3 Tips to Ensure Your Materials Support English Learners

May 7, 2019

3 Tips to Ensure Your Materials Support English Learners

California leads the country in prioritizing the needs of English language learners (ELL) when selecting materials, and our guidance is designed to help districts make effective selections for programs that serve all students. Materials don’t come off the shelf perfectly matched to meet all English Language Learner needs. However reviewing materials for the depth of support provided to ELL students can help identify the strengths and gaps of the programs you’re using.

In California, where over 20 percent of students are English Language Learners, it is critical to consider ELL students with each new materials adoption. Regardless of content area, districts should ensure that their team has familiarity with the English Language Development Framework. Placing your adoption work in the context of the English Language Development Framework can be good professional development for your teachers as well.

As you consider the programs you’re using, there are some key ELD supports that your instructional materials should contain including:

  1. Alignment with Your District’s English Learner Needs. Make sure your materials match the specific needs of your population of English Language Learners. This includes the required number of designated ELD minutes, access to dual language texts where dual language programs are offered, and middle and high school newcomer supports where applicable. Before reviewing materials, make sure you’ve gathered information about what programs you offer English Language Learners and what materials should provide to meet those needs.
  2. Amplify, Not Simplify. In identified supports for English Language Learners, materials should amplify challenging content, not simplify it. Materials that simplify run the risk of providing below grade level content and miss opportunities for English Language Learners to access rigorous language and complex texts.
  3. Meaning-making. Materials should provide ample, regular opportunities for English Learners to make meaning through writing and speaking of rigorous, grade-level content in all subject areas. Check to see if your materials have routines and instructional strategies that enable students to listen, speak, and write about complex, grade level matter. If there are scaffolds, check to see that those scaffolds are designed to be removed over time as students’ mastery increases.

For more support, we suggest our EL Instructional Materials Rubric which  is meant to support a basic review of materials for English Language Learner support. We also recommend CCSESA’s ELA/ELD Toolkit for a more thorough and robust review process, including biliteracy materials review. And, for content specific guidance, we suggest English Learner Success Forum’s guides for ELA and Math materials review.