October 12, 2018
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Elizabeth Hartung-Cole, Northern New England TESOL, Topsham, Maine, USA

The overarching precept in TESOL’s core set of principles for excellence in teaching and learning for elementary and secondary ELs is that entire schools must “engage and collaborate within a community of practice” (The Six Principles, 2018). This shared responsibility is essential given the standards-driven expectation that all students proficiently and independently read text with academic vocabulary and increasingly complex syntax across content areas to be ready for today’s colleges and careers. The result is a sense of urgency to address the linguistic needs of ELs, especially those stalled at intermediate level (LTELs) or with interrupted formal education (SIFEs). Often their needs are misunderstood and they are perceived as failures by themselves and others. Many develop habits of nonparticipation and learned passivity (Kinsella, 2013) and have a dropout rate nearing four times greater than average (Olsen, 2012).

The goals of this session were to raise the participants’ awareness of what it means to be an ‘intermediate’ adolescent EL and to demonstrate tools which accelerate linguistic movement to academic fluency across the content areas. The majority of these tools are amplifications, not simplifications, of strategies that EL and content teachers are most likely already using.

First, participants read quotations of metacognitive conversations the presenter had with students on the verge of giving up on academic endeavors. The quotations and resulting strategies are based on the presenter’s long-term action research involving 287 ELs mired at intermediate. The resulting data demonstrated significant student improvement in comprehending passages from math, language arts, and social studies which, before learning the strategies, most students claimed were ‘too thick’ to read.

Next, participants briefly explored research (Schleppegrell, 2010; Gibbons, 2015) on the linguistic features (both vocabulary and syntax) of math, science and social science and discussed how to share this information school-wide.

Following the gradual release model for each subject area, the presenter identified the difficult areas for students and demonstrated a strategy addressing each need. She then facilitated participants’ hands-on practice.

The strategies included amplifying and implementing: formative assessments; a protocol for looking at student work; high-stakes question stems/frames by content area; control of formal and informal language; and deconstruction of complex sentences.

Finally, participants reflected on how to implement these teacher-friendly strategies in their own professional situations.


Short, D., Becker, H., Cloud, N., Hellman, A.B., Levine, L. N., & Cummins, J. (2018). The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners: Grades K-12. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Press.

Kinsella, K. (Oct. 2013). Cutting to the Common Core: Analyzing Informational Text. Language Magazine, 18-26.

Olsen, L (2010). Reparable Harm: Fulfilling the Unkept Promise of Educational Opportunity for California’s Long Term English Learners. Long, Beach, CA: Californians Together.

Schleppegrell, M. (2010). The Language of Schooling. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Elizabeth Hartung-Cole (M.A. Applied Linguistics/TESOL, UCLA) is a long-time member of TESOL and currently a proud member of NNETESOL. She taught for four years at Kobe Jogakuin High School in Japan; at Georgetown University’s American Language Institute; and for thirty years she was a teacher and then the EL Curriculum Leader, researcher and teacher trainer in Long Beach Unified School District. Her focus is on the linguistic needs of intermediate-level adolescent English learners. Currently, she resides in Maine and presents intensive teacher training across the US and in Canada.

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