicolor workbook (English For Everyone, a book we were able to purchase for the first, and likely last, time), they could review it with a student teacher outside for fifteen minutes while the other students are doing different work. We’d do this twice a week to start off, but it could build to everyday.

They begin doing this next week.

The idea behind this is do convey the message that doing homework is “cool,” and that I hope that most, if not all, the other students want to start being part of this “cool” group. The “price of admission” is doing homework in the workbook, and then everyone can work in special groups (they would be able to choose which classmates they want to work with) with peer tutors or student teachers for those fifteen minutes.

It’s usually worked when I’ve tried this in the past.

We’ll see how it goes this year.

* Another key element of this kind of acceleration is the addition of a very experienced and talented bilingual aide who assists in many of our ELL classes during the day.

* In addition, our aide (I’m not writing her name now because I have not asked her permission – I’ll ask her today if she’s comfortable with me including it and, if she says yes, I’ll add it here), has an hour to devote to ELL parent outreach.  Kara Synhorst, another of our talented teachers, has developed a Google form which lists all of our ELL students and which is accessible to all our ELL teachers.  Under each student’s name is sort of a “check list” where teachers can check if there are any particular concerns or particular praises, along with a space to write positive comments (the emphasis is on positive commentary).  Every couple of months or so, our aide will call each of the students’ homes to share mostly positive comments from all the teachers.  The aide will then write a report of what happened on a spreadsheet accessible to all of us.  Obviously, calls can be made more quickly if necessary. I’m pretty excited about this kind of parent/guardian parent outreach.

We’re hoping to try again to obtain district support to do a formal evaluation to determine how successful our peer tutor program is in supporting language development, similar to what we did with our Long Term ELL program (see Research in Action: Ramping Up Support for Long-Term ELLs). That didn’t work out last year, but I’m hopeful it will this time around.

So, that’s what we’re doing. Additional ideas are always welcome!


ADDENDUM: How I’m Visualizing Assessment Data For Students