Series: Five Essential Practices for the Teaching of ELLs - High School


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RL:  Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 2: 
    Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 1a: 
    Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one on
    one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-\x80\x9312 topics,
    texts, and issues, building on others'\x80\x99 ideas and expressing their own clearly and

    a. Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under
    study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts
    and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well reasoned
    exchange of ideas.

    b. Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision making,
    set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as

    c. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe
    reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a
    topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote
    divergent and creative perspectives.

    d. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims,
    and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when
    possible; and determine what additional information or research is required
    to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • L:  Language Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 11-12:  11th & 12th Grades
  • 6: 
    Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and
    phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college
    and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary
    knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Lit Circles: Fostering Heterogeneous Collaboration
Lesson Objective: Engage with challenging texts through literature circles
Grades 9-12 / ELA / ELL
ELA.RL.11-12.2 | ELA.SL.11-12.1a | ELA.L.11-12.6


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Thought starters

  1. How does Mr. Halle-Erby strategically use groups to support learning and foster collaboration during the lesson?
  2. |What scaffolds does Mr. Halle-Erby have in place to support his English Language Learners?
  3. |How does Mr. Halle-Erby collect and use formative assessment data?
Hi Susan, the roles handout and the table talk guides can be found to the right of the comments section in supporting materials. Let me know if you have trouble finding them.
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Hi Gretchen, I couldn't find them either. I was looking for the individual student role handouts which the teacher had on the table folders for each group. There are some "general instruction handouts" under supporting materials, but not the student role handouts. Even if those are specific to each novel, it would be great to see what an example looks like. Thank you. 

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Is it possible to get the printouts that were given to the students for the various roles? I liked the idea of having a folder where all the resources are located - makes it efficient and gets students on task immediately,
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I would love to have these resources especially since I plan on teaching high school.
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Loved your mention of, at some point, removing some of the structures in place to simulate college seminar environments. I'd love to hear if you've done so and what your students were able to internalize.
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Thanks for watching the video, everybody. @Kelly - I ask students to record their discussions on their phones and send me the audiofiles through email. @Denea - I introduce the roles over the first two literature circles. The visualizer and summarizer are familiar to students, so I do not do a lot of explicit teaching around those before we begin. For the first circle, I ask everyone in the group to be the word searcher. I teach that role and everyone presents the words they identify. Then, they have a discussion with questions I provide. The next week, everyone is the discussion director. I have a mini-lesson on what makes an excellent discussion question and we spend some time coming up with ideas and then checking them against our criteria and revising. On the third week, I review each role and students have a literature circle like the one in the video.
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  • Lit Circles: Fostering Heterogeneous Collaboration Transcript

    Kyle: (music) My name is Kyle Halle-Erby. I teach 12th grade English Electives at San

    Lit Circles: Fostering Heterogeneous Collaboration Transcript

    Kyle: (music) My name is Kyle Halle-Erby. I teach 12th grade English Electives at San Francisco International High School. Come on in, come on in. Good morning everybody. Make sure you're in here with your reading groups. SF International is a small public school that serves only newcomer immigrants who are also English language learners. Right now, I want you to look in your folders. The course that you'll see is called Senior Seminar and we do some explicit skill building for college readiness, especially with speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills.

    In our Literature Circles, we work on four different reading roles. The first one is the Summarizer, the word search is ... Today's lesson is Literature Circle, it's a repeated structure that we do once a week, all throughout the semester. Students are reading a chapter of a text together, then they are completing tasks to that text. The first one is individual to ask them to check their comprehension, make a connection, and make some predictions and then the second is to respond through illustration, to be the word searcher, to be the discussion director or to be the summarizer. Then they have a discussion. We're ten weeks in at this point, so students have done this a lot of times. Once they learn the roles and have some practice with it, it kind of runs itself.

    An approach that's really central to my teaching is that our classrooms are always heterogenous, and that we foster as much collaboration between students as possible. The idea is that students will develop their English skills most effectively if they're participating in complex tasks as a group where the common language is English. We are reading chapter 13, I will get you started and then we'll pass it over to you. So, this lesson begins with reading. "If you have a job, be grateful and never turn down work," my father would often say. The text we're using in class is called Reaching Out it's by Francisco Jiménez.

