Series Engaging ELLs in Academic Conversations: Participation Protocol for Academic Discussions

Participation Protocol for Academic Discussions

Lesson Objective: Actively participate in discussions
Grades 6-8 / ELA / Structure


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does using this structure affect students' discussions?
  2. Why does Ms. Nguyen scribe what students say?
  3. How does Ms. Nguyen track students' participation?


  • Private message to Cindy Reavis

Cindy Reavis

i agree with everyone else. This can be very effective. In my day we used cooperative learning but this is so much more effective. I always had problems with a group of 4 and everyone working for the same end product.   Listening to each student can also increase self esteem for students that never get heard. 

Recommended (1)
  • Private message to Tina Slaughter
Today I started implementing the protocol as productive partners were building on each other's ideas about how to construct a covered wagon that floats. Then I had two students walk around with clipboards and look for students who were productive partnering later in the day as students were discussing another question.It worked really well and the students were engaged with using sentence frames to share their thinking.
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  • Private message to Cheryl Miller

I like how you extended student ownership by having two students walk around with clipboards!


Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Amy Cain
I feel that I can apply this protocol even to my first grade classroom in order to be even more specific to how students should participate in discourse.
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  • Private message to Barbara Vreeland
These are wonderful videos. They will be very helpful during teacher trainings on supporting the ELs in their classroom.
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  • Private message to Virgilio Beato
I like that the teacher has a chart as she is circulating throughout the room. It is keeping the students focused on the discussion at hand. She is then taking the statements made by the students and discussing them with the class. This is incentive for students to remain focused.
Recommended (1)


  • Participation Protocol for Academic Discussions Transcript
    6th Grade English

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: So we are going to engage

    Participation Protocol for Academic Discussions Transcript
    6th Grade English

    +++ 00:00:04 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: So we are going to engage in some academic discourse and we're going to do a couple of things that are the same that we've been doing all year long and that we’ve been working on all year long, and I'm going to add a couple of new elements.
    Participation Protocol for
    Academic Discussions
    A Classroom Strategy
    Lower Third
    Viet-ly Nguyen
    6th Grade English Teacher
    Westlake Middle School, Oakland, CA
    Viet-ly Nguyen: So with sixth graders, it's like you kind of have to tell them where to put their body parts almost, because they're kind of like all over the place. And so I want to make sure that in this moment, you're going to look like a scholar and here's how you're going to do that.

    +++ 00:00:33 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: What I'm going to do is give you five pieces of criteria. I'm going to call this what's called a participation protocol.
    Viet-ly Nguyen: We talk about the four Ls of academic discourse.
    Participation protocol
    1. Look 3. Lower Voice
    2. Lean 4. Listen
    Viet-ly Nguyen: Look at your partner, lean towards your partner, lower your voce and listen attentively.
    5. Use Evidence & Examples
    Viet-ly Nguyen: And then I added a different-- another layer, which is using evidence or examples.
    Viet-ly Nguyen: And so what I'm going to do is, when I come around and I'm listening, I'm going to look for all of these things, and if I see, okay, Emmanuel's looking at his partner, I'm going to check it off.
    Participation Protocol
    Name of Student Look at your partner Lean towards your partner Lower your voice Listen attentively Use evidence and examples

    +++ 00:01:03 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: If he's leaning in, check it off. If he's talking kind of loud, I might miss that one, okay. If he's listening well, I'm going to do that. Of course I'm not going to be able to make every single person's every little box, but I kind of want to see how many of these we can fill up today.
    Viet-ly Nguyen: In academic discourse, it's super easy. If I say, "Discuss with your partner," a lot of middle schoolers would say, "Okay, what happened at lunch today?" So it's just a way for them to just have structure to what I'm asking them to do.
    Student: Because it wasn't very fair that little Bobby Hutton was shot.

    +++ 00:01:34 +++
    Student: She shouldn't go to the rally, because she might get-- something bad might happen to her, because the police might try to do something to the Black Panthers but miss him and accidentally do it to her.
    Student: They know that they're just naïve and they don't know the real world.

    +++ 00:01:48 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: The other piece is scribing, walking around and listening in on a couple of pair discussions and writing down what students say. Then I'm going to put it up on the Elmo for everybody to see. It gives a voice to the students and they say, "Oh, my name's up there. I got on the piece of paper. I got on the board." And now their ideas are public. First it was with one other partner, and now it's made public to 31 other students in the classroom.
    Viet-ly Nguyen: Here are some of the things that I heard, and then at any point, if you want to expand, maybe you have a question to bring this back, and so let's gather our ideas right now, okay?

    +++ 00:02:24 +++
    Viet-ly Nguyen: It's an accountability piece, making sure that they're staying on point.
    Viet-ly Nguyen: I can really tell that you guys are listening, and the way that I can tell that is you're giving a lot of eye contact, right, and you're using other people's names to show, "Okay I'm listening," and then you say, "I agree. I disagree. I'd like to add on to," right. Very, very nice.

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School Details

Westlake Middle School
2629 Harrison Street
Oakland CA 94611
Population: 307

Data Provided By:



Viet-ly Nguyen


Lesson Idea
26 min

Grade 1/ ELA/ Reading