Originally posted on Colorin Colorado by Diane Staehr Fenner


Navigating the Common Core with English Language Learners: Practical Strategies to Develop Higher-Order Thinking Skills is the latest book by Larry Ferlazzo and his teaching partner Katie Hull Sypnieski. Released in May 2016 and published by Jossey-Bass, it serves as a sequel to The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide. If you’re not familiar with these authors, they are both secondary level teachers of ELLs in Sacramento, California. In addition, Larry’s blog and multiple books contain a wealth of information on teaching ELLs.

This new volume is intended to provide teachers practical ways to implement the CCSS in the ELL classroom while focusing on how the standards can promote higher-order thinking in ELLs. The book’s many sample lessons are written more with Intermediate and Advanced ELLs in mind, but many are applicable to Beginning ELLs. The practical strategies found throughout the book are grounded in research and new developments in the field of ELL education.


The first chapter of the book begins with an overview of ELLs and the CCSS. What struck me from this chapter is that it’s applicable to teachers of ELLs anywhere in the country, no matter which English language proficiency or development standards their state is using. This chapter also presents the English language arts anchor standards along with a helpful list of do’s and don’ts for ELLs when teaching the reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language anchor standards. For example, for the language anchor standards, the authors suggest, “Don’t assign students huge lists of isolated vocabulary words and expect them to learn to use them by simply looking up the meanings of and copying them down.”

In the second chapter, the focus shifts to creating the conditions for ELLs to be successful in the CCSS. The authors describe the role of social emotional skills in supporting ELLs in their ability to master the CCSS. In short, the authors feel that students need to feel “motivated, confident, and curious” in order to successfully engage with the CCSS. They contend that these skills and dispositions need to be taught alongside the CCSS, and they provide ways in which teachers can support ELLs in this endeavor.

The next four chapters, which to me contain the “meat” of the book, focus on implementing the ELA standards with ELLs. There is one chapter each on reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. In each chapter, the authors summarize what the CCSS say about each ELA domain, share key ways the standards might affect classroom practice for teachers of ELLs, and then provide lots of specific instructional strategies.

The final three chapters are written by different authors. They provide guidance on teaching mathematics (Wendy Jennings), social studies (Elisabeth Johnson), and science (Caleb Cheung, Laura Prival, Claudio Vargas, and Diana Vélez) to ELLs. Each of the chapters contains theory and considerations along with many practical examples and strategies for teachers of ELLs. For example, in the chapter on mathematics, one table was focused on sentence frames to support ELLs in mathematical practices, scaffolded for ELLs’ different ELP levels. The social studies chapter included a lesson plan on types of government. One table in the science chapter contains scaffolds and strategies that support student engagement in the science and engineering practices.

Unique Features

In addition to all the rich content in the book, there are several features of this book that make it stand out from the crowd. I’ll share three of them with you.

  1. Downloads on the Wiley website: You can find every single lesson plan and table from the book available for free download here.
  2. Tech tools: Interspersed throughout the book you’ll find links to online video clips and other web-based tools that support lesson plans and practical strategies.
  3. Two bonus chapters: You can download two chapters not found in the book for free: School Counselors and ELLs (by John Doolittle) and Art and ELLs (Leticia Gallardo).

This is the ideal book to take to the beach or on vacation this summer to gear you up for the coming school year. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Happy summer vacation, everyone, and see you in the fall!