Planning for ELLs with SWRRL

When we’re asked into classrooms to support ELL students, we often start by asking teachers to plan with three guiding questions in mind…

1)  What is the content my students are learning?  (Content Objective)

2)  What is the language students need to know in order to complete the task?  (Language Objective)

3)  How will I provide rehearsal ?  (What will the content/language objective look like in action?)

We ask teachers to remember the acronym SWRRL as they think about how to provide rehearsal.  It stands for:

441461168_f7daebf28a_oSay it

Write it

Read it

Repeat it

to Learn it

ELLs need multiple opportunities to rehearse or practice language in order to “own the language” or truly make it part of their vocabulary.  Give ELLs plenty of chances to do SWRRL with new language!

Say It:  Callbacks, turn and talks, say it like a lion, say it like robot, read a response to a question aloud to a partner

Write it:  Use sentence frames, write as a whole group, write in partners, write individually

Read it:  Read aloud, read sentence frames aloud, read what students have written, read text to a partner, read chorally in whole group

Repeat it:  Use cooperative learning structures to give students opportunities for repeated chances to say, write or read the new language.


Want more info on how to incorporate more opportunities for SWRRL in you classroom?  Contact your ELL Instructional Coach!  We love to help!

Using NebraskAccess to Find Professional Journal Articles

It is important for us, as educators, to keep current on the variety of issues that impact our students and their learning. ELL students are one group of students with diverse cultural and linguistic needs. These students are in more and more classes every year and one way to learn about them and how to meet their needs is to read professional journals. Here’s how to access these articles using NebraskAccess through LPS.


Writer’s Workshop: An Introduction

Writer’s Workshop is a transformative approach to teaching the practice and the art of writing. Students engage in the act of writing in the same way as published authors. They choose topics of interest about which to write, they write consistently, they share their writing with others, they receive feedback about their work, and they publish their writing for a variety of audiences. The teacher acts as a mentor and coach for students, guiding them on their journey to hone their skills to effectively express themselves using written language.

A teacher seeking to use this approach should strive to provide student writers with the following necessities:

  • Time/Space
  • Personal Choice
  • Structure
  • Writing Materials
  • Purpose/Feedback

The basic structure of a Writer’s Workshop includes:

  • Whole Group Writing Time (Mini-lesson)
  • Independent Writing Time
  • Sharing/Structured Response Time

To learn more about the ideas mentioned in this post, click here.

Secondary ELL Resources

There are many resources available for secondary ELL teachers to support them in all of the different classes at each language level. Teachers can access the latest draft of the scope and sequence for each class at each language level in Docushare. To access the different classes in level 1, click here. For the classes in level 2, click here. For the classes in level 3, click here. For level 4, click here.

In addition to the scope and sequence for each class, there is also folder in Googledocs containing various resources. Teachers can find a comparison chart for the different reading leveling systems and lists of texts that could be used at each language level. To access this folder, click here.

As we continue to work and improve the reading and writing skills of our ELL students, we have resources to support guided reading groups in secondary ELL classrooms and writer’s workshop in all ELL classrooms. To find more information about guided reading, click here. To find more information about writer’s workshop, click here.

Content and Language Objective Examples

During our SIOP Summer Institute we worked on writing objectives that not only contained the content of our lessons but also the language that students needed in order to accomplish the task. There were probably around 50 different objectives written that we decided to share with anyone who was interested in seeing some examples! As you look through the objectives you will notice that the content of the lesson, the language function and the language structure are present. You will know which is which by the coloring coding.

Content– Red

Language Function–Blue

Language Structure–Green




Comprehension Strategies & Skills–


  • We will make predictions when reading our story by thinking about what was read and then using the sentence frame to state our prediction. “I predict ____ will happen because I noticed ______.”
  •  Our job is to predict the sequence of events in the story by using the sentence “I predict…”

    Main Idea & Details

  • Students will be able to identify the main idea and three supporting details about a non-fiction text by using the sentence stem, “The main idea is _____. Three supporting details are _______.”
  • SWBAT identify the main idea of a passage using the sentence structure, “The main idea is ______.” orally.
  • We will be able to identify the main idea of the story and provide three supporting details using a graphic organizer. “The main idea of the story is ____. One supporting detail is _____.”

