Tag Archives: Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop

PLC Series: Focus on the Strengths of Your ELs

Welcome back to the Heinemann Professional Development Professional Learning Community (PLC) series. We are excited to present a new format for the 2017-2018 year! 

Each month, we'll share 2 posts designed to provoke thinking and discussion, through a simple framework, incorporating mini-collections of linked content into your professional development time. 

This month, our posts will challenge us to examine literacy practices so we can be more inclusive of students who speak varieties of English as well those learning English.

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After discovering a pattern of deficit thinking about her child’s reading struggles, Cohort 1 Heinemann Fellow Lisa Birno embarked on action research to investigate instructional strategies that would “increase equity and engagement through the use of purposeful talk”.

In this post on the Heinemann blog, Lisa tells the story of how she began critically examine patterns of deficit language we sometimes use to describe learners. She writes, “In order to make sense of why the child isn’t learning the way we expect, our deficit language kicks in and it damns every child we use it on.”

Take a few moments to read her post and think about a time you recall defaulting to deficit-thinking, whether it be with a student, a family member, or yourself. What phrases of deficit language dominate this memory?

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Lindsey Moses: How Is This Different Than Just Good Teaching?

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With classrooms that are more diverse than ever before, how can we support English learners to help them reap the same benefits from reading workshop that our English-speaking students do? In her new book Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop, Lindsey Moses draws on her years of experience to provide answers to teachers' most common questions about getting started in a linguistically diverse workshop setting.

In today's video post, Lindsey discusses how reading workshop and language acquisition can work simultaneously, and how important it is that everyone's needs are met in the reading and writing process.

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Lindsey Moses on the Model That Fits All Of Our Learners

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Let's face it. With classrooms that are more diverse than ever before, how can we support English learners to help them reap the same benefits from reading workshop that our English-speaking students do? In her new book Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop, Lindsey Moses draws on her years of experience to provide answers to teachers' most common questions about getting started in a linguistically diverse workshop setting.

In today's video post, Lindsey provides an overview of her new book and how it can help make a model that fits all learners at all skill levels and language proficiencies.

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Announcing Heinemann’s Third Annual Teacher Tour

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Heinemann Publishing is thrilled to announce the date for our third annual Teacher Tour. Each year we open our doors to educators and invite you to spend a Saturday with us and a selection of our authors for a day of learning and special giveaways.

Heinemann’s Third Annual Teacher Tour
Where: Heinemann, 361 Hanover St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
When: August 1st, 2015 from 8:00am to 12:30pm

​You’re invited to Heinemann’s offices in downtown Portsmouth to see what goes on behind the scenes, meet our editors and staff, and participate in four 40-minute sessions with several of our well-known authors, including:


Frank Serafini, author of Reading Workshop 2.0


Lindsey Moses, author of Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop


Sara Ahmed, coauthor with Smokey Daniels of Upstanders


Colleen Cruz, author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher

All participants will receive complimentary professional development resources! Don't miss this great opportunity to learn about Heinemann and share your insights with us about how we can meet your classroom needs. Please note there is no cost to attend this event, but space is limited, so register now.

Register here and mark your calendar!

See a sample of last year's Teacher Tour here:

The Top 4 Tips for Supporting English Learners in a Reading Workshop

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Lindsey Moses's new book Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop is available now. In today's post, Lindsey provides the top four tips to support English learners in the Reading Workshop. These are practical instructional ideas, lessons, and differentiation strategies for diverse classroom settings.

The Top 4 Tips for Supporting English Learners in a Reading Workshop

By Lindsey Moses

The reading workshop provides an effective approach to supporting the language and literacy development among all students. However, there are additional instructional considerations when supporting English learners. In the following blog post adapted from the book, Lindsey shares her top four tips for supporting English learners in the reading workshop. Each tip is based on a component of successful instruction for English learners as documented by research, personal experiences, and observations.

#1. Build a Classroom Community: Supportive Spaces

Successful programs for English learners consist of meaningful interactions between teachers and pupils with the use of cooperative learning (e.g., Berman et al., 1995; Doherty et al., 2003; Montecel & Cortez, 2002). Through these meaningful interactions, we establish a classroom community where students feel safe to explore, discuss, and take risks in their first and/or second language. If we want students to “go deeper” with their reading, writing, speaking, and listening, we must ensure an environment that supports it both socially and academically.

One way to accomplish this academically is to provide students with choices for texts, topics, and responses. English learners have demonstrated higher motivation and engagement when given choice for topic, texts, and ways to respond (Guccione, 2010). In addition to choice, modeling the sharing of “preliminary,” “inaccurate,” or “out-of the box” thinking demonstrates that it is safe to share our work- and thinking-in-progress. It is through dialogue and negotiation that we learn more about the language and content. As students begin to feel safe, we are able to lower their “affective filter” (Krashen, 1987) and improve language and literacy development.

#2. Encourage Discussion: Chatter Matters

English learners excel in a language-rich environment where they have the opportunity to hear and participate in meaningful discussions. In order to acquire another language, learners need to use it. As they are actively engaged in conversations, they can make connections necessary for learning. This might begin with encouraging conversational English related to feelings or connections to literature they are reading. Whole class, small-group and individual conversations can facilitate the development of both conversational and academic English in non-threatening ways.

Dialogue about matters of interest and concern to English learners should be used to foster their curiosity and desire to learn. Conversations surrounding topics of interest and common texts create positive attitudes toward reading while simultaneously addressing and supporting listening and reading comprehension.

