By Diane Staehr Fenner | originally published on Colorin Colorado May 22, 2014

Throughout my conversations with educators this spring, I’ve focused on helping ESL teachers further develop their leadership skills as they solidify their role within the Common Core framework.  One strategy is for ESL teachers to get some practice at explaining these new roles and the ways they support ELLs through an “elevator speech.”  In this post, I’ll offer some tips for creating your own elevator speech and share examples of colleagues who’ve provided brief videos of their speeches online – where you are invited to add your own video clip!

Why is an Elevator Speech Important?

Given all the changes with the CCSS and new English Language Development/Proficiency standards in many states, teachers’ roles can’t possibly remain static. Since the role of the ESL teacher is evolving and changing, I’ve been working with ESL as well as content teachers to examine what they do and think about how their roles will be reframed with the CCSS so that ELLs can be better positioned to succeed within the new standards.

One aspect of this change is to make sure that all colleagues that ESL teachers collaborate with – including content teachers and administrators – are aware of the expertise ESL teachers bring to instructing and assessing ELLs and how that expertise relates to the new standards. Since there is such a wide variance within schools and districts in terms of diversity of ELLs, the types of language support programs for ELLs, and the timeline and approach for Common Core implementation, content teachers and administrators might not be aware of what exactly it is that ESL teachers do and how their roles can strengthen the district’s CCSS implementation.

Developing an Elevator Speech

One way for ESL teachers to reframe their role and effectively explain it is to develop an “elevator speech” (sometimes called an “elevator pitch”), which is a concise summary of a topic – so concise that it can be delivered during a short elevator ride! While the elevator speech may be used when interviewing for a job, current ESL teachers can also use it as a tool to clearly define the expertise they bring in implementing the CCSS for ELLs in their school.

To get an overview of how to write an elevator speech, take a look at this quick summary.  I’ve adapted a few steps of the process so that teachers can write their own elevator speech about their expertise in supporting ELLs in the CCSS:

  1. Consider the ways in which you collaborate, serve as a leader, and support ELL instruction in your school.  How can that work be tied to the goal of helping ELLs meet the Common Core?  What are you already doing that relates to that goal?  Write your ideas down – it can be a stream of consciousness!  Some ideas might include teaching academic language, differentiating instruction, helping colleagues identify language objectives, or representing ELL perspectives on a school or district committee.
  2. Turn your stream of consciousness into a few talking points that highlight the expertise you bring to educating ELLs. These talking points are more succinct statements designed to persuade or inform others.
  3. Take your talking points and hone them into a 30-second elevator speech. This elevator speech should outline how you see your role shifting and the skills you leverage in supporting ELLs’ access to the CCSS.
  4. Practice your elevator speech with a trusted colleague to get feedback on how it sounds. Rehearse it for when it may come in handy, such as during an informal conversation with an administrator or in planning instruction with a colleague.
  5. Reflect upon your elevator speech and revise it as necessary.  You may wish to think about which points are likely to resonate with different audiences and tailor the speech when needed.

Your Turn!

I’d love to hear your elevator speech! Try out Flipgrid, an easy-to-use online video response system, torecord your elevator speech here using your computer or tablet!  Tell everyone how you’re reframing your role in supporting ELLs as they work with the Common Core in your setting. Before getting started, you can look at the examples already posted online from ELL experts around the country (including one blogger you may recognize).

(If you’re interested in setting up your own Flipgrid question, the platform has a free trial period, and then you can subscribe for a fee.)

Note: A special thanks to AFT ELL Cadre member and ELL advocate Kristina Robertson, author of Colorín Colorado’s Bright Ideas feature, for introducing me to Flipgrid!