Focus Bulletins

WIDA offers a series of bulletins on topics of interest to educators of English language learners.

The PDF documents below are archived versions of WIDA's Focus Bulletins, available on a variety of topics related to ELL instruction and assessment.


Focus On Scaffolding Learning for Multilingual Students in Math (June)

Language and interaction mediate learning. Scaffolding up, as opposed to differentiating down, is one example of this idea in action. Scaffolding up offers an approach to planning and teaching that can help us support multilingual students in rigorous academic settings and foster equitable opportunities for them. Through Scaffolding up, teachers actively value students' resources for learning, develop a strong community of learners, and engage students in rigorous curriculum through specific macro-scaffolding and micro-scaffolding practices. This bulletin provides examples of these practices in action in an eighth-grade math classroom and includes guidance for developing these scaffolding practices over time.


Focus on ELLs with Disabilities: Identifying ELLs with Specific Learning Disabilities (May)

Nationwide, the majority of ELLs who have been identified as having a disability are being classified as having a language and literacy–related disability known as a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Yet there are growing concerns around referrals for this category of disabilities. Are some ELLs being misidentified? SLDs refer to a psychological processing disorder in understand or using spoken or written language and are viewed as one of the more subjective categories of disabilities. In this bulletin, we provide practical advice and resources that school teams can use when preparing for and conducting identification meetings and considering how best to create a flourishing educational environment for their students.

Focus on ELLs with Disabilities: Providing Access to Complex Language (March)

ELLs with disabilities are more likely to gain meaningful access to content area instruction when educators shift their instruction in three ways: (1) By integrating instructional support into the general design and delivery of a lesson or activity, rather than adding it on as an accommodation; (2 ) By providing language development instruction that focuses on using complex language in meaningful experiences, rather than only focusing on discrete parts of language; and (3) By providing explicit instruction on the genres associated with schooling. This bulletin provides examples of how these shifts can be implemented using the WIDA Key Uses of academic language.

Focus on STEM Discourse: Strengthening Reasoning, Strengthening Language (January)

Discourse-centered instruction can strengthen EL’s reasoning and language. New content standards focus our attention on students’ critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving. These new standards remind us that learning science or math is much more than memorizing formulas or procedures. Learning math and science means learning how to think in particular ways, and it means doing things such as arguing from evidence and creating models. Focusing on student reasoning and collaborative discourse sometimes requires a change in classroom norms. This bulletin introduces a new approach to reasoning-centered, discourse-rich instruction.


Focus on the Early Years: Assets-Based, Language-Focused Family Engagement for Dual Language Learners (October)

Family engagement based on mutual trust and respect has been considered basic to the education of our youngest children for a very long time. To create an effective family engagement strategy for the families of dual language learners (DLLs), practitioners enact an assets-based approach that centers on families' linguistic and cultural backgrounds. This Bulletin defines and illustrates an assets-based approach. It also provides suggestions for supporting and advocating for the multilingual goals and aspirations of DLL families.

Focus on Writing with a Purpose (June)

English learners are expected to use language for a variety of purposes as stipulated in the English Language Arts Standards for writing such as capturing and sharing real or imaginary events or experiences through narratives, showcasing one's expertise through informative/explanatory texts, persuading others of one's view or exposing both sides of an issue through arguments, and many others. In this Focus Bulletin, we highlight a few teacher practices for fostering engagement with writing for a variety of purposes with specific supports for English learners.

Focus on the Early Years: Supporting Early Literacy Development (March)

Dual language learners (DLLs) come to early care and education (ECE) programs with a wide range of background experiences around language, storytelling, picture books, and printed text. These experiences are based on the cultures, traditions, and routines of DLLs and their families. This Early Years Focus Bulletin highlights some ways that practitioners in high quality ECE programs acknowledge what each child knows and can do, while intentionally building connections to new literacy experiences.


Focus on the Early Years: Observing Language Use to Promote Dual Language Development (December)

The fourth of the Early Years Focus Bulletin series, this bulletin explores ways that early care and education practitioners observe and document young dual language learners expressive and receptive language development.  In addition, this publication covers essential background information for observation and documentation along with providing some practical suggestions from practitioners throughout the United States.

Focus on Family Engagement (September)

Enfoque de WIDA en la participación familiar (September)

This Focus Bulletin, titled Focus on Family Engagement, will introduce readers to ways school communities can incorporate language learning into their family engagement practices. We’ve taken a different approach to this bulletin by writing it in a manner that speaks to both educators and families, and by publishing it in both English and Spanish.  This bulletin includes a variety of perspectives on family engagement and voices from State Education Agency representatives, district leadership, and families of ELL students.   It is a wonderful awareness building piece that addresses not only the importance of family engagement but also offers wonderful discussion tools for school teams and for families of ELLs.

