Succeeding in a Diverse Classroom

Best Practices & Resources for English Learners

Volume 4, Issue 2-April 2021

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My goal is to be a resource to you with monthly tips that support you and your English learners within an ever-changing, diverse classroom.

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it." ~ Winston Churchill

Melanie Yocom

Education Service Center Region 11| ESSA Team Lead | English Learner Support

English Learners and Gifted and Talented

Do You Have High-Ability English Learners?

Do you have English Learners who show the characteristics of a high-ability student? Are you wondering how an EL is identified for G/T services?

Below you will find resources for identification and supporting G/T English Learners.

The gifts that ELLs bring to school

What Does It Mean to Be Gifted and Talented?

According to the Texas Education Code (TEC), "gifted and talented student" means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment and who:
(1) exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area;
(2) possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or
(3) excels in a specific academic field. (TEC Sec. 29.121)

Characteristics of High-Ability English Learners

Learning: Use of Language
  • Displays limited thoughts in English but may be rich in native language
  • Expresses language nonverbally due to limitations in native language and English
  • May use inventive vocabulary combining both languages
  • Develops new language quickly when given the opportunity
  • Gains language proficiency through a cycle of silence in order to avoid errors in speech
Learning: Critical Thinking
  • Demonstrates strong critical thinking in primary language
  • Performs well on non-verbal measures
  • May display high levels of visual memory or auditory memory skills
  • May reflect complex thoughts through art
Learning: Logic
  • Examines complicated material most often in terms of home and family
  • Uses logic when defending ideas, family, and traditions, or when adjusting to a new culture
Learning: Curiosity and Questioning Attitude
  • Is curious and can learn to be independent, but still values relationships
  • Asks questions to learn and reinforce relationships and fairness
  • May be culturally conditioned NOT to question

Learning: Rate of Acquisition

  • Learns at a faster pace if given the opportunity to learn through comprehensible input (i.e., native language instruction or sheltered English instruction)
  • May require more repetition
  • Transfers learning to the new language easily

Learning: Perspective

  • Takes a group perspective
  • Does not draw attention to self or to self-view
Learning: Preferences
  • Benefits from kinesthetic learning experiences
  • Thinks visually
  • Does not respond to aural input
Motivation: Sensitivity and Maturity
  • Places high importance on the needs of the peer group and/or family
  • Willing to defend the needs of the group
  • Needs to hide academic achievement if it is not valued by the peer group
  • Seeks sincerity, and honesty
  • May be particularly sensitive to racial and/or cultural issues
  • May be perceived as a loner due to cultural, racial, or linguistic isolation combined with isolation due to giftedness and socioeconomic status
Motivation: Interest and Persistence
  • Is interested in things and ideas that are relevant to home and family
  • Is willing to complete tasks and maintain interest to make connections and build relationships

Motivation: Perfectionism

  • May express low self-image if language or culture is not validated
  • Gains language proficiency through a cycle of silence in order to avoid errors in speech

Motivation: Independence

  • Has difficulty in working independently — needs support group
Motivation: Conflict Resolution and Leadership
  • Places high value on self-protection; is unwilling to lie to protect family/peers; avoids conflict unless joins gang
  • Assumes leadership roles according to family needs
  • May be a leader in the community and church, but not in school

Motivation: Goal Setting

  • Focuses on short-term goals, e.g., language acquisition
  • Focuses on long-term goals related to family needs

Creativity: Divergent Thinker

  • Willingly shares unexpected experiences from home or life, either orally or through art
  • Generates new ideas and will mimic, given the opportunity
  • Demonstrates a tendency to the arts (singing and dancing)

Creativity: Sense of Humor

  • Displays humor through the unique use of language and responsiveness

Creativity: Risk Taking

  • Bases degree of risk-taking on the familiarity of the situation and on different cultural experiences; needs to feel secure

Creativity: Conformity and Inhibition

  • Is culturally socialized to conform in groups
  • Wants to be valued by the peer group
  • Usually does not question authority
Affective: Criticism
  • Seeks approval from teacher
  • Is especially sensitive to criticisms from the peer group and family

Excerpted from Equity in Gifted Education: A State Initiative 1

The Varied Faces of Gifted/Talented Students

Click here to view the general differences among groups of learners within the gifted population.

Guide to Identifying G/T English Learners

Click here for a guide to identifying G/T English Learners produced by Iowa Department of Education.

Effective Practices for Identifying & Serving ELs

Click here to read more about current G/T identification practices, gifted EL students, screen assessments, and more.

6 Steps for Leaders: Identifying High-Ability ELs for Gifted and Talented Services

  1. Examine our beliefs and biases about what giftedness looks like.
  2. Investigate how we are using English proficiency as an indicator of giftedness.
  3. Reconsider rewarding behaviors that reflect the cultural values in the United States.
  4. Utilize the LPAC (Language Proficiency Assessment Committee) to monitor high-ability ELs and advocate for Gifted and Talented services and Advanced Academics.
  5. Involve parents in the process, including reviewing the nomination and assessment process with them in their home language and helping them identify potential signs of giftedness in their children.
  6. Use assessments that rely on more than IQ or academic achievement tests and would allow English-learner students to “demonstrate their giftedness in nontraditional or unique ways.”

Mitchell, C. (2020, November 19). Identifying gifted and talented english-learners: Six steps for district leaders. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from

Too Few Els in Gifted and Talented

Click to read why too few ELs are being identified for Gifted and Talented.

Parent Resources for Identifying Key Strengths At Home

Click here to view resources and videos to support your parents with identifying key behaviors of high-ability English Learners.

Computer Screen

Getting Bored with Breakout Rooms in Zoom? Try Kumospace!

Are you tired of using Zoom Breakout rooms? Interested in engaging all of your students in one place where you can move around and interact like you would in a classroom?

Kumospace is a FREE online platform that allows users to move across a virtual room to chat with the teacher, work with a partner, or work in groups. With all of your students in the virtual room, you can talk to everyone at the same time, share your screen, and move around to talk to students individually or in groups.

Instructional Uses:

  • Icebreakers
  • 4 corners
  • Think, Pair, Share
  • Learning stations
  • Partner/Group work

TIP: Introduce the students to the platform, model how to use the features, set expectations, and let students experience Kumospace before using with lesson objectives.

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LB 04.12.21