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TCRWP Twitter Chat: Ways to Support English Language Learners in Reading and Writing Workshop

TCRWP-summer-2016

See below for the full chat transcript

by Anna Gratz Cockerille

One of the most beautiful aspects of workshop instruction is the way in which it truly lends itself to flexible, differentiated instruction. Rather than leading students lock-step through a static, prescriptive curriculum, teachers in a workshop classroom guide students in an individualized way toward shared goals. As such, a workshop classroom is a safe place in which English language learners (ELLs) can be supported in their burgeoning English skills inside of the general flow of the teaching and learning. A workshop classroom, then, is not a place where ELLs need to be pulled out during reading and writing time to work on basic language. Quite the contrary! A workshop classroom is a place where all are included and all are valued.

In A Guide to The Reading Workshop (Heinemann, 2015), Lucy Calkins and colleagues provide clear, doable tips for supporting English Language Learners during workshop time.

Some highlights: 

Provide Consistent Teaching Structures.

Workshop classrooms have built-in structure and consistency because each workshop, whether reading, writing or another subject area, goes exactly the same way each time. First, the class gathers on the carpet to learn a skill or strategy. Then, they go off to work on their own, trying the skills they are learning not just that day, but every day. Teachers confer as the students work. The workshop ends with time for students to share some of their learning with each other. This consistency is supportive for all students, and particularly for ELLs, who gain confidence from being able to predict what's coming next rather than having a constant stream of unpredictable variables thrown at them.

Use Consistent Teaching Language.

Minilessons tend to go in a predictable manner. Certain phrases are used to introduce each part of the minilesson, and most importantly, to highlight the teaching point. Teaching ELLs to listen carefully to the part where the teacher says, "Today I want to teach you" will help them to zero in on the most important part. Reinforcing the point visually on a chart using the same language will increase their understanding even further.

Offer Plentiful Opportunities for Reading Practice.

What learners of any kind, and particularly English language learners, need for success are repetition and practice. ELLs need to bolster their receptive language skills through listening and reading and their expressive language skills through speaking and writing. Reading and writing workshops, with their ample time for independent work, offer exactly the needed opportunities for repetition and practice. 

Provide Access to a Broad Variety of Texts.

When possible, books in other languages should be part of the classroom library. When choosing books for read-aloud, ELLs' languages and interests should also be considered. If you teach Spanish speakers, click here for lists of books in Spanish. 

Use Assessment to Provide Extra Support for ELLs in All Stages of Learning English.

As with all students, and particularly for ELLs, assessment must be used to inform instruction. Assessment should be varied and ongoing, from listening to students’ spoken language to carefully studying their work on more formalized assessments. Ideally, teachers gather to share their assessment-based observations with each other and to formulate plans for best supporting the ELLs with whom they work.


If you teach or plan to teach English language learners, don’t miss this Wednesday’s TCRWP Twitter chat. Marie Mounteer and Jennifer DeSutter will lead the TCRWP community in a discussion of best practices when helping ELLs to reach new heights in their English language development in reading and writing workshops. 

Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @mcmounteer and @jendesutter to chat about ways to support English language learners in reading and writing workshop tomorrow evening. 

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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.

Not on Twitter? New to Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.

Posted by: Digital EditorPublished:

Topics: Units of Study, Lucy Calkins, education, Education Policy, Reading, TCRWP, Teachers College, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Twitter chat, Writing, Anna Gratz Cockerille, Twitter, UoS

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