The GO TO Strategies: Scaffolding Options for Teachers of English Language Learners, K-12

The GO TO Strategies is an outcome of the Project EXCELL professional development delivered to the NKCS teachers and was written by the team of Dr. Linda New Levine, Ms. Laura Lukens, and Dr. Betty Ansin Smallwood.

The 78 strategies selected were modeled and discussed with the teachers during the practitioner-oriented courses. The GO TO Strategies was designed to be used as a resource by K-12 general education and content-area teachers with English language learners (ELLs) in their classrooms, ELL teachers, special education teachers, principals and other supervisors overseeing the instruction of diverse groups of students in North Kansas City Schools and for professional development of these educators.

Strategies were chosen as the focus of this project because of their usefulness in helping teachers to scaffold content and language input to children in the process of learning English as a new language. The strategies also scaffold rigorous instruction for ELLs as Missouri, and most other states, transition to the Common Core State Standards. The term instructional strategy refers to a generalized learning or teaching technique that is applicable across content areas. Effective teachers have knowledge of a wide array of instructional strategies, and they choose the most effective ones for specific teaching and learning environments. Most strategies are content neutral and can be used flexibly in a variety of teaching environments.

The 78 strategies described have been chosen to reflect the five research-based principles of scaffolded instruction for English language learners outlined below.

  • Focus on academic language, literacy, and vocabulary;
  • Link background knowledge and culture to learning;
  • Increase comprehensible input and language output;
  • Promote classroom interaction; and
  • Stimulate higher order thinking and the use of learning strategies.

These five core principles are essential to academic success for English language learners, representing both research findings and best practices.

Sections of the GO TO Strategies

Strategic Teaching and Learning Guided by Five Principles of Instruction for English Language Learners
Provides definitions of and the research foundation for each of the five principles of sheltered instruction. The core of this section is five charts that list the strategies that are primarily or additionally useful, aligned with the principles. Teachers can easily use these charts to select strategies that will ensure that all five principles are implemented in their classes.

The GO TO Strategies Matrix
 Consists of a chart listing exemplary strategies for each of the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing at five different language proficiency levels. The strategies identified for a specific proficiency level can be modified by teachers for students at other proficiency levels (either lower or higher). The chart is intended to be a quick reference guide for teachers in planning and implementing instructional modifications for English language learners in their content classes. On the back of the matrix, sample strategies are briefly defined to demonstrate how to scaffold instruction for these learners across the proficiency levels in each language domain.

Inventory of the GO TO Strategies

Includes a table of contents listing each strategy according to seven key teaching or learning purposes:

  • Community Building Strategies
  • Interactive Strategies
  • Teaching Strategies
  • Student Learning Strategies
  • Vocabulary Teaching Strategies
  • Reading Strategies
  • Writing Strategies

Individual strategies are described in a two-column chart characterizing the teacher’s actions and the student’s actions for each strategy. These descriptions help to clarify the instructional context of the strategies. In addition, each strategy is labeled by language proficiency, teaching/learning purpose, and classroom grouping configuration.

Glossary of the GO TO Strategies
The glossary lists the strategies alphabetically. It describes each strategy, identifying its primary purpose and the ways that the strategy can be modified for different groups of students and providing examples in the form of charts and graphs to further clarify the strategies.

Learn more about Project EXCELL