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Amplifying the Curriculum: Designing Quality Learning Opportunities for English Learners

By: Aída Walqui, and George C. Bunch (Editors)


Amplifying the Curriculum presents an ambitious model for how educators can design high-quality, challenging, and supportive learning opportunities for English Learners and other students identified to be in need of language and literacy support.


Starting with the premise that conceptual, analytic, and language practices develop simultaneously as students engage in disciplinary learning, the authors in this edited volume argue for instruction that amplifies—rather than simplifies—expectations, concepts, texts, and learning tasks. The authors offer clear guidance for designing lessons and units and provide examples that demonstrate the approach in various subject areas, including math, science, English, and social studies.

This practical resource will guide teachers through the coherent design of tasks, lessons, and units of study that invite English Learners (and all students) to engage in productive, meaningful, and intellectually engaging activity.

Edited by WestEd’s Aida Walqui and George Bunch, this book features:

  • A unique model for teaching English Learners and ALL students that highlights the centrality of interactions in the development of student academic autonomy

  • Discipline-specific examples to guide teachers in creating learning tasks, lessons, and units of study

  • A discussion of how teachers might begin designing such learning opportunities, along with suggestions for how school leaders and teacher preparation can support them

  • Grounded in sociocultural and ecological theories of language, language learning, and the development of disciplinary practices

English Language Learners and the New Standards: Developing Language, Content Knowledge, and Analytical Practices in the Classroom

By: Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, and Robert Linquanti


WestEd authors Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, and Robert Linquanti explain the theories and research that underlie their vision and examine the role of policy in shaping pedagogy and assessment for English language learners (ELLs).

They present a clear vision and practical suggestions for helping teachers engage ELLs in simultaneously learning subject-area content, analytical practices, and language.

This book:

  • Clarifies the skills and knowledge teachers need to integrate content knowledge and language development

  • Shows how teachers can integrate formative assessment in ongoing teaching and learning

  • Discusses key leverage points and stress points in using interim and summative assessments with ELLs

  • Provides classroom vignettes illustrating key practices

Scaffolding the Academic Success of Adolescent English Language Learners: A Pedagogy of Promise

By: Aída Walqui and Leo van Lier


Too often, the needs of English language learners are met with simplified curricula and lowered expectations. What would happen if instead classrooms were organized to honor the promise of these students by increasing rather than decreasing the intellectual challenge of instruction? This book is the result of a decade-long effort in school districts such as New York City, Austin, and San Diego to implement challenging instruction that is designed for classrooms that include English learners and that raises the bar and increases engagement for all learners.

Access and Engagement: Program Design and Instructional Approaches for Immigrant Students in Secondary Schools

By: Aída Walqui

Many immigrant students in secondary school have problems succeeding because of the structures of the schools themselves. This book profiles six students to help illuminate the needs of immigrant students. It details the structural obstacles that inhibit students’ success, and it describes ten priorities for designing effective teaching and learning contexts for immigrant students. The author describes four promising programs in detail and makes recommendations in the areas of future program development and research.

Amplifying Book Cover Image


Supporting English Learners During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Martha Castellón Palacios


Short brief for parents and families of English Learners in grades K-12 on the topic of supporting their children and teens as they embark upon a new school year.

Supporting English Learners During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Apoyo para Aprendices de Inglés Durante y Después de la Pandemia COVID-19
Designing Mathematical Interactions for English Learners*

By Haiwen Chu and Leslie Hamburger


Haiwen Chu and Leslie Hamburger have contributed an article focused on English Learners to the 2019 Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School "Making Math Social" focus issue. Designing Mathematical Interactions for English Learners* offers practical designs for engaging invitations for English Learners to interact with their peers.

The article unpacks three key ideas about designing interactive activities for English Learners:

  • How the flow of information in a task can enhance opportunities to participate in quality interactions,

  • How structure–or the steps–of a task facilitates deep exploration of ideas and practices,

  • How the underlying mathematical goal is related to how students will interact.

* Article available to members of NCTM who subscribe to Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.

Meaningful Classroom Talk: Supporting English Learners’ Oral Language Development

By Aída Walqui and  Margaret Heritage


Defining meaningful classroom talk and supporting English Learner’s oral language development begins with educator awareness of two key ideas:

  • How to ensure that all English Learners have the opportunities to productively use oral language in academic settings

  • How teachers leverage the power of classroom interactions to simultaneously foster language development, content knowledge and analytic practices


This article explores these two interrelated themes and provides guidelines supported by both research and classroom practices for educators to rethink and reinvent quality learning opportunities for English Learners.

