Another lens – English Language Learning

Our assignment this week in CEP 811 was to explore our Maker lesson plan through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  My original lesson plan was created using the UDL framework because that is the preferred format in my district, so I am instead looking at my lesson through the lens English Language Learning (ELL).

My original lesson along with the ELL modifications can be found here.


The three primary strategies for improving the learning experience for ELL students are drawing upon their funds of knowledge, using a multimodal multiple literacy approach to instruction, and allowing for the creation of a third space.

Funds of knowledge are the resources that students have at home and with their families to support their learning at school (Spence, 2009).  I revised my lesson to more explicitly allow students to use these resources.  I now give students the opportunity to talk about constellations and sky stories that are familiar to them as different cultures have different mythologies of the night sky.

A change in personal practice related to funds of knowledge that is difficult to state on the lesson plan is allowing students to discuss their work using their native language.  In the past, I have encouraged students to participate in discussions using only English for practice purposes, but de la Piedra (2010) found that students who discussed an English text using their native language related to the text in a more meaningful way than if they were forced to discuss in English.  When the thinking was done in a language that was familiar, it allowed for deeper learning and better understanding which is ultimately the goal.  This was probably my single biggest takeaway in my research.

I did not make any changes to my plans based on the Multimodal Multiple Literacy approach to instruction because Universal Design for Learning already builds in the practice of giving students multiple ways to gain information and interact with their learning.  My lesson already allowed for a variety of literacies – traditional, digital, artistic, and scientific – as well as the chance to interact with learning in a variety of ways (multimodality).

informal learning

Allowing students to develop a third space means giving them the opportunity to combine their home and cultural knowledge with their school based knowledge requirements in a way that feels safe and comfortable (Smythe, 2010).  Frequently these times fall outside of the regular class times.  In order to allow for the development of this third space, I modified my lesson to allow open lab times during recess, lunch and before and after school to give students less structured times to make these connections and interact with peers on a more casual level.

I really believe that by creating my lesson originally using the principles of UDL regarding multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression that the needs of English Language Learners in my classroom are met.  UDL comes from an asset based view of students rather than a deficit based view which is the main idea behind the funds of knowledge.  The teacher is acknowledging student assets and not relating to a student based on their English language deficit only.  The multimodal multi-literacy approach is at the core of the multiple means of student involvement that is the basis of UDL.  Creating opportunities for students to develop a third space also fits nicely into providing students multiple means of engagement.  I feel that my original lesson was well designed to support ELL students, but the few tweaks that I made based on my research make it even stronger.  I feel that the more important learning for me in this project are mindset reminders to look at the whole child because that whole is so much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section.  My goal is to grow as an educator and a person and constructive feedback is at the heart of that growth.

Works Cited

Ajayi, L. (2009). English as a second language learners’ exploration of multimodal tests in a junior high school. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literary, 52(7), 585-595. doi:10.1598/JAAL.52.7.4

de la Piedra, M.T. (2010). Adolescent worlds and literacy practices on the United States – Mexico border. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(7), 575-584. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.7.5

Hepple, E., Sockhill, M., Tan, A., & Alford, J. (2014). Multiliteracies pedagogy: Creating claymations with adolescent, post-beginner English language learners. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(3), 219-229. doi:10.1002/jaal.339

Smythe, S., & Neufeld, P. (2010). “Podcast time”: Negotiating digital literacies and communities of learning in a middle years ELL classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(6), 488 – 496. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.6.5

Spence, L.K. (2009). Developing multiple literacies in a website project. The Reading Teacher, 62(7), 592-597. doi:10.1598/RT.62.7.5


JiscInfoNet. (2007, February 27). Laptop Use, University of Cumbria (formerly St Martin’s College). [Online image]. Retrieved November 30, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial -ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


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