Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version

January 2005


Published by THE EDUCATION ALLIANCE at Brown University.Copyright ©2005 Brown University. Used by permission.


Today, English language learners (ELLs) represent an increasing proportion of U.S. middle and high school enrollment. As a result, mainstream content-area teachers are more likely than ever to have ELLs in their classrooms. At the same time, education policymakers and researchers are increasingly calling for improved academic literacy development and performance for all adolescents. The research on recommended practices to promote mainstream adolescents’ academic literacy development across the content areas and the research on effective content-area instruction of ELLs in middle and high schools overlap substantially, suggesting that mainstream teachers who use effective practices for adolescents’ content-area literacy development will be using many of the practices that are recommended for those trained to work with ELLs. Such practices appear to support the literacy development and content-area learning of both ELLs and other adolescents. Eight instructional practices are supported by both literatures: (1) teacher modeling, strategy instruction, and using multiple forms of assessment; (2) emphasis on reading and writing; (3) emphasis on speaking and listening/viewing; (4) emphasis on thinking; (5) creating a learner-centered classroom; (6) recognizing and analyzing content-area discourse features; (7) understanding text structures within the content areas; and (8) vocabulary development. These practices should be part of the design of pre-service and in-service teacher professional development, thus enabling mainstream content teachers to be more responsive to the needs of all of their students.