PD and Planning Support for Teachers


During school closure during the pandemic, we needed to shift our professional development needed to shift format. In order for teachers to make the most of their time, we developed a series of e-workshops that could be undertaken asynchronously when time was available.  We also used strong and weak examples that teachers analyzed and modeled our resources via Google

Classroom. We got great feedback from the teachers on the format and content.

Guidance During Remote Learning:

Identification and Placement of Multilingual Learners


Norming Student Writing and Setting Goals 

Including Language  Information in IEPs

Module 1: Introduction to WIDA

Module 2: Present Levels

Module 3: Special Considerations


Considering WIDA Levels

Examples of Model Student Responses with Sentence Frames


As the K-12 Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Education Coordinator for Adams 14, I led the district-wide ELD-focused professional development, which led to an almost 40% increase in structured talk and decrease in teacher talk, and an increase in writing scores.  We performed a needs analysis to determine our focus, assembled and cross-section of materials, trained teacher leaders on the material so they could lead the work with small groups.  The sessions included relevant professional reading, modeling and sharing of strategies, use of student data, teacher planning time and always ended with a useable product (lesson plan, specific strategy or scaffold).  Teacher feedback for the series was overwhelmingly positive in that teachers stated they were better prepared to support multilingual learners (MLs).


As the needs analysis from the district identified unit-level planning for language to a be a high need for teachers, our team developed district-wide ELD guidance and supports embedded into curriculum mapping and PLC processes based on WIDA Can Do Key Uses and the Forms and Function work of Susannah Dutro.

Beginning with the end in mind, our ELD teams use the WIDA Standards Framework to analyze academic unit and lesson content in terms of accessibility (comprehensible input) and expectations of students’ oral and written production.  We then create language objectives and select appropriate material and implement supports and that align with learning targets WIDA level.

I have worked with teams in various district settings to create model student responses on formative assessments.  Using guiding questions from WIDA and Constructing Meaning, we analyze our models for language patterns at the word/phrase, sentence, and discourse level.  We then prioritize these language forms and chunk their instruction through the unit supported by word banks and differentiated sentence frames.

This resulted in increased teacher confidence and increased in writing scores.

Examples of Model Student Responses with Sentence Frames


WechatIMG398As a firm believer in WIDA and its Can Do Philosophy, I am excited to be an authorized WIDA CLIMBS Trainer (Content and Language Integration as a Means of Bridging Success).

WIDA CLIMBS helped our staff unify our approach to helping ELLs develop academic language and ensure their access to challenging grade-level content.  Through this collaboration, we were able to support our students in raising WIDA scores an average of one full level per student in 2018-19!

I delivered WIDA CLIMBS to Daystar Academy’s three schools throughout the 2018-19 school year and facilitated the certification of over 30 staff members.



During this time, as a professional community we developed a common vocabulary which with to promote success with our 400+ multilingual learners and we engaged in the following endeavors:

  • Examining the connections between culture and language
  • Considering the culture of collaboration in our local contexts
  • Describing principles of acquisition and learning
  • Examining the features of academic language
  • Exploring the connections between language acquisition principles and WIDA ELD practices
  • Exploring how academic language varies across subject areas and domains
  • Developing differentiation for language
  • Investigating the language demands of texts and tasks
  • Recognizing effective feedback practices
  • Providing effectivefeedback to language learners
  • Discussing learning strategies
  • Developing instruction andlearning strategies for ELLs
  • Examining scaffolding strategies
  • Identifying scaffolding strategies in practice
  • Reflecting on peer observations
  • Planning differentiated lessons using WIDA frameworkWechatIMG402

As Daystar Academy is a WIDA consortium member, I have sent several teachers to the WIDA Institute.  Further, our team has been working with WIDA Can Do Descriptors and Performance Definitions for two years.  We were excited to take this next step in developing our school-wide

approach to serving ELLs through collaboration and best practices.

>>>Read more about CLIMBS


Below are links to my teaching credentials.

Teaching Licenses:




Master’s Thesis

I invite you to read my master’s thesis on SLIFE writing, which has been downloaded and read over 300 times all over the world.


Fossenbell, B.  Visual Support in Discourse Writing for Students With Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (2016)

The research question addressed in this project was: for Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE), how can a series of integrated graphic organizers, implemented in an environment informed by the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm (MALP), improve students’ use of result and exemplification discourse connectors in developing written arguments? The motivating factor for this capstone was the researcher’s observations of the struggles SLIFE encounter in moving from sentence-level to discourse-level writing proficiency.  The action research integrated qualities of MALP, based on the work of DeCapua and Marshall, with an interrelated series of graphic organizers, influenced by Gibbons, in an attempt to help SLIFE improve their use of result and exemplification discourse connectors in argument essays. The study found that the combination helped students organize their thoughts, align their reasons and examples, and increase their use of the target language.