    Speaker 2: You must now [inaudible 00:02:23] can he say pointing to a graduation picture on the fireplace mantel.

    Speaker 3: Of course, I recognize him.

    Kyle: I think the text is valuable for this task, for newcomers, because it's the story of a newcomer himself that we spend a lot of 12th grade talking about getting ready for next year and going on to college and going on to careers.

    Speaker 4: How nice to finally meet you, to say I'm sharing ...

    Kyle: While students read, they are intentionally in heterogeneous groups where students have varying reading levels in each reading group so they can practice listening skills while they read themselves and if they need to stop and ask for clarification while they're reading, they've got people at their table who they can talk with. Primarily in English, but we encourage them to use their home languages as well if they are trying to get clarification.

    All right, will you make sure that everybody has the right piece of paper?

    After students finish reading, I make sure they have their papers for the day. On one side of the half sheet, there's an individual response.

    I'm gonna give you three minutes to work on these questions on the front.

    After students complete that piece, I had them review feedback from the last week.

    And I want you to read the feedback at your table so whoever has that role this time can improve based on what you did.

    Speaker 5: Use symbols to add more details to your drawing.

    Speaker 6: You're looking for keywords, keywords connect to the main action of the chapter and main feelings of the chapter.

    Speaker 7: Now try to make a connection between current events and human nature.

    Kyle: To make sure that if every reading role is excellent and that you can incorporate this feedback, I want you to work in groups with your reading roles.

    The language support there is that they're with role alike partners. And lots of the summary feedback was about using sequence words and talking about setting, right?.

    Speaker 8: Yes.

    Kyle: Again, this is heterogeneous group of people who I'm doing this role with, but we've got an opportunity to all collaborate and discuss and work on this shared task.

    Is there any word in that paragraph that talks about his connection that is actually a new word?

    Emily: The captain was honored.

    Kyle: Where does it say that?

    Speaker 10: Yo, right here.

    Kyle: I think we need another minute.

    Speaker 10: The one hundred and twelve.

    Kyle: One hundred and twelve, can you find the paragraph where it talks about it?

    Speaker 10: Yeah, after lunch.

    Kyle: Okay. [crosstalk 00:04:46]

    Speaker 11: First of all, the first thing we can write about is that... he get a new job, right? We can write this things at first...

    Speaker 12: First he got a new job, right. Then that job, she says, that they got a [inaudible 00:05:05] so that's why when he was deliver presents, he made...

    Speaker 11: And they talk about.

    Speaker 13: What's the [crosstalk 00:05:21] Francisco delivering...

    Speaker 14: Yeah. Francisco delivered gifts throughout to houses, correct. And when he finish, Mrs. Williams give him a gift.

    Speaker 15: How can you relate? [crosstalk 00:05:33]

    Kyle: I was really happy with the discussion directors actually, because they're working on this large semester-long project about human nature in their European Literature class and the students were able to make some good connections and ask some provocative questions.

    Speaker 14: We can relate it to even the human nature topic, what does it symbolize that about Francisco? Because he just gives whatever he earns to his family. What do you guys think?

    Speaker 15: Why do you think Francisco is just giving all this monies to his family. It's so generous with family.

    Speaker 14: And then in the answer, we can connect it to human nature.

    Summarizer: Okay, so you can just say like, yeah. [crosstalk 00:06:15]

    Kyle: Can you connect this to what you're learning about in human nature and English class? You did that cause- oh good, I don't see that one. I didn't see that on Emily's. Emily, will you make sure that you that? Question two, about human nature?

    (music) All right, please return back to your original reading groups.

    After students complete their individual reading roles, they go back to their home groups. What I'm listening for, when I listen to your discussions, is that you are using our five speaking skills. If you are trying to challenge yourself today, look at the synthesis sentences and try to use those.

    If you're the discussion director, please use your phone to record the discussion. If you need a device to record, I can give you one. Make you say your names at the beginning. You can begin.

