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Reading to Learn: ELLs in Grades 4-6

Featuring Dr. Nonie Lesaux, addressing the challenges facing English language learners — and their teachers — in grades 4-6.

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This webcast was made possible by AFT Teachers, a division of the American Federation of Teachers, as part of a Colorín Colorado partnership between AFT and Reading Rockets.

Click below for the following:

Program description

Many students encounter difficulty as they transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" in fourth grade, and this difficulty can be even more pronounced for English language learners. Why do so many students experience what is often referred to as the "fourth grade slump"? What can teachers do to make the transition into the upper elementary grades less difficult, especially for their ELLs? This webcast explores effective strategies for instruction and assessment that can help teachers address these important questions.


Nonie Lesaux

Nonie K. Lesaux is Assistant Professor, Human Development and Psychology, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses primarily on the reading development and difficulties of children from language minority backgrounds. Lesaux is currently Principal Investigator (NICHD funded) of a study that focuses on the development of reading comprehension skills for Spanish-speakers developing literacy skills in English. Lesaux was Senior Research Associate for the National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Youth, a panel that conducted a comprehensive, evidence-based review of the research on the development of literacy among language minority learners, and is a contributing author to three chapters in that report.


Delia Pompa is the moderator of this webcast. She is the Vice President of the Center for Community Educational Excellence, at the National Council of La Raza.

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Discussion questions

  1. What do we mean when we say that good comprehension instruction takes place before, during, and after reading?
  2. What are some examples of the academic language that students need to know in your subject area/grade level?
  3. Describe some effective strategies that you have used to help your ELL students learn vocabulary.
  4. Create a graphic organizer that could be used in your class, and explain why it would be effective with ELL students.
  5. As you begin a new lesson or unit in your class, what method(s) might you use to preview difficult vocabulary or concepts with your ELLs?

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