Launching of the Daystar Bridge Program

Daystar Academy is a strong bilingual immersion program that develops world citizens by embracing Chinese and Western culture through its integrated education model. Daystar students strive for distinction in comprehensive Chinese and English studies, creative thinking and character development for the purpose of serving the community at large.  In short, Daystar students are highly bicultural and biliterate to a degree few people ever achieve.

While the success rate is high, one of the challenges in such a time-intensive model is finding opportunities to implement lengthier interventions for students who need additional interactions with academic English concepts and content.  In traditional English-only schools, this burden is distributed throughout the school day or is lessened by students being surrounded by English in the world around them.  In contrast, our ELLs (who make up 70% of the student body) only receive 12 hours of instruction a week and have very little exposure to English in their lives outside of school.

In order to create additional opportunities for these students, a small team of us were able to do a needs assessment of the students and parents and reach out into the larger Beijing community to find partners who could provide extra support aligned with our mission and curriculum.  After interviewing several candidates, we settled on the Learning Tree. Working together with our two curriculum teams, we have been able to facilitate the creation of the Daystar Bridge Program.  As it is aligned with our learner outcomes, program of inquiry and standards, and given that there are pathways established for teachers to share feedback and data, students have been able to receive extra targeted support.  We’ve even been able launch parent education sessions to help parents support students at home.  Results have been fantastic.  Reading and writing scores are improving quickly and students and parents alike are reporting higher levels of understanding and enjoyment in learning.


基本信息 General Information


Adams 14 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (CLDE) Department Procedures and Protocols

As the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Eduction Coordinator for Adams 14, I co-designed the multilingual learner (ML) service model for our K-12 district, established ELD planning protocols, and developed and refined procedures for identifying, placing, monitoring and redesignating MLs.  Below is a sample of the procedures and protocols that I developed:

Learning English for Academic Proficiency (LEAP) Department Policies and Procedures


As the Language Support Services Coordinator for Daystar Academy, I designed the ML service model for our entire K-12 private district, established and continually managed the baseline data for MLs.  Below is a sample of the policies and procedures that I developed:

Student Work Samples

At the end of the day, our work as educators is to advance student success.  I invite you to view a sampling of student work supported by tools and strategies implemented by myself or my ELL team.




Middle School

WIDA Level 1
Over the years, I have worked with many Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE).  When I met this particular student, he had only received a year of formal instruction as a twelve year-old.  This is a sample of his writing in the beginning of the year.
Through creating class-constucted models, the use of sentence frames and feedback, this student’s work started to blossom even though his lexicon was still quite low.  This a sample of his writing mid-year.


WIDA level 2




WIDA level 3

Elementary School


WIDA level 1
WIDA level 2


WIDA level 3


Language Supports and Differentiated Materials

I invite you to peruse some of the instructional supports I use, adaptations I have made as well as work my students have produced.



I use the Frayer Model and also adaptations of Marzano’s 6 Steps.  Using strategies like these, alongside Beck’s Model and multiple meaning-rich interactions, I’ve seen students’ academic lexicon explode.

I believe in using concrete images whenever possible and pairing them with student-friendly definitions and student drawings.

Together, I’ve found this can help students connect to vocabulary more quickly and thus retain it longer.



View a sample of Vocabulary Powerpoint.






Speaking to Writing Connection


Research tells us that ELLs benefit from making connections from speaking to writing when grappling with academic content.  In my experience, most learners benefit from clarifying and developing understanding of complex concepts verbally. Two of the best tools I’ve found to address this Jeff Zwiers’ Academic Conversation Placemat with Prompts and the National Science Foundation’s Discourse Moves (http://stem4els.wceruw.org/).

While these take some modeling, norming and feedback, and certainly need some adjustments for younger learners and entering/emerging language learners,  I’ve found the process to be invaluable in providing learners the structures and conventions for deepening thinking.   Higher level discussions, even with limited vocabulary, are fun for learners and definitely lay the ground work for better writing.