Focus on the Early Years: Planning for Dual Language Development and Learning (June)

The third of the Early Years Focus Bulletin series, this bulletin delves deeper into supporting language development and learning for young dual language learners.  In addition, this publication offers illustrations of how the WIDA Early English Language Development Standards Framework guides practitioners in planning and teaching DLLs.  Also provided is a tool to help practitioners reflect on their own nonverbal communication with DLLs.

Focus on Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (May)

Many schools across the national are working to support students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE).  In this bulletin, we focus on the unique strengths and needs of SLIFE and explore academic and socio-emotional factors that may affect this group of ELL students along with examining the benefits of building community partnerships and providing a checklist of considerations for planning and delivering instruction to support the academic and linguistic development for these students.

Focus on Early Years Programs: Supporting Dual Language Learners (March)

This bulletin is the second in a series that builds on the foundational information delivered in WIDA Focus on the Early Years: Dual Language Learners. In this second part, we look at what Early Years Programs can do to support young dual language learners and their families.  The concepts come alive through the examples and reflections provided by various early care and education practitioners and administrators from Massachusetts. Questions for reflection are included to support practitioners and program leaders in thinking about effective language supports, partner with families of DLLs, and the language policies.


Focus on Technology in the Classroom (October)

Today, a plethora of educational tech tools exists. It can be overwhelming to determine which may be productive to include in a classroom and which could help ELLs achieve their language goals. In this bulletin, we explore the use of tech tools in the classroom with ELL students and offer a tool to help educators evaluate tech tools for learning and academic language. Also included are excerpts from an interview with gaming scholar Constance Steinkuehler, lessons learned from a current teacher using technology in the classroom, and suggested steps for getting started or digging deeper.

Extended interview with Constance Steinkueler

Focus on the Early Years - Dual Language Learners (August)

This Bulletin is the first done in collaboration with the WIDA Early Years team. It includes information about young dual language learners (DLLs), the importance of supporting home language, and the value in fostering partnerships with families and K-12 programs. In addition to highlighting the latest research on how to support young DLLs, this bulletin is full of heartwarming quotes from an early care and education program that has had a lot of success supporting young children learning more than one language.

Focus on American Indian English Language Learners (May)

The purpose of this Bulletin is to help educators make connections and provide contexts to deepen an awareness of the complexity and diversity of American Indian students identified as ELLs. To help achieve this objective, several guiding principles are presented that emerged from an interview conducted with Dr. Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy and American Indians Studies Consultant, David O'Connor. In addition to explanations of each guiding principal, a discussion tool is provided that can be used in your local context about how these guiding principles can impact your classroom and guide your instruction.


Focus on English Language Arts (November)

The purpose of this bulletin is to provide guidance to teachers of English language arts who are implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and working to respond to the specific needs of ELLs. It will introduce the ELPD Framework, which outlines key disciplinary practices embedded in the CCSS, thus providing educators with an idea of what their students will be doing with language as they engage with content. The power of focusing on these disciplinary practices rather than on language features (such as specific grammar or vocabulary) is that the practices in many ways determine the kinds of organization, grammar, and vocabulary that students will need to use and understand. Finally, this bulletin unpacks the meaning of one practice, "Build upon the ideas of others and articulate their own when working collaboratively," by looking at one educator's efforts to carefully construct opportunities to encourage participation in discussions and develop all students' oral language skills.

Focus on Group Work for Content Learning (March)

Do your students have opportunities to engage in academic conversation? How might collaborative interactions help students meet the U.S. college- and career-readiness standards? How might they help English language learners (ELLs) master the language of the disciplines? What are some promising ways to support group-based learning in your classroom? This Focus Bulletin aims to answer these questions and offers an extensive resource list for further exploration of related strategies and research.


Focus on Differentiation Part 2 (December)

Part 2 of this Bulletin discusses in more detail how the strategies and tools identified for teaching ELLs in Part 1 can be put into practice. Some of these ideas include the use of graphic organizers, the preview-view-review strategy, parental involvement, L1 support, and flexible groupings. Lastly, this Bulletin addresses how educators can fairly evaluate ELLs' performance in both content and language based on the learning objectives identified in Part 1.

Focus on Differentiation Part 1 (May)

This Bulletin provides a useful planning template and step-by-step explanations of how teachers (classroom/content-area, special education, literacy, ESL, bilingual) can differentiate their grade-level content and language instruction and assessment for the ELLs in their classes. Part I focuses on setting content objectives for all students along with differentiated language objectives for ELLs, and explores possible scaffolds and supports for different example students within the context of a particular unit on rainforests.


Focus on Formative Assessment (September)

The September 2009 edition offers an overview of formative assessment of academic language. It discusses the importance of having a balanced assessment system in place for English language learners that goes beyond standardized testing. Educators are given examples of formative assessment tasks and tools, and introduced to how to use assessment feedback to guide language instruction.