Quality Education for ELLs/ MLLs: Why We Need It and How We Can Achieve It

By  Aída Walqui


Defining quality education for English language learners and multilingual learners in the United States begins with educator awareness of three key ideas:

  • The role and purpose of education in a democracy

  • The need to change the current state of education for English language learners (ELLs) and multilingual learners (MLLs) to allow their full participation in our evolving society

  • The importance of using solid theory to drive transformation in the education of ELLs and MLLs


This brief, written by Aída Walqui of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, explores these three interrelated themes and provides a rationale for educators to rethink and reinvent quality education for English language learners and multilingual learners.

The brief also serves as an introduction to a series of New York State Education Department-published briefs that explore the dimensions of what quality education for English language learners and multilingual learners looks like when informed by the ideas described by Walqui.

Quality Student Interactions: Why Are They Crucial to Language Learning and How Can We Support Them?

By Elsa BillingsPeggy Mueller


Embedded within today’s college- and career-readiness standards are increased demands that students gain deeper understandings of content, engage in analytic and complex thinking about that content, and engage in dialogue that is appropriate to the discipline.

These three arenas of development — conceptual, analytical, and linguistic — grow simultaneously through participation in social interaction. Thus, it is essential that all students, especially English language learners (ELLs) and multilingual learners (MLLs), are provided instructional activities that engage them in quality interactions that support their conceptual, analytic, and linguistic development, and promote their ability to apply these skills and practices on their own.

Written by Elsa Billings and Peggy Mueller of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, this brief answers the following questions:

  • Why is social interaction essential in learning language and the disciplines?

  • What constitutes “quality student interaction” and how do we make that happen?

  • How do educators go beyond the expert-novice student interaction?

  • How can educators create spaces for quality student interactions in the classroom?

De-Mystifying Complex Texts: What are "Complex" Texts and How Can We Ensure ELLs/MLLs Can Access Them?

By  Elsa BillingsAída Walqui


Because the idea of complex text permeates all the disciplines and levels of schooling, concern about its implications for teaching goes far beyond the high school English teacher.

These concerns become particularly heightened when considering English language learners (ELLs) and multilingual learners (MLLs), the students who are simultaneously asked to read and comprehend complex texts in a language they are still learning.

This brief, written by Elsa Billings and Aída Walqui of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, explores:

  • What qualifies as a complex text

  • The challenges of a narrow focus on quantitative dimensions of complexity

  • The particular difficulties of texts for ELLs and MLLs

  • How to make complex text more accessible to ELLs/MLLs

The Zone of Proximal Development: An Affirmative Perspective in Teaching ELLs/MLLs

By  Elsa BillingsAída Walqui


The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) was a key construct in Lev Vygotsky’s theory of learning and development.

The ZPD is defined as the space between what a learner can do without assistance and what a learner can do with adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.

In the case of English language learners (ELLs)/Multilingual learners (MLLs), the immense potential that they bring to our classrooms is comprised of their intellectual, linguistic, and creative strengths that are waiting to be built upon. Educators must provide students appropriate learning experiences and support to help them realize their potential development. The goal of instruction is to foster our ELLs’/MLLs’ autonomy and their ability to engage in activities that enable them to apply and modify what they have learned to new situations.

In this brief, WestEd’s Elsa Billings and Aída Walqui explore:

  • A student’s potential academic development

  • Learning as a social process

  • Scaffolding learning

  • Expanded understandings of the ZPD

  • The expanded ZPD and language learning

  • ZPD as a future-oriented approach

Dispelling the Myth of "English Only": Understanding the Importance of the First Language in Second Language Learning

By Elsa BillingsAída Walqui

Contrary to the myth that “English only” is the one and only path to successful English acquisition, research on language learning shows that it is beneficial for a student to continue using their first language.

This brief, written by Elsa Billings and best-selling author Aída Walqui, both of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, offers background on the importance of fostering continued use of the first language while simultaneously learning a second language.

The brief also provides instructional strategies that will help students strategically use their first language to access texts and participate in activities while they are simultaneously learning English. In so doing, teachers can build into their lessons powerful opportunities for students to simultaneously develop conceptual knowledge and skills in a discipline while they are expanding sophisticated understandings of both their first language and English.

Professional Learning Community Facilitators’ Guide to Discussion of “English Language Learners and the New Standards: Developing Language, Content Knowledge, and Analytical Practices in the Classroom”

By Margaret Heritage, Aída Walqui, Robert Linquanti, Haiwen Chu, Elsa Billings, Leslie Hamburger


The book, English Language Learners and the New Standards, provides a clear, timely, and practical path for helping teachers engage English language learner (ELL) students in simultaneously learning subject-area content, analytical practices, and language.


This mathematics-focused facilitators’ guide is designed to help professional learning communities (PLCs) of teachers, administrators, and/or school district staff discuss the book and develop goals and steps toward improving mathematics learning for all students.


For each book chapter, the guide offers a set of engaging activities, conversations, and structured planning time for groups to get the most out of reading English Language Learners and the New Standards together.


