By Diane Staehr Fenner / Originally published on the Colorin Colorado website / September 9, 2014

In my third post of the new school year, I’ll share with you more new resources that will support ELLs with instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. (You can see my first two blog posts of 2014-15 here.) This time, the new resources come in the form of Resource Guides for scaffolding the instruction of ELLs. In this post, I’ll tell you what the Resource Guides are, how they were developed, and I’ll highlight some features of each.

What the Scaffolding Resource Guides Are

The New York State engageNY website has recently shared new Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners Resource Guides for ELA and Mathematics. These Scaffolding Resource Guides provide guidance to educators on how to use the CCSS-aligned curricular materials available on the engageNY website with ELLs. To varying degrees, the engageNY lessons and units were originally developed with ELLs’ strengths and challenges in mind.  However, the new, robust Resource Guides provide additional scaffolds for ELLs that are tailored to students’ level of English language proficiency.

When I say that the Resource Guides are “robust,” I mean it! The mathematics resource guide is 79 pages long, and the ELA resource guide is 112 pages. Dr. Diane August, with her group at the American Institutes for Research, partnered with my small business to develop the Resource Guides for New York State over the course of the past year as part of a larger ELL scaffolding project. Our collaborative team included mathematics/ELL expert Dr. Anita Bright and ELL instruction expert Dr. Sydney Snyder.

Features of the Resource Guides

The guides contain research-based instructional strategies for developing content and academic language simultaneously with ELL students. The introduction for each guide explains the research the scaffolding is grounded in, including the recent IES Academic Content and Literacy Guidebook.

  • The ELA scaffolding techniques include: teaching academic vocabulary; integrating oral and written language instruction into content area teaching; providing regular, structured opportunities to read for multiple purposes; providing regular, structured opportunities to write; and capitalizing on students’ home language and knowledge.
  • The mathematics scaffolds include: providing concrete and visual models; providing graphic organizers and foldables; and using multimedia to enhance ELLs’ comprehension of mathematical concepts – all in addition to the ELA techniques above

ELL Scaffolds Used

The ELA Resource Guide contains scaffolds for lessons in Kindergarten and Grades 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The Mathematics Resource Guide’s scaffolds are developed for lessons in Kindergarten as well as Grades 4, 8, and Algebra I. The ELL scaffolds come in two forms: additional supports and new activities. Additional supports for ELLs support lesson segments that were already designed by the original curriculum developers. New activities are additional parts of the lesson created specifically for ELLs. I’ll include some examples of each scaffold category below, but I encourage you to take a look at the actual lessons in the Resource Guides to see how these scaffolds were developed based on pre-existing curriculum.

  • Additional supports: Use visuals, synonyms, and examples to clarify word meanings; use guiding and supplementary questions about text; use sentence starters and glossaries; provide word banks; encourage home language use; preview texts in home language
  • New activities: Pre-teach the meanings of key vocabulary, teach a mini-lesson on cognates, bilingual homework assignments, enhance background knowledge through the use of short passages and scaffolded questions, teach a mini-lesson on context clues, engage in scaffolded close reading using text-dependent questions aligned to the CCSS

Be on the lookout for more resources – including more lessons scaffolded for ELLs – from this project to be posted on engageNY soon. I’ll let you know when they’re available!