Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners, 2ed.
Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice


academic language proficiency

Refers to the level of language proficiency students need to successfully comprehend and perform grade-level academic tasks. This term is problematic, however, because the level of proficiency needed varies widely and depends on the tasks and the language demands.


In testing ELLs, refers to modifications in the testing environment or testing procedures, or modifications to the test instrument itself, that are intended to make up for a student’s lack of proficiency in the language of the test (e.g., providing extra time, oral interpretation of test directions or items, native-language versions of the test).

action research

A teacher self-evaluation and critical reflection tool for systematically collecting and analyzing data from their own classrooms and using the results to improve teaching and learning.

additive bilingualism

A situation in which a second language is eventually added to a student’s native language without replacing it.

adequate yearly progress (AYP)

The amount of progress a school or school district must make each year toward reaching target objectives (see annual measurable achievement objectives [AMAOs]) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). Determined mainly by student scores on state-wide tests. To make AYP under Title I of NCLB, increasingly higher percentages of students in each subgroup in each tested gradelevel must pass the state tests each year. To make AYP under Title III, increasingly higher percentages of ELLs must make progress in learning English, attain English proficiency, and also make AYP under Title I.


Going beyond daily teaching responsibilities to support causes and work for changes to ensure the equitable treatment of ELLs within the school, district, state, and country and to ensure that their unique linguistic, academic, and cultural needs are being fully addressed.

affective filter

Refers to factors, such as fear, anxiety, shyness, and lack of motivation, that can block comprehensible input and thus prevent second language acquisition. Lowering the affective filter allows learners to receive more comprehensible input and thus enables them to acquire more of the second language.

analytic scoring

A form of assessment that focuses on several aspects of a student’s performance, normally guided by a rubric that includes separate analytic scales. For example, a rubric to assess student writing may contain separate analytic scales for composing, style, sentence formation, usage, and mechanics.

annual measurable achievement objectives (AMAOs)

Targets set by each state, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. These indicate the percentage of students at each grade level expected to pass each state test under Title I, and the percentage of ELLs expected to make progress in learning English and attain English proficiency under Title III.


The process of collecting and analyzing a wide variety of data from students that provides evidence of their learning and growth over an extended period.

assimilationist discourses

Discourses that devalue ELLs’ home languages and cultures, seeing them as problems to overcome (also called monolingual discourses).

before, during, after (BDA)

In literacy instruction, refers to strategies used before, during, and after reading a text, to maximize students’ comprehension. Also referred to as into, through, and beyond.


In testing, refers to the unfair advantages or disadvantages that may be given to certain students that can affect their performance. For example, a test given in English will be biased in favor of proficient English speakers and biased against students who lack proficiency in English.

Bilingual Education Act

Added in 1968 as Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Before passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, it provided federal support for bilingual and other programs for ELLs and their families through competitive grants.

bilingual immersion programs

For language minority students who are English dominant and native English speakers who desire to become bilingual. Students are initially instructed 90%–100% in the non-English target language for the first 2 years of the program. Instruction evens out gradually to 50% instruction in English and 50% in the non-English language as students move up in grade level.


Words that are similar in two languages because they come from the same root (e.g., education
in English and educación in Spanish).

cognitive approaches

Approaches to language learning and teaching focused on the cognitive processes in the brain of the learner.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

New “next generation” college and career readiness standards in English language arts and mathematics developed by a coalition of states that have been adopted by nearly all states.

communicative competence

The ability to use a language to communicate effectively and appropriately with other speakers of the language. Includes grammatical, discourse, sociolinguistic, and strategic competence.

communicative language teaching (CLT)

Language teaching approaches, methods, strategies, and techniques that focus on helping students develop communicative competence.

comprehensible input

Oral or written language that is slightly above a second language learner’s current level of proficiency in the second language and thus provides linguistic input that leads to second language acquisition. Represented by the formula i + 1, where i is the current level of proficiency, and +1 is input slightly above this level.

comprehensible output

Oral or written language produced by a second language speaker that is comprehensible to the individual or individuals with whom he or she is communicating. Second language learners’ need to produce comprehensible output pushes them to pay attention to gaps in their proficiency and thus may prompt them to notice more in the input and motivate them to learn the language they need to express their intended meanings.

concepts of print

Refers to such reading-related issues as understanding the differences between letters and words and words and spaces; knowing where to start reading and how to do a return sweep to continue reading the next line; and understanding the basic features of a book, such as title, front and back cover, and even how to hold it properly.

