ESL Newsletter

English as a Second Language

September 22, 2021

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  • Alma Flor Ada
  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Meet the ESL Program Team Members
  • Ellevation Strategies
  • Can-Do Descriptors
  • Creating a Language Objective
  • Motivating English Language Learners
  • EL Goal Report
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Importance of Reading for English Learners and All Learners

"Students need to hear the sounds of words and glean their meaning through attentive listening; they need to read and be read to extensively; they need to play with words, their multiple meanings, their sounds, and the rhythm that can be created with them; and they need the opportunity to develop their own voice in spoken and written form."

Alma Flor Ada (2003)

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National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the USA from September 15 until October 15. This celebration is to honor the contributions of many people of Hispanic descent to the United States of America. Embrace the culture and make it be alive at your schools.

Meet the ESL Program Team Members 2021-2022

From top to bottom and left to right:

  • Mrs. Henrietta Vázquez, ESL Program Coordinator
  • Mr. César Orozco Garavito, ESL Teacher
  • Mrs. Stacy Splees, ESL Teacher
  • Mrs. Luz Brown, ESL Teacher
  • Mr. Jackson Owen, ESL Teacher
  • Ms. Natalie Protz, ESL Teacher
  • Mrs. Ivelisse Rosario de Marín, ESL Program Instructional Facilitator
  • Dr. Pauletta Thompson, (not pictured)

We are here to serve our students, teachers and administrators in any way possible for English learners to become successful learners. Let us know how we may assist you!

ESL Crew

We'll be there for you!

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Access to the Ellevation Strategies and Activities

  • Email: (your work email address)
  • Password: (the password you chose)
  • Once you are in the "Dashboard", go to "Instruction".
  • Choose from the "Collections" offered in this section.

You must have an active Ellevation account with the district. If you cannot access your account, contact Ivelisse using the information provided at the bottom of this newsletter.

Ellevation Strategies

Building Background

Building background knowledge is a vital component to teaching all lessons. Learning takes place when instruction bridges what students know and are already capable of with what they need to know for new learning. Finding a link to students’ prior learning and experience is called Activating Background. Accordingly, providing additional information related to new learning is called Building Background. Often, English language learners need more activating of background knowledge and building of background knowledge compared with their native English-speaking peers. In addition to the English language being new for them, many ELLs have background experiences that differ from what is considered mainstream in the United States. As an educator, it is important to never take for granted that a student has experienced or learned something. Even if a student does have certain knowledge or experience, he/she may not know the related English language. By taking purposeful time to both activate and build background knowledge, the teacher provides powerful pathways to new learning.

More Reading:

Short, D. & Echevarria, J. (2016). Developing Academic Language Using the SIOP Model. New York: Pearson.;

Krashen, K.(2003). Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Reflective Questions

  • Am I considering non-traditional experiences as well as mainstream experiences when I discuss and teach something in class?
  • What experiences do my students have that could link to this content?
  • Which of my students may not have learned this before?
  • What words or terms in English might need pre-teaching and/or multiple examples?

Common Mistakes

  • Assumptions that all students know or have done something.
  • Using complex language during the background-building lesson.
  • Failing to provide clear explanations for students about new learning.

Criteria for Success

Effective background activating and building:

  • allows students to access relevant information that comes before the new learning.
  • involves more than one language domain (multi-modal).
  • provides visual or hands-on experiences for students.
  • explicitly links language to concepts.
  • employs activities that are not arduous or overly lengthy.
  • provides a clear link from prior learning or experiences to new learning.


Ellevation offers several activities to assist students with building background knowledge. They are:


WIDA Can-Do Descriptors

"The Can Do Descriptors highlight what language learners can do at various stages of language development.

Similar to the WIDA English Language Development Standards Statements, the Can Do Descriptors describe what learners can do with language across different content areas. Although the Can Do Descriptors relate to the ELD Standards Statements, they don’t replace them but supplement them during instruction.

Educators and early childhood practitioners can use the Can Do Descriptors to

  • Better understand what students at different levels of language proficiency can do with language
  • Expand their understanding of what the process of language development can look like
  • Collaborate about scaffolding students need to engage in content-area learning and develop language at the same time
  • Differentiate instruction and classroom assessment for language
  • Interpret ACCESS for ELLs test scores"


Creating a Language Objective

"What are language objectives?