Topics covered in both the book and facilitators’ guide include:

  • Pedagogical shifts that support ambitious learning for ELLs

  • Language acquisition in the mathematics classroom

  • The role of formative assessment

  • The role of summative assessment

  • The role of policy


Originally developed for use in the Math in Common network of 10 California school districts, this guide is now available for free to any group interested in English learners and math performance.

Changes in the Expertise of ESL Professionals: Knowledge and Action in an Era of New Standards

By Guadalupe Valdés, Amanda Kibler, Aída Walqui

Date: 2014

Publisher: TESOL International Association

View Online

Common Core and Next Generation standards present new challenges and possibilities for English as a-second language (ESL) professionals. In addition, the implementation of the standards raise critical questions about long-established ideas about the teaching and learning of English as a second language.

This paper, cowritten by Aida Walqui of WestEd’s Quality Teaching for English Learners, explores the shifting landscape surrounding the new standards and its implications for building and enacting teacher expertise.

The paper is intended to inform ESL professionals, including teachers, teacher-leaders, school principals, district administrators, and other K–12 educators who work primarily or exclusively with students labeled as English language learners (ELLs).

The authors:

  • Discuss, and provide a brief introduction to, the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards

  • Discuss the English language proficiency standards; that is, the standards that establish the goals of ESL instruction in each state as well as the assessment of expected proficiencies

  • Address two key challenges facing ESL professionals in the new standards era: the language practices required by the standards themselves and the issue of how ELLs can best be included in standards-aligned instruction

  • Suggest key ways in which ESL professionals can translate knowledge of changing theories about language and language acquisition into expertise and action in supporting ELLs’ needs in the new standards era

Language and the Common Core State Standards

By Leo Van Lier and Aída Walqui

Date: 2012

Publisher: Stanford University

Full Article


This paper addresses the place and role of a focus on language in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The language and subject standards are open to being interpreted in a rather narrow, accuracy-based way, or in a broad, all-encompassing way that encourages the development of cognitive, linguistic, and affective strengths in ELs, thus enabling their academic success through connecting language, subject matter knowledge, and the physical, social and symbolic worlds of the learners. The Common Core Standards provide us with an opportunity to reconceptualize our pedagogical view of language and the ways in which it can be taught. Given that learning progressions in language and subject matter content have not been empirically tested, it would make sense to explore progressions based on language as action in the education of English Language Learners.  It is essential that we do not miss this opportunity to integrate language, cognition, and action deeply and coherently.

What are we doing to middle school English learners: Findings and recommendations for change from a study of California EL programs

By Aída Walqui, Nanette Koelsch, and Leslie Hamburger, et al.

Date: 2010

Publisher: WestEd

Within the next decade, one in every four students in U.S. classrooms will be an English learner (EL). Furthermore, secondary students make up the fastest growing sector of the EL population. In middle school (and above), students who are English learners run out of time quickly. What are schools doing during the crucial middle school years to promote English learners’ accelerated access to academic language and grade-level, standards-based instruction? How will these students catch up and be able to compete in high school, in college, and on the job market? This study concludes that based on findings in California, where 30 percent of the nation’s English learner students are educated, middle school EL programs are failing students and limiting their futures in profound ways.

Selected States’ Responses to Supporting High School English Language Learners

By: Nanette Koelsch

Date: 2009

Publisher: National High School Center

Full report


How have states responded to the English language learner accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act at the high school level? This policy brief, prepared by WestEd for the National High School Center, provides a snapshot of achievement and educational outcomes of secondary English language learners, and several states’ efforts to improve the assessment and reporting of these outcomes, including their state-level accountability systems and policies.

Improving Literacy Outcomes for English Language Learners in High School: Considerations for States and Districts in Developing a Coherent Policy Framework

By: Nanette Koelsch

Date: 2006

Publisher: National High School Center

Full report

This research brief, published by the National High School Center, outlines existing barriers regarding teacher expectations, tracking, and placement of English language learners. The author concludes that states and districts need to change their approach for working with English learners from one of remediation to academic acceleration and enrichment. This research brief offers key policies and useful strategies for building capacity and creating learning environments conducive for the academic success of all students.

The Selection of Written Text for English Learners

By: Aída Walqui, Anthony J. DeFazio, Tomás Galguera

This article focuses on how understanding text adaptation leads to more appropriate text selection for English learners. Understanding what makes a text comprehensible is a necessary part of deciding which texts to choose for second language learners. More specifically, this article looks at three key points: (1) What makes text comprehensible for English language learners? (2) How can these principles inform text selection for English learners? (3) How can required essential texts be made more accessible to English learners?

AW-MH Meaningful Classroom Talk _ Americ
The Selection of Written Text for English Learners
COVID-19, Supporting ELs
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