concurrent translation

Providing line-by-line translation of teacher instruction or texts into the students’ home language. Considered a poor use of the home language because it removes the need for students to attend to the second language and thus interferes with second language acquisition.

content-based instruction (CBI)

An approach to second language instruction in which content-area subjects and topics are used as the basis of instruction.

cooperative learning

A process in which small groups of students collaborate and interact to accomplish a specific learning task or activity.

criterion-referenced test

Test designed to measure the degree to which students have mastered tested content.

developmental bilingual education (DBE)

A form of bilingual education for ELLs, who initially receive about 90% of content-area instruction in their home language and 10% of content-area instruction through sheltered instruction. Home language instruction decreases slowly as sheltered English instruction increases as students move up in grade level. Instruction continues in both languages until the end of the program, even after students attain proficiency in English, to ensure that students attain strong bilingual and biliteracy skills. Also referred to as maintenance late-exit bilingual education.

differentiated instruction

Instruction that is tailored to the unique language and academic needs of each student.


As defined and distinguished by Gee (2012), discourse (with a lowercased) refers to language in use or connected stretches of language that make sense, such as conversations, stories, reports, arguments and essays. Discourse (with a capital D) is made up of distinctive ways of speaking/listening, and also often writing/reading, coupled with distinctive ways of acting, interacting, valuing, feeling, dressing, thinking, and believing with other people and with various objects, tools, and technologies to enact specific socially recognizable identities engaged in specific socially recognizable activities.

dual language books

Books printed in two languages in which one language appears above the other or the two languages are written side by side on one page or on opposite pages.

dual language programs

A variety of bilingual program models for ELL and English proficient students designed to help them become bilingual and biliterate. In a 50/50 model, half of the students are fluent English speakers and half are ELLs, and 50% of instruction is in English and 50% in the home language of the ELLs. In the 90/10 model, for the first few years, 90% of instruction is in the non-English language and 10% is in English. Instruction gradually reaches 50% in each language. Other variations exist. Also called two-way immersion.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The main body of federal education policy and law and source for education funding to state and local education agencies. Passed in 1965 and binding on all states and entities that accept federal education funding.

emergent bilingual

An alternative label for ELLs that draws attention to the other language or languages in the learners’ linguistic repertoires, situates these learners in a continuum of bilingual development, and emphasizes that a fundamental goal of programs for these learners should be to help them attain high levels of proficiency in both their home language and English.

English as a second language (ESL)

An academic subject, course, or program designed to teach English to students who are not yet proficient in the language.

English for the Children initiatives

Referendums put to voters in four states with large ELL populations that would place severe restrictions on bilingual education programs. In 1998 California voters approved Proposition 227, in 2000 Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, and in 2002 Massachusetts voters approved Question 2. An attempt to pass a similar initiative in Colorado (Amendment 31) failed.

English language development (ELD)

An alternative label for English as a second language (ESL) programs and instruction, commonly used at the elementary school level.

English language learner (ELL)

A label for students who are non-native speakers of English and are in the process of attaining proficiency in English. Sometimes shortened to English learner (EL).

Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA)

A federal law that declares, “No state shall deny educational opportunities to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” Includes the mandate that educational agencies take appropriate actions to help ELL students overcome language barriers that impede equal participation of students in education programs.

ESEA Flexibility

An initiative of the Obama administration to grant relief from certain federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act, such as the adequate yearly progress requirements and accountability provisions of Title I, in exchange for state-negotiated accountability programs aligned with the administration’s criteria, including the creation or adoption of new college and career readiness standards and assessments.


The use of assessment data to make judgments about the progress of students’ learning, the effectiveness of teacher instruction, or the quality of educational programs.

fluent English proficient (FEP)

The official designation for former ELLs who have attained sufficient English proficiency to meet their state’s criteria for redesignation.

formative assessment

The use of ongoing assessments that help to identify a student’s strengths and needs and thus inform subsequent instruction, building on these strengths while addressing these needs.