Language objectives are lesson objectives that specifically outline the type of language that students will need to learn and use in order to accomplish the goals of the lesson. Quality language objectives complement the content knowledge and skills identified in content area standards and address the aspects of academic language that will be developed or reinforced during the teaching of grade-level content concepts (Echevarría & Short, 2010).

These objectives involve the four language skills (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), but they can also include:

  • the language functions related to the topic of the lesson (e.g., justify, hypothesize)
  • vocabulary essential to a student being able to fully participate in the lesson (e.g., axis, locate, graph)
  • language learning strategies to aid in comprehension (e.g, questioning, making predictions).

Implementing language objectives can be a powerful first step in ensuring that English learners have equal access to the curriculum even though they may not be fully proficient in the language. This is because the second language acquisition process requires opportunities for the language learner to be exposed to, practice with, and then be assessed on their language skills (Echevarría, Short, & Vogt, 2008).

To this end, language objectives:

  • articulate for learners the academic language functions and skills that they need to master to fully participate in the lesson and meet the grade-level content standards (Echevarría, Short, & Vogt, 2008).

  • are beneficial not only for language learners but for all students in a class, as everyone can benefit from the clarity that comes with a teacher outlining the requisite academic language to be learned and mastered in each lesson."

Resource from

Visual Graphic Organizer to Create a Language Objective

This visual will assist educators to develop a language objective for the class. This will provide a structured process of the part of language expected to be learned during any lesson.

Resource provided by Mrs. Henrietta Vázquez, ESL Program Coordinator

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Language Objective Steps

1. Identify the task

2. Choose the domain (SLRW) and the action verb

3. Link to academic content

4. Include scaffolds

Sentence frame:

I can _____ (action verb) ________ (content/topic) by _________.

EX: I can identify how the main character develops by reading in chunks and then drawing a visual after I read.

Motivating English Language Learners

There are two vital non-negotiables to motivating ELLs:

  • lowering the affective filter
  • accessing prior knowledge


  • The affective filter is an (emotional) barrier to receiving comprehensible input. Comprehensible input is a message that a student understands in a target language, whether visual, oral, or written (or a combination thereof). Students who are nervous or frightened or uncomfortable won't be able to hear or read those messages in a way they understand. When teachers ensure students feel comfortable and not stressed, they create environments that help lower English language learners' affective filters. When students have low affective filters and hear or read and understand messages in English, those messages result in language acquisition.


  • This occurs when teachers take time to find out how the students' personal lives or personal experiences relate to the lesson topic. As teachers, we help build this bridge for our students. One way we can do this is by asking a key question about how ELLs' prior experiences have effected their perception of the lesson topic.

  • It is important to deliberate about accessing prior knowledge everyday, because as teachers, we often don't know what experiences or ideas students possess until we ask. We should never assume that we know what their experiences are based on their country of origin, or their native language.


Escalante, L.B., (2018). Motivating ELLs: 27 activities to inspire & engage students. Seidlitz

Education, Irving, TX. pp. 18-19.

EL Goal Report

The school administrators will receive the NCDPI EL Goal Report for their school to analyze data. This report indicates the students that would need to exit the ESL Program this school year 2021-2022. This number of students of English learners (ELs) that must exit ESL is tied to the School Report Card at the end of the school year.

Ivelisse is distributing this report in person to discuss it with administrators and to be shared with educators during PLCs to determine the approach needed to assist those students that need to exit their EL status. It takes everyone's effort to direct students towards meeting their goals and to have a successful school year.

The exit criteria for North Carolina on the WIDA ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment is 4.8 as a composite proficiency level (CPL).


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"English language learners are trying to figure out many facets of their lives all at once, and the classroom dynamics can seem overwhelming." (p. 14)

Escalante, L.B., (2018). Motivating ELLs: 27 activities to inspire & engage students. Seidlitz

Education, Irving, TX. p. 14.

Contact Information

Ivelisse Rosario de Marín

ESL Program Instructional Facilitator

Granville County Public Schools