The Wonderful Week of Webinars

They say good things happen in threes; this seems to be the case with webinars focusing on the connection between the CCSS and ELLs. Within the past week there will have been three high-profile webinars on CCSS for ELLs that I am aware of. In case you weren’t able to participate in them, I will give you an overview of two of them and will update this blog after the third webinar takes place. I am very encouraged by this recent focus on webinars related to the CCSS for ELLs.

Webinar 1: English Language Learners and the Common Core State Standards (Archived)

On November 28, first webinar was hosted by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI) English Language Learners research alliance. Titled English Language Learners and the Common Core State Standards, it featured Stanford University’s Kenji Hakuta, who discussed instructional shifts in the CCSS and implications for professional development and policy.

Webinar 2: Common Core State Standards: Literacy and English-Language Learners (Not Archived)

On December 4, Education Week’s Learning the Language blogger Lesli Maxwell moderated a webinar that addressed how teachers across all grade levels and content areas can develop and support literacy and academic language skills of ELLs in their classrooms. The webinar’s presenters Rebecca Blum-Martinez, Lynne Rosen, Gabriela Uro, and Lily Wong Fillmorespoke about different stakeholders collaborating to support ELLs’ success with the CCSS in the Albuquerque, NM school district. Albequerque Public Schools is a member of the Council of Great City Schools, and CGCS has recently unveiled a bilingual website aimed at teachers and parents on implementing the CCSS.

In this webinar, the presenters highlighted the importance of selecting grade-level, complex texts across subjects. Underpinning the webinar was the belief espoused by Gabriela Uro that, along with the instructional shifts of the CCSS, an additional paradigm shift in expectations for ELLs must also occur so that ELLs can achieve the CCSS and work with complex text. Lily Wong Fillmore shared that ELLs tend to acquire English up to an intermediate level, but then they stall. Unfortunately, the kind of English they have at that point doesn’t support their literacy at the academic level.

So, these presenters feel it’s up to educators not to coddle ELLs – on the contrary, educators need to advocate for them by giving them access to rich, complex texts. In order for them to be successful with complex texts, the presenters stress that teachers must provide the supports for ELLs to make sense of these complex texts. Lily Wong Fillmore noted that we need to get ELLs to the top of leveled readers within a year and prepare them to move into grade level text with as much help as they need to comprehend the texts’ meaning.

Juicy Sentences: Grammar is Hip Again

Image: “I’m Silently Correcting your Grammar” T-shirt from

The presenters shared that ELLs rarely get their hands on texts that are sufficiently complex to show them how language works. For ELLs to be able to work with complex texts, they need to know how the language works and should focus on particular phrases and clauses within particular texts. In order teach ELLs how to work with complex texts, teachers of ELLs and students should first unpack all the pieces of information “stuffed” in the text. Then, teachers should get the students to notice what the parts actually say and what they mean.

To analyze parts of a complex text, or what Lily Wong Fillmore refers to as “juicy” sentences, all teachers (not just ESL or bilingual teachers) need to learn some basic grammar. They also need to instruct ELLs on the background and cultural knowledge in which a text was created or being used. Rebecca Blum-Martinez shared that the task of grammatical analysis may be difficult at first for teachers who are not up to speed on grammar, but that this task will become easier for teachers as they become more comfortable with grammatical constructs. According to these presenters, grammar is back in fashion for all teachers.

Webinar 3: Persuasion Across Time and Space (Archived)

Don’t miss Understanding Language’s webinar on Thursday, December 6 from 3-4 p.m. PDT (6-7 p.m. EST). I will update this blog shortly with some highlights from it.



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