#3. Implement Meaningful, Consistent, Thematically Integrated Curriculum: Insightful Instruction

Teaching skills in isolation creates a confusing and disjointed vision of what it means to be literate. The purpose of teaching skills (decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.) is not for students to be able to demonstrate that skill, but rather to provide students with tools to engage effectively with texts. Successful programs for English learners implement meaningful and academically challenging curriculum with an emphasis on higher order thinking (Berman et al., 1995; Doherty et al., 2003; Montecel & Cortez, 2002).

In order for this curriculum to be effective, it needs to be consistent over time (Ramirez, 1992) and thematically integrated (Montecel & Cortez, 2002). A reading workshop model lends itself to consistent and thematically integrated instruction through thoughtful units of study supported by whole-group anchor lessons, workshop learning experiences, small-group instruction and word work, conferring, and reflection. As students begin to understand the connectedness of their literary experiences, and develop stronger language and literacy skills, they are able to engage in critical discussions about literature analysis.

#4. Focus on Content and Language Instruction: Balancing Both

It is not a focus on content OR language; it is both! Students learn language through content and content through language. These knowledge bases can support each other and develop simultaneously for English learners. English learners possess a great deal of background knowledge and life experiences that can be used to further develop their language proficiency. As content is presented and explored, they can draw on their prior knowledge from their first language to make the content in English comprehensible. In addition to teacher-initiated content instruction, opportunities for student-lead inquiry leads to increased motivation and opportunities for integrating language, literacy, and content knowledge scaffolds in an individualized manner. As teachers, we can design lessons, learning experiences, and inquiry opportunities that enhance students’ abilities to better understand the academic content and English language. The key is being purposeful and setting objectives for both content and language learning.

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Lindsey Moses is an assistant professor of literacy education at Arizona State University. A former elementary teacher, Lindsey works with classroom teachers around the country supporting the implementation of effective literacy instruction in diverse settings. Her research focuses on elementary literacy instruction and English learners. Lindsey is the coauthor of Comprehension and English Language Learners and the author of Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop.

Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @drlindseymoses.

Who Are English Learners?

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In today's post adapted from her book Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop, Lindsey Moses answers the first question: "Who are English learners?"


Who Are English Learners?

by Lindsey Moses

I WAS ENTERING MY THIRD YEAR of teaching at a Spanish/English bilingual school as an English-speaking second-grade teacher, and I was finally starting to feel more confident in my instructional abilities to support my bilingual students. Prior to this year, all of my bilingual students’ first language was Spanish, so we were able to provide first-language supports and texts, as well as partners who spoke their first language. As English learners, the students were eager to support each other and often code-switched between English and Spanish. This year, I had a student, Tee, whose first language was Hmong. When our new student did not understand something or did not respond in English, the students would immediately repeat it in Spanish. They were confused initially about the fact that he was learning English, but his first language was not Spanish. This posed an interesting instructional challenge, as I did not have the same resources in Hmong as I did in Spanish. It inspired me to think critically about ways to bring awareness to and acceptance of other languages and cultures and make content comprehensible for all of my bilingual students, even when I did not have bilingual resources.

The number of students entering school who are fortunate enough to speak a language other than English at home is increasing at a much greater rate than the overall school-age population (Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students 2010). Like my students, many people hear the term English learner (also referred to as EL or ELL) and immediately think of students who are fluent in Spanish and learning English as their second language. However, English learners in the United States include students whose first language could be one of over four hundred languages spoken by school-age children (Kindler 2002). This presents a wide range of possible linguistic backgrounds for English learners and also limits the probability of having access to bilingual educational experiences for all languages. Because of this, teachers need to be prepared to support the various needs of all their students, regardless of their first language.

It is important to note that being an English learner should not be seen as a deficit

Language is merely one of the many ways children are diverse. However, it is often one of the most visible areas of diversity because students’ participation in school is so largely dependent on language. Children’s social and cultural backgrounds influence who they are as learners and how they begin to participate in the academic community (Vygotsky 1978). Regardless of their first language, English learners come from a wide range of ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, religious, educational, and literary backgrounds (among many other characteristics). Like monolingual students, no two English learners are the same, and our instruction must change to differentiate and meet the vast needs in diverse elementary classrooms. It is important to note that being an English learner should not be seen as a deficit; rather, it should be seen as students bringing the asset of bilingualism (and hopefully, biliteracy) that our young learners will take with them into college and the workforce.

English learners may be learning English in school, but they already possess linguistic resources that enable them to participate in a range of communicative settings in at least one language (MacSwan, Rolstad, and Glass 2002; Valdés et al. 2005) and have knowledge of conventions and discourses used in their own communities (Gutiérrez, Morales, and Martinez 2009; Gutiérrez and Orellana 2006; Orellana and Gutiérrez 2006). Drawing on their conceptual knowledge in their first language will help support the acquisition of their second language (Cummins 1991). When teachers understand second language acquisition and the broad stages associated with language development and proficiency, they can provide informed instruction to make content comprehensible for all students.

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Lindsey Moses is an assistant professor of literacy education at Arizona State University. A former elementary teacher, Lindsey works with classroom teachers around the country supporting the implementation of effective literacy instruction in diverse settings. Her research focuses on elementary literacy instruction and English learners. Lindsey is the coauthor of Comprehension and English Language Learners and the author of Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop.

Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @drlindseymoses.