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This post is written by literacy consultant Patty McGee.

Today I visited Pam Koutrakos, third grade teacher. She was beaming as she spoke about one of her students. “Would you believe she just began speaking English last year? What’s more, English is her third language! Her growth has been incredible.”

Don’t we all wish to see this growth in our English language learners? We want to be in awe of their growth in both language and literacy learning. It can be hard to imagine this kind of outcome when students first arrive with little or no English, speaking a language we don’t know ourselves. We so badly want to communicate that the future is bright.

Though we know there will be incredible growth, the journey of learning a new language can be very challenging and we, of course, want to do all we can to support each student along the way. Let’s take some time, then, to focus on some strategies we can use for reading workshop specifically. Lindsey Moses’s book Supporting English Learners in the Reading Workshop is my favorite resource and where I learned the strategies below.

As a refresher, let’s start with some information on the different stages of language acquisition. When we can approximate where a student falls within these stages, we can then tailor our reading instruction to fit that learner.

Once you have determined the stage of language acquisition, you can design different learning experiences to suit that stage. Below are some suggestions:

Stage 1: Pre-Production/Silent Period

Stage 2: Early Production

Stage 3: Speech Emergence

Stage 4: Intermediate Fluency

Stage 5: Advanced Fluency

Using these resources from Lindsey Moses is a strong place to continue the work of supporting English Language Learners in Reading Workshop. To do so, simply approximate the stage of language acquisition and then use the corresponding teacher/student roles to design learning opportunities to fit the learning goals of the unit.

Here is an example:

If the goal for a Reading Workshop unit of study is: Readers identify the central idea of an informational text and compare that with the central ideas of other texts, then here are some ways to support English language learners at the different stages of acquisition.

With this kind of tailored support, students will grow as languageand literacy learners.


Moses, L. (2015). Supporting English learners in the reading workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Patty serves as a literacy consultant for Gravity Goldberg, LLC. Find her on Twitter @pmgmcgee or at

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