In systemic functional linguistics theory, a goal-directed activity to achieve a particular cultural purpose, such as the creation of a particular kind of text (either spoken or written) through deliberate lexical and grammatical choices that make it the kind of text that it is (e.g., an e-mail, a speech, a lab report, a short story).

guided reading

A form of literacy instruction in which small, homogenous groups of students are matched to texts at their appropriate instructional level, and the teacher provides support as students attempt to read the texts on their own.

guided writing

A form of literacy instruction designed to address an area of need within students’ writing development. Typically, guided writing lessons start with a mini-lesson on some aspect of writing; students practice the writing principle or strategy they were just taught, under the teacher’s supervision, and then share their final written projects.

heritage language

In the United States, refers to a non-English language to which one has a family tie. Both ELLs and students who are proficient in English and may have little to no proficiency in their heritage language, as is common for second- and third–generation immigrant students, may be designated heritage language students.

heritage language programs

Programs for language minority students to develop or maintain their heritage language; includes bilingual programs for ELLs, foreign language classes targeting native speakers in K–12 and post-secondary education, and community-based after-school or weekend programs.

heteroglossic perspective

Views bilingualism as the norm and treats the languages of bilinguals as co-existing.

holistic scoring

A form of assessment in which a student’s performance (e.g., a writing sample) is given a single score that represents an overall judgment of the performance as a whole.

home language instruction

The teaching of literacy or content-area instruction in the home language of ELLs.

independent reading

Reading students are able to do on their own with little or no support.

independent writing

Writing that students are able to do on their own with little or no support.

interactive writing

Writing instruction for ELLs who are at the beginning stage of writing, in which the teacher and the students compose a short sentence or paragraph. The teacher helps the students construct the sentence or sentences in enlarged text (e.g., on chart paper) by guiding individual students as they come up to add individual letters or words, and helping them to make relevant sound-symbol correspondences.

invented spelling

Also called developmental spelling, transitional spelling, or temporary spelling; refers to a temporary stage emergent writers may go through as they rely on their knowledge of sound-symbol correspondences to write words as the words sound to them.


Notebooks in which students write regularly to practice and develop their writing skills.

language-as-problem orientation

A point of view in which the home language of ELLs is viewed as a problem to be overcome as students learn English and academic content through English.

language-as-resource orientation

A point of view in which the native language of ELLs is viewed as a strength to be developed and built on to help the students learn English and academic content.

language experience approach

A literacy instruction approach in which students dictate stories based on their own experiences and teachers transcribe the students’ dictations into texts and then use these texts for reading instruction.

language majority students

Describes students who are native speakers of the standard language variety spoken by the dominant group of a given society. In the United States, the term covers students who speak standard English.

language minority students

Describes students who are not native speakers of the language spoken by the dominant group of a given society. In the United States the term covers all students who speak languages other than standard English.

language socialization

The process by which individuals acquire the knowledge and practices that enable them to participate effectively in a language community.

Lau Remedies

Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights following the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Lau v. Nichols (1974), outlining requirements for school districts and schools to address the needs of ELLs.


The vocabulary of a language.

limited English proficient (LEP)

A label for students who have not yet attained proficiency in English. Although the English language learner (ELL) label is preferred, LEP remains an official legal designation in federal and in many states’ legislation.

minimal pairs

Words that differ by single phoneme (e.g., sand/hand, bit/bet, rag/rat), typically used to help students distinguish specific sounds that change the meanings of words and help students improve their pronunciation.

modeled writing

Writing instruction in which the teacher constructs a text in enlarged print (e.g., on chart paper), demonstrating a variety of writing strategies and techniques students are expected to learn and use in their own writing.

model performance indicators (MPIs)

A component of the WIDA English language development standards designed to help teachers plan and differentiate instruction for students based on their level of English language proficiency. The indicators provide examples of observable language behaviors that ELLs at different levels of proficiency can be expected to demonstrate when completing various classroom tasks.

monoglossic perspective

Views monolingualism as the norm and treats the languages of bilinguals as two separate distinct systems, as if students are two monolinguals in one (double monolingualism).


The study of the structure of words. The central unit of study is the morpheme, the smallest unit of meaning or grammatical function.

multiple measures

Different forms of formal and informal formative and summative assessments used together to provide accurate measures of what a student knows and can do.

multi-trait scoring

Refers to scoring a piece of student writing by considering several traits, for example, clear opinion (main idea), adequate details to support the opinion, and a strong conclusion.

narrow reading

A form of independent recreational reading that entails reading several books on the same subject, by the same author, or in the same genre.

newcomer program

For beginning-level ELLs who have been in the United States for only 1 or 2 years. Programs typically provide intensive English instruction and may include some home language instruction and ample primary language support.

next-generation assessments

Refers to content and English language proficiency assessments developed in response to federal requirements for ESEA Flexibility. These assessments are designed to measure required college and career readiness standards and corresponding English language proficiency standards. Examples include the PARRC and Smarter Balanced assessments associated with the Common Core State Standards, and the WIDA (ACCESS 2.0) and ELPA21 assessments. Most of these assessments are delivered by computer or mobile devices and include technology-enhanced questions that go beyond traditional paper-and-pencil multiple-choice tests. Some also use computer-adaptive testing techniques.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

New “next generation” science standards developed by national science and science education associations in cooperation with over half of the states. Likely to be adopted by most states in the country.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB)

A re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Places heavy emphasis on accountability through standards and high-stakes testing.

norm-referenced test

A test designed to compare a student’s score to those of other students. Test results are usually reported as percentile rankings (e.g., a student at the 71st percentile rank scored higher than 71% of the students in the test’s norming population, that is, a group of students who have already taken the test).


