The Integrated Classroom

Continuing our conversation about EL students in mainstream classes, let’s take a look at Cynthia Ross’s Mod. Civ class.  Cynthia has all levels of 10th grade EL students in her mainstream classes.  This is an example of Integrated ELD.  In the Integrated ELD classroom mainstream teachers integrate language development, literacy, and content learning. They also provide access for comprehension and participation through native language instruction and scaffolding. Remember that all of our classes are now considered Integrated ELD classes because ELs 1-4 are being mainstreamed.  You may not have any EL students this semester, but chances are you do have LTEL students and you will probably have an EL student in the future. 

When Cynthia plans her lessons, she carefully considers all students and then infuses ELD standards so that her students can interact with language in meaningful ways.  She carefully considers how to have students hear language, see language, practice language, identify language, and engage with language (as discussed in last week’s post!).  Before we look at Cynthia’s class, here is a reminder of what we introduced to the staff in August.  The following comes from the CA ELD Framework.  

“Because content and language are inextricably linked, the three parts of the CA ELD Standards—“Interacting in Meaningful Ways,” “Learning About How English Works,” and “Using Foundational Literacy Skills”—should be interpreted as complementary and interrelated dimensions of what must be addressed in a robust instructional program for English learners.” 

From California English Language Development Standards (Electronic Edition)

In an Integrated classroom, you will be mainly concerned about Parts I and II as you infuse the ELD standards into your lessons.

Part I.  Interacting in Meaningful Ways

  1. Collaborative – Exchanging Information
  2. Interpretive – Listening, Reading, Analyzing
  3. Productive – Presenting or Writing
Part II.  Learning How English Works

  1. Structuring- Understanding Text Structure
  2. Expanding and Enriching  Ideas
  3. Connecting and Condensing Ideas

Cynthia knows that she has students who vary from speaking little to no English to students who are fluent in English and are even concurrently taking honors English courses. Differentiating is key, but she certainly cannot provide every student with a different text or ask EL students to do “watered-down” versions of the work. EL students and all students must have access to the same rigorous and rich curriculum.  

Snapshot of the Lesson

In order to help her students interact with language in meaningful ways, she began her unit on the Great Depression by showing her students photographs from the time.  She also provided a handout that offered scaffolding.  She organized the handout not by the fill-in-the-blank notes of the past, but by categories (in this case countries). The handout allowed a great deal of open space for notes and ideas (You can see the handout in the chart below).  During the discussion she asked students to write in any words, emotions, objects or ideas the photos elicited.  They were then encouraged to find patterns, trends, and similarities in the photos for each country and then among the different countries.  Students were able to quickly see that there were people protesting in both England and France, for example, and make this connection on their handouts. She repeated words like “protest” and defined these terms using synonyms as they talked.  She also pointed to objects in the photo so that the ELs in her room would be able to not only hear, but also see language. After each photo she allowed the students time to share with elbow partners and as a whole class.

On the second day the students completed their photo observations and worked on the essential question which asked them to synthesize information.  The essential question was “What do these pictures tell you about the Great Depression as a global event?” Students were allowed to discuss this question with an elbow partner and worked on adding ideas together before sharing out to the whole group, giving EL students time to respond and talking time with other students.  Synthesis is such an important skill for all of our classes. Also, the SBAC performance task asks students to synthesize information about a topic that could have come from any of our content areas.

Of course, throughout this process Cynthia repeated the instructions and modeled what the students should be doing.  During this lesson she met all points of Part I of the standards outlined above and some of Part II.  The awesome thing about observing Cynthia in action was watching her differentiate.  It was easy to spot pre-planned techniques, on the spot adjustments, and post lessons to address gaps.  Below are examples of how Cynthia met the needs of all her students in the room by infusing the ELD standards.   As you read, consider what you have done or can do in future lessons.  

Prior to the lesson:  
  • Cynthia knows EL students an all students need to have some prior knowledge before jumping into dense text on a topic.
  • Using pictures and guided notes ensures that students are able to later visualize the ideas presented in the text.
  • The guided notes were not fill-in-the-blank questions which really discourage meaningful interaction with language.  
  • Instead her handout allowed students to interact with language, make connections, and practice writing as they enriched their ideas.


During the lesson:
  • EL students need time to think and process what they hear.  They also need to time to formulate ideas into written word.  
  • Cynthia allows her students to write in their home languages to demonstrate understanding, while still reinforcing English by highlighting key words.  Allowing access in a home language is a bit of a shift for many of us, but one that is clearly expected as outlined in the new ELD Roadmap (Scroll to Principle #2).  
  • In addition, her textbook has vocabulary words and definitions in both English and Spanish. Check out her word wall!


During the lesson:
  • The next day students reviewed vocabulary associated with the current unit of study.  Students were not only asked to write in definitions, they were also asked to categorize by topics like: political, economic, social.  This is a wonderful way to have students interact with the word as we move away from merely having students memorize terms.  Students are also gaining knowledge of the academic term “categorize.”


  • She realized that EL students were not sure which word she was referring to as they discussed and quickly made the adjustment to put the words on the ELMO as they discussed and pointed to the words. She also asked them to repeat the word for pronunciation.  
  • The best part of this activity is that the students were asked first to discuss a word with a partner and defend the category chosen.  Students began to see that some words could fit into more than one category.  This is low-stakes speaking opportunity for ELs and all students and gives them time in class to both hear and speak in the language. 
After the lesson:
  • Cynthia noticed that some students didn’t have complete notes and didn’t always pull out the big ideas.  She then adjusted her lessons and planned some time to review.  
  • She chose a few student notes to use as model text.  As she showed the students these notes, she facilitated a quick review session on each category and allowed students to fill knowledge gaps as they discussed.  
Model  Notes
  • The EL students then had an opportunity to engage with language (through reading, writing, and listening) and had anchor texts modeled so that they can see how a strong response should look.
  • Bonus:  They further reviewed all the big ideas/themes they would encounter prior to actually diving into the text.  

Take some time to reflect on the following questions:

  • What am I doing to ensure that all students interact with language in meaningful ways?
  • What am I doing to build in opportunities for students to speak and to listen to others every single day about what we are learning?
  • What am I doing to help students understand the text structures in my class?
  • How am I integrating ELD standards in to my current content standards?  
  • What is one small change I can make today to help more students in my classes succeed?

As always, please contact me if you are interested in one-on-one coaching.  I am here to help as you begin to incorporate ELD standards in your classrooms and continue to work with CCSS standards and new content frameworks.  

Thank you, Cynthia, for sharing your teaching life with us!  


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