    Steve: I'm Steve and I will be the word searcher.

    Emily: I'm Emily, I will be the discussion director.

    Summarizer: Okay, so I begin from the summarizer first, so in this chapter...

    Kyle: The discussion starts off very structured and so I ask students to share first their reading roles.

    Summarizer: He's talking about Francisco getting a new job like, it's about preparing a gift for people.

    Steve: So my first word for this chapter was "gift," that it means like to give a present.

    Speaker 14: And then when he finish, Mrs. William gave Francisco a gift and then Francisco said "thank you."

    Emily: Okay, let's move on to the questions because we have two minutes.

    Kyle: Finally the discussion director takes over and they ask students the discussion questions that they came up with. This part is a little more open-ended and the language support here are the menu boards that you saw on the tables, that had some sentence frames for students to use in their conversation.

    Emily: Okay so my next question is, what does Francisco's actions when he gives the money to his family tell us about human nature?

    Steve: It represent that human nature is good because he's... helping his family.

    Speaker 15: Like making sacrifices, he didn't take the money. Instead he give them to his family, is that what you mean?

    Steve: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:08:34]

    Emily: I agree with you (laugh).

    Kyle: I have students record their conversations at their tables and send them to me, so I listen, not so much for the content of what they, but for the language skills that they're using. So I'm listening for students to be doing those things.

    Speaker 15: Also I would like to add that maybe Francisco give money to his family because it's a way to show them how much he appreciate that his family support him...

    Kyle: I think that discussion makes reading and reading comprehension visible in a way that otherwise it can feel very invisible. So asking students to produce language about what they've read is a really important sort of evaluation, assessment tool that I use. And if I don't record it, I only hear what I'm able to overhear in the classroom.

    Emily: Would you like to [crosstalk 00:09:21]

    Speaker 14: I would also like to add that it connects to human nature because it's a good human nature because he's being generous and kind.

    Emily: Okay, so the next question is-

    Speaker 14: How about you?

    Speaker 15: I also agree with you guys and I also believe that Francisco has a very good human nature and that's why he understands the situation that his family is in.

    Emily: How can you relate to Francisco's experience of his job?

    Summarizer: Yeah.

    Steve: Yeah, I think my life relates to that, to him because also I work two days a week, sometimes three.

    Speaker 15: I've become more independent since I started working and I learned that now I value money more than when I had money or my parents gave me money because I know how much it cost to earn money now.

    Kyle: Often what I'm doing while students are having their discussions, I'm walking around and I'm noting some skills that I'm seeing some students demonstrate. And at the end of class, I usually do a report back.

    At [Abu-bakar's 00:10:25] table there were lots of great connections people were making between themselves and the text.

    It's a way of giving some really targeted, positive feedback back to students. I think the more students hear me narrate those values, the more that they sort of naturally enact them when they're in the classroom.

    I saw Johann encouraging you to keep talking with his gestures, which is nice, right? Like "say more, say more," which is very inviting. I feel like today went very smoothly, I think they have really internalized this structure, I think they're very good at it now. It might be interesting to take away some of the structures and the reading roles and to ask students to still have a conversation, to still interact with each other around a text, but maybe try and transition it a little bit more to what it might feel like to be in a college seminar, where you read a text and then have to show up and talk about it.

    (music) I want you, for that last question, to try to make one that connects to something else that you've learned about.

    Speaker 15: He... I think that it's giving back to the community you come from.

    Kyle: Even from the beginning of the year, to where they are now in mid-October, they grow immensely. It's one of the best things about working with newcomers and with language learners. All students, all teenagers are learning so much, but especially when you add the language learning component, it's just... what they're able to say, what they're able to do with language in the classroom is a world apart from what it was in August when we came.

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School Details

S.F. International High School
1050 York Street
San Francisco CA 94110
Population: 302

Data Provided By:



Kyle Halle-Erby


Teaching Practice

Formative Assessment, Language, Checks for Understanding

Teaching Practice

Literacy, Engagement

Teaching Practice

Critical Thinking, Engagement

Teaching Practice

Lesson planning, SEL