The ability to express one’s self well in speech. Also can denote the oral skills used in formal education, particularly around reading and writing. Oracy has three main components: language structures, vocabulary, and dialogue.

parental involvement

The direct involvement or active engagement of parents in the education of their children.

peer assessment

Students’ assessment of each other’s work or performances.

performance assessment

A form of assessment in which students are evaluated on their ability to perform a specific academic task or set of related tasks (e.g., use oral language to role play interactions at the market, write an essay, conduct a science experiment, measure and compare a set of objects using a scale).

personal word book

A book provided for each student that contains a list of high-frequency words and other words students commonly ask for when they write, and space under each letter section for students to record their own words as they progress through the school year.


A component of reading instruction in which students learn the phonetic value (i.e., sounds) of individual letters and combinations of letters.


The study of the sound systems of languages.

pluralist discourses

Discourses that recognize ELLs’ home languages and cultures as rich resources for helping them learn English and academic content and that strive to help them develop high levels of proficiency and literacy in both languages (also called multilingual discourses).

portfolio assessment

Assessment of student work collected throughout the school year and organized in a portfolio. Enables the assessment of students’ progress and growth based on authentic samples of student work.


The study of language in use, that is, how individuals produce and interpret language in social interaction in specific contexts.


A form of primary language support in which a lesson or read-aloud to be conducted in English is previewed, and then reviewed, in the native language of the ELLs.

primary language support (PLS)

Using a student’s home language during English as a second language (ESL) or sheltered-English content-area instruction to make the English instruction more comprehensible.

primary trait scoring

Refers to scoring a piece of student writing by focusing on a specific trait, for example, the ability to craft a thesis statement in a persuasive essay.

process writing

A form of writing instruction in which students are guided through five stages: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Often taught through a collaborative approach called Writer’s Workshop.

Proposition 203

An English for the Children voter initiative passed in Arizona in 2000, placing restrictions on bilingual education.

Proposition 227

An English for the Children voter initiative passed in California in 1998, placing restrictions on bilingual education.

pull-in ESL

An ELL program model in which the English as a second language (ESL) teacher goes into the regular classroom to work with the classroom teacher and her ELLs.

pull-out ESL

A program model for ELLs in which students are placed in mainstream or sheltered English immersion classrooms but are regularly pulled out of class for English as a second language (ESL) lessons taught by an ESL teacher.

Question 2

An English for the Children voter initiative passed in Massachusetts in 2002, placing restrictions on bilingual education.

Race to the Top (RTTT)

A grant program, part of the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided over $4 billion in competitive grants for states to begin education reform efforts aligned with specific criteria, including the creation or adoption of new college and career readiness standards and assessments.


Sessions during which a teacher, parent, or other proficient reader reads aloud from a book or other text to one or more students.

Reader’s Workshop

A structure for reading instruction often used in secondary schools that enables teachers to tailor instruction to students’ strengths, interests, and needs.

reading self- assessments

Tools or procedures used by students to assess their own reading performance.


The reclassification of a student from English language learner (ELL), or limited English proficient (LEP), to fluent English proficient (FEP), based on criteria established by a school district or state.


Variation in the use of language based on the context in which the language is used.


The consistency with which a test or assessment measures what it is measuring.

response to intervention (RTI)

A model for school improvement and for identifying students in need of special education involving three tiers of instructional support and interventions.

running record

A reading assessment tool that provides a visual record of a student’s reading performance word by word on a specific text.


Support or assistance provided to a student within his or her zone of proximal development by a more knowledgeable other (e.g., teacher, peer) to help the student learn a new concept or develop new skills.


Students’ assessment of their own performance, typically guided by a checklist or rubric.


