English Learners

We partner with educators across all levels in schools and districts to define and work towards a common vision of what it means to know, support, and teach English learners (ELs). We are committed to improving the education and achievement of every student - especially students of color and emerging bilingual students.

Each of our professional learning sessions is designed around research-based high-leverage instructional practices that support deeper classroom engagement and result in improved learning for every student. Research has shown that IFL programs and materials not only increase student achievement, but also that English learners made even larger gains than their native English-speaking classmates.

During our sessions, we engage educators as learners and study how the content and pedagogy in IFL lessons support ELs. We immerse educators in the kinds of text-based and discourse rich tasks that improve ELs' knowledge and skills in reading, writing, and reasoning across content areas. This allows educators to reflect on current practices, learn new ways of working to engage ELs in high cognitive demand instruction.

We provide practices and routines that help students to develop ways for approaching problems and intellectually challenging situations. Students learn how to collaborate with peers to deepen their understanding, knowing that questioning and exploration are routine ways for learning deeply.

Professional Development

Our professional development courses and instructive materials help teachers of English learners

  • Integrate oral and written language when working with texts and tasks
  • Craft vocabulary lessons using different modalities (reading, writing, and speaking)
  • Engage students to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • Use instructional tools that support ELs when working with complex texts and cognitively demanding tasks
  • Embed regular opportunities for ELs to discuss content in pairs, small, and large groups.
  • Craft writing opportunities for students to deepen and strengthen their comprehension of texts and topics
  • Develop tasks where students apply their academic language (both orally and in writing)
  • Formatively assess ELs writing and discussions to identify instructional needs and provide formative feedback from teachers, selves, and peers.
  • Develop schema to support reading comprehension and writing
  • Implement and learn from IFL's educative instructional materials for English learners
  • Use formative assessment to craft activities for mediation when it is needed

Support for English learners is provided within the lessons in our instructional materials in a number of ways. Students learn new information in manageable segments, which are sequenced to build on existing knowledge of mathematics, science, language and genre and explicitly relate to the overarching questions, core concepts and essential understandings of the discipline. Students revisit new learning a number of times. For example, students read texts multiple times, each time with a new purpose. In using this process, students learn how to use appropriate mediation that does not diminish the purpose or cognitive demand of the task.

teacher talking to students in classroom Talk is an essential part of all of our lessons and students' development of spoken academic language is fostered through routines of discussion and direct instruction. We steep educators in the value of classroom talk and we provide practical guidelines and exemplars on how to promote and deepen students' talking to learn and to expand their thinking with powerful facilitation moves. Students are given multiple opportunities to practice using language in purposeful ways. To mediate learning, ELs are often asked to share in pairs or trios before being invited to share with the large group. This allows students to practice and gain confidence sharing their responses with one or two students before doing so with the whole group.

child smilingThe design of our instructional materials takes into consideration the needed differentiation for ELs. Lessons ask teachers to use students' prior knowledge to ensure that instruction values their educational and personal experiences. Culturally appropriate texts are used so that students see themselves reflected in their tasks. As such, the teacher enables students to make meaningful connections with what is being taught and what they already know. In differentiating instruction effectively for English learners, teachers need to encourage students to actively transfer skills between their first language and English.

Contact us at ifl@pitt.edu for more information.