    Context Clues

  • Our job is to use context clues by to find the meaning of a word looking for clue words “or”, “and” and using a sentence frame.
  • Our job: Use context clues to infer the author’s point of view. Use a sentence frame to explain your thinking. “The author thinks or feels _____. Details that support this are _____.”
  • Students will be able to identify and provide and example of author’s point of view using the key words, “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, or “they”.
  • Our job: Use context clues to find the meaning of a word by looking for clue words “or”, “and” and using a sentence frame. “I read around the word ____ and saw the clue _____. These clues helped me figure out ____ means _____.”


  • We will distinguish between statements and questions and read them with correct inflection.
  • Students will be able to ask questions during reading using sentence starters. “I wonder…” “What can I do if I …”
  • We will improve comprehension of our story by clarifying information when answering “wh” questions: who, what, where, and when.


  • Students will be able to discuss the order of events in a story using the transition words “first”, “next”, “then”, and “last”.
  • Our job is to write a summary of our story using the Somebody Wanted but so then format.


  • Our job is to find the reasons and tell why our story is a fantasy by using a sentence starter.


    Story Elements

  • Students will be able to identify and describe the actions, feelings, wants and needs, an traits of a character in a story, and then write this information on a graphic organizer.  “____ is a ____ person because he/she (feels, wants, needs).
  • We will identify story elements and write a summary using sentence starters.  “The character is/are _____.” The setting is/are_____.”  “In the beginning _____.”, “In the middles ____.”, “At the end ____.”  or  “A problem in the story is _____. “, “The character _____ solved the problem by ____.”
  • Our job is to find an tell about the actions, feelings, needs and describe the kind of person a character is in our story. Then write this on your chart.


  • Students will be able to create an opinion statement using the phrase “I think _______.”
  • Students will identify the cause and effect in the text by using so, because, after and therefore.


  • Our job is to find the reasons and tell why words in our story have similar meanings by using a sentence starter. “I know the words _____ and _____ are synonyms because _______.”
  • Our job is to categorize spelling words and vocabulary words into 2 columns “short a” and “not short a”.
  • We will create our own sentences of high frequency words.


  • We will identify common and proper nouns by sorting.  “_____ is a proper noun because it names a specific (person, place, thing)”,  “_____ is a common noun becasue it names a (person, place, thing”



  • Students will be able to explain how to graph Quadratic Functions while using key vocabulary: axis of symmetry, vertex, and table of values with the following frame: “a=____, b=___, c=___, so the Axis of Symmetry equals ____, the vertex is ____, then the table of values becomes ______.”
  • SWBAT sequence the order of operations to evaluate numeric expressions using words like first, next, then and last.
  • Students will be able to represent large numbers using scientific notation by explaining how to multiply by powers of 10 mentally and then moving the decimal the appropriate number of places. Students will use the following frame: Since I am multiplying by 10 to the ____ power, then I move the decimal _____ places.
  • Students will be able to solve two-step equations using inverse operations.
  • Students will be able to identify shapes by using the phrase: “This is a _____ because _____.”
  • Our job is to write and compare numbers in more than one way using the terms standard form, expanded form, and word form.
  • SWBAT read and evaluate powers by telling and calculating how many times the base is repeatedly multiplied by using frames.
  • Our job is to analyze place value to ten thousands to write numbers in standard and word form. Explain and compare place value connections using a sentence frame, “Ten thousands place is like the ten place because _____.” and “Ten thousands place is different from the tens place because ______.”


  • Our job is to determine what good writers do with the sentence starter “Good writers ______.”
  • Students will construct a telling sentence, with a capital letter at the beginning and a period at the end.







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.

ELL at Goodrich

Goodrich is preparing for the return of the ELL program for the 2014-15 school year.  We offered sessions for the teachers in March of 2014. We shared resources that are available in our district as well as how they can learn more about the ELL students they will have next year. We provided a family home language report that gave teachers information about students at Goodrich who have a language other than English spoken in the home. To see that report, click here. We shared the difference between instructional techniques used by teachers to promote language development and learner strategies that students use to help develop their language proficiency. To view that document, click here. To view our presentation, click here.

