Planning for Language Proficiency and Learning

October 5, 2017

Our conventional paradigm regarding English Language Learning is that practice rests mainly on a singular focus – language proficiency.  No doubt language proficiency is a priority, but it doesn’t have to be the only objective.  English Language Learning should be much more than a program.  Rather, it should be part of a learning experience that involves engagement in real world challenges, questioning, discussion, and digital resources that essentially promote and support academic achievement.


Language proficiency standards are generally isolated and separate from identifying learning goals and planning instruction.  As such, if we were to visit a classroom that supports English Language Learners, we see a daily learning objective posted along with a separate language objective.  While there is nothing wrong with having two objectives, it begs the question; to what extent do they impact learning and language proficiency?  How can we do both…and at the same time?


Teaching is demanding and complex.  However, planning instruction that supports English Language Learners for rigorous and challenging work can be simple.  First, find the connections.  In reviewing language proficiency standards, we find that there are connections to common best practices and principles for teaching and learning that promote higher order thinking, engagement, relevancy and technology applications.  Importantly, the proficiency standards are inextricably linked to strategies and practice that support college and career readiness.  These include 21st Century Learning Skills, Digital Best Practices, and high yield strategies such as Marzano’s 9. 


Connecting language proficiency and learning standards can impact lesson planning and success for English Language Learners.  For strategies that connect, emphasize the following:

  • Discussion:  Engaging students in whole and small group discussion will activate and build schema, higher order thinking, and understanding.

  • Application:  Promoting learning with real world scenarios provides students with opportunities to synthesize and apply their learning.

  • Personalization:  Connecting academic and language proficiencies with student interests optimizes planning and impacts engagement and achievement.


Planning effective instruction doesn’t need to be difficult or time intensive.  By aligning standards with strategies we can simplify instruction and impact learning and achievement for English Language Learners.

For more information on practice that can boost ELL achievement visit and see how you can impact learning and close the achievement gap.


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