English language learner boy in SPED reads

Webinar Shines Spotlight on ELL Students in Special Education

In our recent webinar, Donna Ravenburg, Director of Special Education for the Gresham-Barlow School District, shared strategies for educators to support English Language Learners who have learning challenges to become readers. Below is a follow-up Q&A with Donna and the webinar recording (49:12).

We are putting a spotlight on the importance of planning for the diversity of learners within special education.

Why is this an important topic for educators?

Donna: I would say the relevance of this topic is to put a spotlight on the importance of planning for the diversity of learners within special education. While there are overlapping strategies in teaching students with an IEP and students who are learning English, we want to maximize our teaching time by utilizing strategies with high effect sizes.

What are some of the strategies you share in this webinar?

Donna: Strategies include explicit instruction, high engagement [Blog post: A Special Education Teacher Talks Culturally-Responsive Classrooms], gradual release of responsibility, intentional grouping, systematic and individualized intervention, dialogic reading, building vocabulary, using visuals, cooperative learning, modulating cognitive and language demand, strong assessments, repeated readings, modeling, corrective feedback, pace of the lesson, language experience approach.

Do you have suggestions for additional resources on this topic?

Donna: I would suggest for anybody who is interested in strengthening their practice to choose any one of these strategies and do a deep dive. There are plenty of internet resources on most topics. The webinar gives an overview, but when you start digging into the strategies there are nuances between doing a strategy well and doing it with excellence.

I would expect curriculum designers to take the latest research into consideration, so I think it would be interesting for someone to analyze their current district curriculum to determine which strategies are incorporated into the curriculum and then maximize those strategies, and/or supplement the curriculum with additional strategies.

There is a world of additional research that could be explored. Google Scholar gives access to a lot of resources. For people who are really interested, getting a membership to Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is valuable. They have multiple divisions to belong to including a division for cultural and linguistic diversity.

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