Classroom Management and ELLs

Reflect on a moment in your life when you walked into a new environment for the first time. Any number of events might spring to mind—entering your high school cafeteria as a freshman, attending your first college course, or the first day you began a new job. As you take this trip down memory lane, try to recall any feelings you had in that particular moment.

Discomfort. Uncertainty. Confusion. Embarrassment. These are emotions that many English Language Learners feel on a daily basis in our classrooms. What can we, as educators, do to make them feel more comfortable in the learning environment? In his book, Explorations in Language Acquisition, Dr. Stephen Krashen explains that when an English learner feels anxious about her surroundings, a block (termed the ‘affective filter’) may prevent her from understanding the language and the content of a lesson (2003). One way we can decrease ELLs’ unease is by having a well-managed classroom.

According to Dr. Jacqueline Ancess from Columbia University, “Classroom management is setting up an orderly and safe space where kids can learn what you want them to learn (2011).”

Here are 3 tips for effective classroom management.

1. Teach, Review, and Monitor Classroom Rules

The essential purpose of classroom rules should be to keep all members of the learning community safe. They are meant to protect students’ feelings, physical bodies, and their right to learn. When creating rules, we should try to limit the number to five or fewer. We also need to use positives rather than negatives (Wong, 1991). Examples might include:

  • Be respectful.
  • Be responsible.
  • Be safe.

For ELLs and native English speakers alike, it is critical that we explicitly teach the rules. If we are asking students to be respectful, what should this look like? What sort of language should students use when talking with peers or with adults? One effective technique for teaching rules is to use classroom scenarios with modeling to demonstrate how we would like students to act, talk, and move.

The most effective classroom managers know that they need to monitor students on a daily basis to ensure that they are adhering to the rules. Rules should also be revisited and reviewed after schools breaks. We also need to display the rules in an easily viewed location. For ELLs at lower language levels, consider using visuals alongside the written rules.

2. Teach, Review and Monitor Classroom Procedures

Procedures differ from rules in that they are meant to help a classroom function in an organized manner. Procedures include things like how students should enter and exit a class, how they should pass in assignments, or what to do if they need to leave to go to the restroom. When introducing the difference between rules and procedures, it may be helpful to talk with students about procedures like how to make a phone call or how to get on and off of an elevator. For a more complete list of suggested procedures to teach and have in place, click here.

Like classroom rules, it is important to model and review them on a regular basis. Students will only follow procedures if we set the expectation that they do so. For example, if a group does not enter the class in the manner we envision, we should practice this procedure until they understand that there is only one acceptable way to do so.

Check out the videos below for examples of how to teach and use some procedures in your classroom.

Entering the classroom

Seating procedure

Starting with a Do Now

3. Use an Effective Attention Signal

In all classes we teach, there are times when we need to get our students’ attention. Explaining and consistently using a specific signal lets students know that we have something important to share with them. Students should know that all movement and conversation ceases when the signal is used. We should refrain from giving any directions until all students are quiet and focused. English learners, in particular, need to be in an environment where they can see and hear the messages we are delivering.

Check out the video below for an example of how to teach and use an attention signal.

Attention Getting Signal


Knight, J. (2013). High-impact instruction: a framework for great teaching. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Krashen, S. D. (2003). Explorations in language acquisition and use: the Taipei lectures. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.

New Teacher Survival Guide: Classroom Management. (n.d.). Teaching Channel. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from

Sprick, R., Reinke, W., Knight, J., & McKale, T. (2006). Coaching Classroom Managment. Eugene: Pacific Northwest Publishing.

Wong, H. K., & Wong, R. T. (1998). The first days of school: how to be an effective teacher ([2nd ed.). Mountainview, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications.




Secondary ELL PLC Work 2013-14

In order to correlate our work with the district’s PLC vision using Data Teams, ELL teachers, coaches, and ESU Assessment Specialists collaborated monthly during the 2013-14 school year. We worked to identify target objectives, to define proficiency, and to develop common assessments for each ELL level in the areas of reading and language acquisition. We developed a table of specifications for three target objectives in reading that define the objectives we are measuring, how we will measure these, and benchmarks that will be used.  Our plan is to continue working on the data teams process.

