CommonLit CommonLit 360 CommonLit 360 Supports English Language Learners and Boosts Proficiency Rates

Easy-to-access tools and lesson scaffolding help students find literacy success 

The National Education Association predicts that by 2025, one in four U.S. students will be English Language Learners (ELL). 

At Lakewood Middle School in Lakewood, NJ, that one in four statistic is already a reality as 25% of their students are identified as ELLs. Recently the school has seen an increase in end-of-year test scores for their entire student body, including their ELLs. One factor that is aiding in the growth of proficiency at Lakewood is their adoption of CommonLit 360, a full-year ELA curriculum. Kevin Walters, Supervisor of ELA, Music, and Fine Arts for Grades 3-12 in Lakewood, has seen the difference and says, “Students are definitely more engaged in the discussion. They’re much livelier. And the students are definitely more invested and interested in what they're reading.” 

Alicia Intromasso, 7th grade ELA teacher and Special Education Coordinator at Lakewood MS, agrees and says, “Students are not just sitting there and listening or reading a text. They're talking about it. They're interacting. They know they're going to write about it...It doesn't get boring because they're always moving and grooving.”

In addition to providing engaging instruction, CommonLit 360 is designed to be scaffolded for all learners, and its tech platform includes several tools that are particularly helpful for ELLs. 

CommonLit 360 and the WIDA Standards Framework

When looking specifically at the needs of English Language Learners, the WIDA English Language Development (ELD) Standards Framework provides four Big Ideas to keep in mind:

  • Equity of Opportunity and Access
  • Integration of Content and Language
  • Collaboration among Stakeholders
  • Functional Approach to Language Development.  

In this article, we’ll explore how CommonLit 360 supports the first two of the Big Ideas in tangible and cohesive ways.

Equity of Opportunity and Access

Accessing grade-level work is instrumental in helping all students build proficiency, and CommonLit 360 simplifies this access for English Language Learners by providing built-in scaffolding with each lesson. Not only are the lessons in CommonLit 360 units engaging and relatable for students, they also have supportive features to help increase their skills and confidence. These tools include:

Editable introductory decks for each reading lesson that provide a preview of the lesson, build intentional background knowledge and supply vocabulary support to better ground students’ learning before reading. This preview, background knowledge, and vocabulary exposure ensure that all students are on equal footing before they read the text. By allowing for customization, these decks also let educators add their own flair and additional information when needed.

For example, in 7th Grade Unit 1, “Community and Belonging,” students read a poem entitled “Violin.” Prior to reading, they hear from the author about her inspiration for the poem, watch a video about orchestras, and discuss how communities are formed. By helping ELL students see these connections and visualize these settings prior to reading, the subsequent text has more context and is more understandable for them.

Translation and read aloud tools offer translation of texts and questions in over 40 languages, allowing ELL students to choose their language of origin and check their understanding of the original text with a side-by-side translation.

Scaffolded in-text reading questions are designed to help students monitor their comprehension and give teachers the opportunity to check for understanding. By prompting students to stop and process what they’re reading in smaller chunks, these questions help all students access and comprehend grade-level text.

Built-in reading prompts transition reading from whole class to partner reading and then finally independent reading. This gradual release model helps ensure a good foundation and immersion in the lesson before students are reading on their own.

Multiple discussion questions, complete with sentence starters to help students frame their thoughts, that will help enrich students’ understanding of each lesson. Holding these discussions in partnerships or small groups and making strong use of the sentence starters can make discussion less intimidating for ELL students while developing their oral language skills.

The design of the reading lessons in CommonLit 360, along with the supportive literacy tools available with them, increases ELL students' access to grade-level work and helps them to gain skills and confidence in class.

Integration of Content and Language

Multilingual students who are learning content in a new language develop their content and language skills concurrently. To assist in this acquisition, the lessons in CommonLit 360 feature ways to increase students’ reading comprehension and support their engagement with the lessons and with their classmates. Some helpful resources include:

Student reference sheets and anchor charts that reinforce the academic content inherent in each lesson and provide concrete assistance with literary and academic terms from the lesson. Across the curriculum, students are able to build strong academic language skills while engaging with the content of the texts. Each unit’s introductory lesson has a “key terms glossary,” and many reading and writing lessons feature reference sheets or anchor charts that further develop academic language.

For example, in 6th Grade Unit 1, students have to determine the theme of a literary text. By working through concrete steps provided in the lesson, students develop their general understanding of theme as well as explore specific themes found in unit texts. These lessons help build academic vocabulary while being engaging and interesting for students. 

Related Media Explorations provide multimodal outlets of learning and feature helpful videos, podcasts, and visual images to reinforce content and develop content and language skills concurrently. These engaging lessons are positioned in strategic spots throughout each unit to provide the most impactful presentation of the information, and they feature opportunities for discussion in small groups or partners which are beneficial for ELL students.

For example, in the 8th grade Unit 4 Related Media Exploration, students watch multiple portions of videos near the beginning of the unit about how football culture has changed due to scientific discoveries about brain injuries. This then sets the stage for later readings on the subject, and it gives students additional background knowledge and language to better grasp themes and main ideas in reading lessons.

Culminating Tasks offer opportunities for students to develop and exhibit their language and literacy skills beyond traditional essays. These end-of-unit assignments include presentations, podcasts, ad campaigns and more. With reading and writing lessons throughout each unit that build towards the Culminating Task, students are able to experience lessons that focus on discrete writing skills that lead to a cohesive final product.

For example, in the 9th Grade Unit 4 Culminating Task, students are tasked with researching a corporation’s branding strategy and then writing about it. Throughout the entire unit, students are given explicit instruction on how to research and effectively paraphrase the evidence that they will use in their Culminating Task along with strategic ways to help organize it. 

CommonLit 360 Supports English Language Learners

As classrooms become more and more diverse, having the tools to reach and support all learners becomes increasingly vital. CommonLit 360 is a research-based and cohesive literacy curriculum that provides this support in an inclusive and high-interest way.