Michelle Story-Kohl

About Michelle Story-Kohl

Michelle is an ELL instructional coach for Lincoln Public Schools. She partners with many teachers across the district as they support their ELL students’ academic language development. Michelle is available to work with teachers and staff at Lakeview, Saratoga, Campbell, Everett, McPhee, Beattie, Brownell, Everett, Holmes, Kooser, Sheridan, and West Lincoln

Cultural Patterns in Writing

In the article ELL writing skills: Cultural patterns stand out, Douglas Magrath illustrates how patterns in writing differ across cultures and how those patterns may influence an ELL student’s production in writing and speaking.  You can read his article in the September edition of the TESOL Multibrief.

Magrath, D., (September 9, 2015). ELL writing skills: Cultural patterns stand out, Retrieved from http://exclusive.multibriefs.com/content/ell-writing-skills-cultural-patterns-stand-out/education


Fluency Instruction for ELLs

English is one of the most challenging languages to decode, so it comes as no surprise that many ELLs may struggle to read fluently.  Fortunately, there are some instructional techniques that teachers can use to help ELLs improve their accuracy, rate, and prosody while reading in English.

Key Elements of Fluency Instruction for ELLs:

1. Provide an explicit model of fluent reading.

2. Provide multiple opportunities to read the same text.

3. Establish performance criteria for rate, accuracy, and prosody.

4. Provide background knowledge and vocabulary support as necessary before and during reading.

5. Set students up for success by avoiding passages that are too difficult or putting them in the spotlight in front of peers when confidence is lacking.

Instructional Suggestions:

1. Provide opportunities for students to listen to texts recorded by native English speakers and/or have students record and listen to their own repeated readings.

2. Create sentence strips from a previously read text or section of text. Have students sequence and reread the text on the sentence strips.

3. Provide opportunities  for students to reread previously read passages. Several examples are below.

  •  Read with a model reader like a teacher, adult volunteer, or older student. Discuss key words prior to reading. Model reader reads first, then student reads. Student rereads passage a second time as fluently as possible.
  • Set up a regular routine for repeated readings. First, pair students with similar independent reading levels. Provide a text to be read throughout the week. Consider having a specific element of fluency for students as a focus for practice (e.g., rate, prosody, accuracy).
  1. Day 1: Pairs read text aloud together and circle unknown words. In the first few minutes of guided group, clarify unknown words.
  2. Day 2: Pairs take turns reading text aloud to one another and provide a score on a rubric focused on the fluency skill of that week.
  3. Days 3 and 4: Individuals read their texts aloud using a recording tool (e.g., an iPad app like Audionote, a website like Voicethread, or onPhotobooth). They listen to the recording and score themselves on the rubric.
  4. Day 5: Pairs do a final read with their partners using the rubric to score one another.
  • Use echo reading. First, provide background to familiarize students with key vocabulary and concepts. Second, read a section of the text aloud while students follow along. Next, reread the same text while students read along with you trying to mimic your rate and expression. For ELLs, it is a good idea to chunk the text into small units and increase the amount over time as students build their skills.
  • Use Reader’s Theater or poetry performance. Students practice a script or poem at their instructional level (if working with an adult) or at an independent level (if working on their own or with peers). After numerous repeated readings, students perform for the class.



Linan-Thompson, S., & Vaughn, S. (2007). Research-based methods of reading instruction for English language learners, grades K-4. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Vocabulary Development for ELLs

Vocabulary development for English language learners  can seem like an overwhelming prospect.  There are so many words students don’t know!  Where do we start?  Which words should we teach?  What strategies can we use to help ELLs understand the new words?  How do we provide opportunities for ELLs to practice new language?  Check out the links below for information that was shared at the Vocabulary Development for ELLs  flex session in December.

To see the slideshow click here.

To see the word lists for the 4,000 most frequent words, click here.

To see an explanation of Marzano’s 6 step process for vocabulary instruction, click here.

To see examples of vocabulary graphic organizers for student use, click here.

To see examples of vocabulary review games, click here.

To see the entire collection of resources from the PD, click here.



What is Sheltered Instruction and Where Can I Learn More?

Sheltered instruction is a teaching approach used to make content comprehensible for English learners while they are developing English proficiency.   It is founded on the concept of providing meaningful instruction in the content areas (social studies, math, science) for transitioning Limited English Proficient (LEP) students towards higher academic achievement while they reach English proficiency.

A popular form of sheltered instruction is the SIOP Model (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). It was developed through a 7-year research project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. A team of teachers and researchers worked together to review the literature for best practices in ELL and content teaching. The results of the partnership resulted in the SIOP Model composed of 8 components and 30 features. “The SIOP model shares many features recommended for high quality instruction for all students, but adds key features for the academic success of students learning through a second language.” (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2004, p. 215

The ELL department is currently conducting several different SIOP trainings throughout the district.  Please check out our SIOP web page for more information and to see resources we are sharing through our trainings.  If you are interested in attending a SIOP training in the future or are interested in having SIOP training at your school, please contact your building’s ELL coach or Laura Salem, ELL Curriculum Specialist.


Increasing Math Achievement Through Sentence Frames and Opportunities for Math Talk

Student participation and communication (math talk) are integral to students’ learning of math concepts.  Many students, ELL and non-ELL alike, often have trouble finding the words to accurately express their thinking in math.

Providing sentences frames allows all students to:

  • fully participate in math discussions.
  • contextualize and bring meaning to vocabulary.
  • use the vocabulary they learn in grammatically correct and complete sentences.

See examples of sentence frames.

Students also need opportunities to practice verbalizing the language of math.  It is very difficult for ELLs to feel comfortable using new language in whole group settings without first having the opportunity to practice that language.  Allowing time for partner talk or small group discussions provides students a safe setting to practice that new language.

See video of students in cooperative groups.