During our first PLC meeting in August, we presented the data teams process. We looked at what we would be doing and how we would be doing it. We looked at the alignment of our reading objectives with our state ELL guidelines, our ELDA assessment, the NeSA Reading assessment, and Common Core Anchor Standards. Our first target objective focused on fiction and the elements of a story. To see our presentation, click here.

During our September PLC meeting we discussed the process of identifying target objectives and how to determine proficiency at each language level. Teachers brought student work and began to write a description of what a Level “X” student who is proficient on this objective should be able to do (skills) and know (language concepts)? We also discussed how a student might be asked to demonstrate this. To see our presentation, click here.

In October, we reviewed the tenets of successful PLCs and we really focused on looking at the reading objectives through the language lens. We collected student artifacts for the target objective #1 reading fiction and identifying the elements of fiction. We began unwrapping our target objective #2 reading nonfiction and identifying the main idea and key supporting details. To see our presentation, click here.

At our November PLC, we shared the work that each group had done to define proficiency at that language level. Each group shared a statement of what students can do and how they will demonstrate their proficiency at the level. We also began looking at student work for our second target objective of identifying the main idea and supporting details in nonfiction. To see our presentation, click here.

During our December PLC, we reviewed the work we had done thus far. We reviewed target objective #1, we worked on target objective #2 and wrote the description of what a Level “X” student who is proficient on this objective should be able to do(skills) and know(language concepts)? We also began looking at our target objective #3 reading nonfiction and identifying text structures. To see our presentation, click here.

Our PLC work in January consisted of evaluating the proficiency definitions for each level, the graphic organizers and texts for both fiction and nonfiction for each level, and the writing language structures for each language level. Teachers worked together in their language level groups and reviewed all of the materials for target objectives #1 and #2 for all four language levels. To see our presentation, click here.

In February and March, we continued to define our target objective 3 and collect student work. We discussed the importance of identifying different text structures and also the importance of helping our students apply these structures to gain comprehension of the texts they are reading. We developed a table of specifications and created multiple choice assessments for levels 1-4. We also found texts at each language proficiency level representative of these various text structures. Students will read, identify the text structure, and write a short summary to demonstrate proficiency . To see our presentation for March, click here.

At our final PLC in April, we shared all of the work we completed this year. We reviewed all three target objectives, the table of specifications for each objective, and the assessments we created. We also shared the docushare folders for all of our work this year. We discussed our goals for next year and our curriculum plans. We plan to meet as a district group next year and use the 5 step data teams process. We will use the target objectives and pre-test students in each level, then group them as proficient, close to, far from, and needing intensive support. We will identify strategies, set goals, implement strategies, and use assessments to determine student progress. We will use our benchmark assessments for our summative assessments of language proficiency each quarter. To see our presentation, click here.

DRA Tutorial for ELL Instructors

The role of Oral Reading Assessments are important in ELL classrooms not only to inform instruction but to also document growth in the  language acquisition domain of reading. ELL teachers can use several different resources to conduct reading assessments in their classrooms. They are as follows:


Reading A-Z Benchmark Assessments

Rigby Benchmark Assessments

Running Records

DRA is a commonly used assessment in our district. ELL teachers are not required to use this assessment but may find it to be a helpful tool to use to create consistency between general education classrooms and ELL classrooms. If DRA is not an option for your current teaching reality, then you can also choose from the above options. The point is that one of these assessments are used each quarter to influence level movement and help inform daily instruction.

When evaluating the results of any Oral Reading Assessment ELL teachers need to consider not only reading based errors but also language acquisition influences in the way students negotiate a text. Some guiding questions to facilitate this process are as follows:

What errors do I see in this assessment?

Are they skill based errors or language based errors or both?

Are the errors’ students making used in their oral language?

What does this tell me about this child as a reader?

How would this inform my guided reading instruction?

How can that be supported through both oral language and reading?

Teacher can use the following documents to record students progress and interpret results of reading:

Fluency Chart

ELL Reading Assessment Log

DRA Tutorial for ELL Instructors Powerpoint

DRA for Secondary ELL Teachers Powerpoint