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Using Communication-Focused Activities in Designated English as a New Language Lessons (New York)

Course topic: 

Important Notice

Course postponed. 


The Course

Course description

English as a New Language (ENL); English Language Development (a.k.a. English as a Second Language (ESL); Designated ESL; Stand-Alone ESL/ENL; or, Focused Language Study) takes a variety of forms in present-day schools. In many schools, teachers teach ENL for a set amount of time (e.g., 30 minutes) a day. Other ENL teachers have multiple classes each day. In many cases, teachers think that they need to focus solely on grammar and vocabulary. However, emphasizing grammar and vocabulary is not the most effective for lasting and engaging language learning. Language was created to get things done, to communicate – and this is where this MOOC starts. It focuses on how to design and teach activities that are saturated with communication, and where needed, strategically develop grammar and vocabulary to support communication.

This course is in response to the call made by the New York State Education Department's Blueprint for English Language Learner (ELL) Success, which views all teachers as teachers of ELLs and asks educators to work across content areas to support ELLs to meet the demands of the Common Core Learning Standards.

Each session presents the focal area to work on for the following month (e.g., listening and watching, reading and viewing, writing/multimedia output, speaking, writing, and conversation), along with model activities and lessons that emphasize the focus, analyses of the models and non-models, lessons to be strengthened by participants, and a sample "expert" modifications of lessons. Whenever possible, we include samples of activities from two levels: Entering and Transitioning.

Course organization

Session 1 – Course Overview & Communication-Focused Listening & Watching 
Session 2 – Communication-Focused Reading & Viewing 
Session 3 – Communication-Focused Speaking 
Session 4 – Communication-Focused Writing 
Session 5 – Communication-Focused Conversations

More Information

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much does the course cost?

The course is offered free of charge.

2. Are any materials or textbooks needed for this course?

You will be asked to complete readings as part of the course, but all required readings will be available for free via the course website. Several of the optional readings will also be free to participants and available online. To access additional optional readings online, participants may need to pay a small fee for copyright royalties to authors and publishers. Details about how to access these optional readings will be available via the course website.

3. How do I show my school that I completed this course?

Every participant who completes the course requirements will receive a free statement of accomplishment signed by the instructors. As to whether this free statement of accomplishment may be used for professional development units in your specific context, you would need to check with your employer. Specific requirements for receiving a statement of accomplishment will be available when the course begins.

4. Do I have to be a teacher to take this course? Who else might be participating in this course?

You do not have to be a teacher to take this course. The course may also be valuable to ELL coaches, teacher educators, and site and district administrators, among others. In order to fully participate in the course, however, you do need to have access to a classroom in which you can obtain student language samples and implement lessons (or collaborate with classroom teachers to obtain student language samples and implement lessons). This is because several of the course assignments require submitting language samples - either samples of student writing or brief transcriptions of students' oral language - and reflecting on lessons.

5. Are there any tests or assignments?

The course will be organized into five sessions. Within each session, you will have one assignment to complete. In general, the course follows a cycle of inquiry approach in which you gather data about student language (specifically, samples of language students used when constructing a claim supported by evidence) implement a lesson based on your insights about student language, reflect on that lesson, and repeat the cycle again. In addition, you will provide feedback to your peers about their work.

6. Is the course self-paced? Can I work ahead?

Some aspects of the course, such as readings and lecture videos, you can complete at your own pace. Within each of the five course sessions you can largely work at your own pace, but you cannot work ahead on future sessions. Because several assignments center around providing feedback to peers and collaboratively creating a lesson plan with your team, you will need to coordinate some aspects of your work with your teammates.

7. How long should I plan on spending in the course and on coursework each week?

The course will be organized into five sessions, each spanning approximately three weeks. We anticipate that each session will take approximately 7-8 hours to complete, spread out over the approximately three week time span.

The Instructors

Jeff Zwiers

Senior Researcher in the Stanford Graduate School of Education

Jeff Zwiers is a senior researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and director of professional development for the Understanding Language Initiative, a research and professional learning project focused on improving the education of academic English learners. He has consulted for national and international teacher development projects and has published articles and books on literacy, cognition, discourse, and academic language. His current research focuses on improving professional learning models and developing classroom instruction that fosters high-quality oral language and constructive conversations across disciplines.

Elsa Billings

Consultant at Understanding Language Initiative, Stanford Univeristy

Elsa Billings is a consultant for the Understanding Language Initiative.Elsa holds a Ph.D. and two M.A.'s from Stanford University.Her work as an educator and researcher seeks to address one of the nation's most pressing issues; informing and improving educational access and opportunities for linguistically and culturally diverse students.Elsa has extensive experience and expertise in teaching, curriculum development, professional development of teachers and coaches, and working with schools to improve instructional practices for English language learners (ELLs).Elsa has published numerous book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals. Her corpus of work includes investigations of the pedagogical practices in serving ELLs in the classroom, and the ways that technological innovations can support teaching and learning. Elsa's current research agenda seeks to extend this work by more closely examining the professional development (PD) provided teachers around the new Common Core…More »

Sara Rutherford-Quach

Lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Education

Sara Rutherford-Quach is the Director of Academic Programs & Research for Understanding Language and a Lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. A former bilingual elementary teacher, Sara has more than 13 years of experience working with linguistically diverse students and their teachers and has conducted extensive research on instructional practices for English learners. Sara was previously awarded a National Academy of Education Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for her work on the role of silence and speech in an elementary classroom serving language-minority students. Her areas of interest include classroom discourse and interaction analysis; language, culture, and instruction in multilingual and multicultural educational environments; institutional, policy and curricular change; and educational equity.

Steven Weiss

Project Manager, Stanford ELL Leadership Network

Steven Weiss is a Senior Research Associate at Stanford's Understanding Language/SCALE and the Project Manager for the Stanford ELL Leadership Network, a collaboration between seven small to medium sized school districts in Northern California focused on developing leadership capacity around English Language Learners. Prior to joining Understanding Language, he worked at the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) program at WestEd, where he was a professional developer and instructional coach for secondary teachers and administrators in urban school districts such as New York City, Austin, San Diego and San Jose. He has also worked as a K-8 school administrator, a bilingual/ESL resource teacher, and a high school Spanish/History/ESL teacher. Steven is bilingual in Spanish. He holds an M.Ed. from U.C.L.A., an M.A. in Educational Administration from San Francisco State University, and an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College.


Using Communication

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