Unlocking English Learners' Potential: Strategies for Making Content Accessible

A once-in-a-generation text for assisting a new generation of students.

NEW! Click to download printable charts and tables from Unlocking English Learners’ Potential for free!

Content teachers and ESOL teachers, take special note: if you’re looking for a single resource to help your English learners meet the same challenging content standards as their English-proficient peers, your search is complete. Just dip into this toolbox of strategies, examples, templates, and activities from ELL authorities Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder. The best part? No prior training assumed! You’ll find inside every last how-to including:

  • How to scaffold instruction across content and grade levels
  • How to build background knowledge
  • How to analyze text through close reading and text dependent questions
  • How to promote oral language and vocabulary development
  • How to evaluate and use formative assessment



“Much may be debated about what English learners need in order to be successful in school, but while that debate continues, teachers need access to sensible and accessible assistance to teach language and content to English learners right now. This new book by Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder is the book to fill that need. In clear prose, accompanied by lively classroom examples and a series of engaging application activities, the authors target the topics of culturally responsive teaching, scaffolded instruction for oral language and reading, understanding academic language, and how to formatively assess student development in these areas. There is something here for both novice teachers and their more seasoned colleagues as Staehr Fenner and Snyder skillfully bring together the necessary ingredients to help teachers advance the language and content learning of their English learners.”

Alison L. Bailey, Professor Human Development and Psychology
Department of Education, University of California, Los Angeles


“Staehr Fenner and Snyder have written a much needed and illuminating text in the field of EL education that challenges educators to re-think language pedagogy in new ways that never dichotomize theory and practice. Not only do the authors provide numerous, sound and exciting hands-on instructional recommendations but they impressively model for educators what it means to link theory to practice by anchoring their applications to a comprehensive equity and cultural wealth framework.”

Lilia I. Bartolome, Ph.D., Professor of Applied Linguistics
University of Massacusetts Boston, College of Liberal Arts


“There is so much to love about Unlocking English Learners’ Potential. Diane and Sydney have created a truly readable text packed with practical suggestions for all educators who teach ELs! ESOL educators will find the focus on advocacy and leadership provides them with new ideas to take their practice to the next level. Content educators will appreciate the many easy-to-incorporate strategies for developing oral language and reading within their own academic content classes. And finally, the emphasis on teacher collaboration is vital to get everyone on board with an agenda that stresses equity and excellence for our culturally and linguistically diverse learners.  This text will undoubtedly be a hit with school PLCs and teacher education programs.”

Tim Boals, WIDA Executive Director
University of Wisconsin-Madison


“With so many resources available today and so little time to review them all, it becomes harder and harder for educators to know what to read and when to read it. What Diane and Sydney offer to educators of English Learners with this book is the unique opportunity to find in one resource a synthesis of the current research, examples of its impact in the classroom through authentic classroom vignettes, and a wealth of tools to get started in their own classroom.  Diane and Sydney have successfully combined their own expertise with that of colleagues and educators to bring to the field a valuable tool for professional growth and collaboration. Thank you!”

Mariana Castro, Director of Standards
WIDA Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research


“Continuing their advocacy for English learners to obtain an equitable education, Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder offer a remarkable framework to guide teachers to better understand the complex nature of teaching diverse students. This book not only examines why a supportive school environment matters but also offers detailed, research-informed instructional strategies applicable to every class. It is must read for all teachers of English learners!”

Maria G. Dove, Ed.D., Associate Professor and Coordinator
Molloy College, New York, Graduate Education TESOL Programs

Price: $29.95