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Adaptive Instruction for Teacher Education: Inclusive Approaches, Resources and Technology
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Differentiating for ELL or ESL students

(English Language Learners or English as a Second Language)

and others who may not be exceptional  

All Learners in Academically Diverse Classrooms 

  • Help students understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses;
  • Celebrate and understand student learning differences;
  • Help students learn the power of controlling what they can in their lives;
  • Help them understand our shared needs for success, to belong, to trust, the future, etc.;
  • Help them see that each person is irreplaceable – uniqueness is a plus;
  • Help students learn to set their own goals and chart their progress;
  • Teach in varied readiness levels, interest and ways of learning.

For Culturally Diverse Learners 

  • Help build peer-support systems;
  • Be sure you offer varied working arrangements and modes of expression;
  • Invest time in the student in ways that communicate your belief in his/her success;
  • Help the student develop “school skills” that may be weak;
  • Teach from whole to part;
  • Be clear about expectations and that students both understand and know how to achieve them.  Don’t let work slide;
  • Emphasize contextualized learning.

For Second Language Learners

  • Link classroom & ESL resource work;
  • Ensure that the student has useful tasks at all times and  is accountable for them (listening/reading with tapes, writing, translating, vocabulary practice);
  • Don’t let the student sit idle and isolated;
  • Use students who can bridge the two languages;
  • Plan specific ways each day to involve the student in conversation & contribution;
  • Chart growth vs. only comparison;
  • Small groups for teaching next-step skills.

Persistent Underachievement

  • Help the student accept control over his/her decisions and life;
  • Be clear and specific about tasks and requirements;
  • Use appropriate consequences for work done/not done;
  • Break tasks into small segments;
  • Check in with the student often;
  • Be firm but warm;
  • Don’t tell him/her you know he/she can do the work;
  • Coordinate approaches with a counselor and parents when possible.

Characteristics Of Classes That Engage Students

  • Each student has learning experiences at intermediate difficulty for that student;
  • Expectations for the student are high but achievable for that student;
  • Students make decisions about their own learning that lead them to be autonomous learners;
  • Students believe their teachers care about them;
  • Students’ perspectives are valued and validated;
  • There is both a sense of community and individuality;
  • Instruction is tied to student interests (and is culturally relevant);
  • The environment is safe;
  • Engaged students are motivated to learn.  They make a psychological investment in learning.  They learn because learning is satisfying rather than for  “approval;"
  • They persist even when learning is difficult.  And will have a teacher there to ensure understanding and success.


From Nanci Smith, Educational Consultant, Curriculum and Professional, Development, Cave Creek, AZ (PowerPoint Presentation)