The study of the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences.

sequential bilingualism

The development of proficiency in a second language after proficiency has been developed in the first language.

shared reading

Reading instruction in which the teacher reads a big book or other source of enlarged text with the students, modeling a variety of reading strategies and using the text (once it is familiar to the students) to teach reading skills.

shared writing

Writing instruction in which the teacher, in collaboration with the students, constructs an enlarged text (e.g., on chart paper). Students suggest sentences and revisions and the teacher models the use of a variety of writing strategies students are expected to use in their own writing.

sheltered English immersion (SEI)

A program model for ELLs that combines English as a second language (ESL), sheltered content-area instruction, and primary language support. Sometimes called structured English immersion.

sheltered instruction

Grade-level content-area instruction provided in English in a manner that makes it comprehensible to ELLs while supporting their English language development.

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP)

An instructional model and tool for planning, implementing, and evaluating sheltered English content-area instruction developed by Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2013).

silent period

A period many new learners of a second language go through before they feel comfortable speaking in the new language.

simultaneous bilingualism

The development of proficiency in two languages at the same time.

sociocultural perspectives

Perspectives on language learning and teaching that focus on the sociocultural context surrounding the learner that facilitates the learning process.

SOLOM-R (Student Oral Language Observation Matrix-Revised)

An assessment of students’ oral language proficiency using an analytic scoring rubric that focuses on the aspects of comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. The original version, developed by bilingual teachers in Southern California in the 1980s, has been revised for this book by the author to reflect current understanding of oral language development and to focus on what ELL students can do at each level.

special education

Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability, guided by regulations in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

specially designed academic instruction in English (SDAIE)

Another term for sheltered instruction, preferred in California and other states because it places emphasis on the fact that such instruction is academically rigorous but specially designed to match the linguistic needs of the student.

standard error of measurement (SEM)

A statistical measure that indicates a range of trustworthiness of an individual student’s standardized test score. For example, the actual score of student who earned a score of 50 on a test with an SEM of 3 would be between 47 and 53 (e.g., 50 +/– 3).


The process of placing ELLs in a mainstream classroom where they do not receive any English as a second language (ESL), sheltered-content instruction, or primary language support. Also called “sink-or-swim.”

subtractive bilingualism

A situation in which a second language eventually replaces a student’s home language.

summative assessment

Assessments that provide a summary of what students know and can do. Typically given at the end of a unit or at the end of a school year


The study of the rules governing the relationships between words and the ways they are combined to form phrases and sentences.

teaching for transfer

Teaching that recognizes and values the vast store of knowledge students have in their home language and that enables students to effectively draw on this knowledge when learning or learning through their new language.


The administration of tests, singular instruments designed to systematically measure a sample of a student’s ability at one particular time.

text complexity

A combination of qualitative and quantitative measures to determine the level of reading difficulty of a book or other text.

thematic teaching

Teaching a series of content-area lessons across different content areas, focusing on a unifying topic or theme.

thematic word chart

A list of key vocabulary related to a theme currently under study.

total physical response (TPR)

A language teaching approach in which students physically respond to language input (e.g., commands) to internalize the meaning and to demonstrate their comprehension of the language.

transitional bilingual education (TBE)

A program model for ELLs in which home language content-area instruction is provided for the first few years of the program, in addition to sheltered-English content-area instruction and English as a second language (ESL). The amount of native-language instruction decreases as sheltered English immersion increases. Students are transitioned to mainstream classrooms after just a few years in the program.


In its original conceptualization, refers to the practice in which bilinguals receive information in one language and then use or apply it in the other language. In its expanded sense, refers to the natural and normal ways bilinguals use their languages in their everyday lives to make sense of their bilingual worlds. In teaching, refers to pedagogical practices that use bilingualism as a resource rather than ignore it or perceive it as a problem.


The accuracy of a test or assessment in measuring what it purports to measure.

value-added measurement (VAM)

The use of high-stakes test results to calculate student academic growth over time. VAMs are often (mis)used in teacher evaluation systems.

wait time

The period after a question has been posed during which students can think and formulate answers in their head before being required to answer out loud. Particularly important for ELLs who may need extra time to process input and formulate output in their second language.

word study

Short mini-lessons focusing on the morphological or semantic properties of words and related sets of words.

word wall

An enlarged list of words organized alphabetically and displayed on a classroom wall to support students’ vocabulary and literacy development.

Writer’s Workshop

An instructional approach to writing in which students work independently and at their own pace as they move through the five stages of process writing with teacher and peer guidance and support.

zone of proximal development (ZPD)

Refers to a metaphorical space between what an individual can do on his or her own, and what he or she can do with support from a teacher or other more knowledgeable person.