Writing Scaffolds

sentence-frameI’ve found the combination of the following to be game-changers for my students:

  • Analyzing Models
  • Using background knowledge to generate vocabulary and ideas
  •   Sentence Frames and Word Banks
  • Peer Feedback


At first, student use of sentence frames may sound formulaic, but over time students start to make the forms their own as they build vocabulary, analyze models further and make adjustments from targeted feedback.

See samples below of student work using these four strategies:



Writing Scaffold Sample

After reviewing our standarized reading data along WIDA writing assessment data, we as a school determined that we had some issues with writing related to stamina.  As one of many initiatives to address this, our school rolled out a mandatory writing period; where for 20 minutes each day, everyone the school would write. A sample writing prompt for elementary can be found here.

While this was a great step for our school, it was a shock to the system for our WIDA level 2s and 3s. Imagine trying to write in a non-native language for 20 minutes a day as an emergent language learner!

The challenge then was to devise a scaffold that could be used with the prompt for WIDA 2-3.  This is a sample of the scaffold for the sample writing prompt.  The full set can be viewed here.
The response was overwhelming.  Students went from being frustrated and producing nothing, to filling multiple pages in a  matter of weeks.



Assessment Differentiation – Keeping the Rigor

As a part of our unit on non-fiction, our 2nd grade team designed a reading test  to assess the following standards:

  • RI2.8: Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.
  • RI2.9: Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

The grade had several WIDA level twos who were reading in the A range on F+P running records and BR range on MAP.  As a team, we were concerned that the assessment was not accessible to our WIDA level 2s and that the assessment would not return useable data regarding students’ true ability to demonstrate their knowledge as it relates to these standards.

After deconstructing the standards into component parts, we were able to adapt the assessment text to fit the criteria for emerging readers using the WIDA Performance Definitions.  Once we had accessible reading material that fit the standards being measured, we were then able to use the Can Do Descriptors and List of Supports to design supports for the assessment.

The results were amazing!  Teachers learned that students had a much higher proficiency with the skills of identifying key point and details and comparing and contrasting than they had anticipated.  This in turn helped them to design their next unit to build off of this proficiency and extend it.  From the student point of view, our WIDA 2s were able to demonstrate their knowledge, lower their affective filter, and build confidence as readers.




Culturally Responsive Teaching

When teaching my new-to-country SLIFE students family vocabulary, I found that the Western-centric imagery and material for teaching family structure was not working for my students.  Part of this, is that the material in a lot of ESL texts is not representative of the cultures many students come from.

To counter this, I created some material using actual photos of Somali families as well as some graphic organizers that reflected their family structure as well as using names that were more representative of their background.  The result was telling.  Students picked up the vocabulary faster and used it more effectively.

View family vocabulary slideshow

View family tree


Using Data to Inform

My experience has taught me that while teacher instinct is invaluable, it is only bolstered when pairing it with data from the individual students as it relates to program-level goals. As such, my guiding question with data is always, “How does this inform instruction?”  Below are samples of using data to inform decisions at various levels:


Looking at Data


Gathering Data in One Place

Research is clear that using a combination of formative and summative assessment data to inform instruction yields the best student results. As such, it is important to have access both kinds of data. As a small district, my current program did not have access to centralized student data.  The director of Teaching Learning and Innovation and I co-created student data sheets that housed formative and summative assessment along with WIDA-inspired ELL learner profile data.

Click to see a sample of the Data Sheets

Protocol for Looking at Data

The Teaching Learning and Innovation department led a series of PDs for teachers using SRI’s ATLAS-Looking at Data or Data-Driven Dialogue Protocol. With all the data in one place and a protocol with prioritized standards to follow, teachers have been able to participate in PLCs and respond effectively to the following questions:

  • What do we expect our students to learn?
  • How will we know they are learning?
  • How will we respond when they don’t learn?
  • How will we respond if they already know it?


Program-level Data Analysis

It goes without saying that in order to communicate effectively with stakeholders and make decisions about things like staffing and service model adjustments, it’s important be able to look at program-level data and analyze below for patterns.  Below is a two-year analysis of Daystar Academy’s ELLs in terms of baseline proficiency, growth and exits.  This analysis enabled me to shift our service model from a largely stand-alone streaming model to co-teaching and targeted pull-outs.  It also allowed me to staff effectively and shift programming to more reading and writing instruction.

Daystar Academy Language Learner Summary 2016-18


Informing Instruction

To modify my own instruction, I use formative and summative data from student data sheets, ELL learner profile data and prioritized standards and learning targets.  Specially, analyze prioritized standards and content using WIDA Performance Definitions to determine linguistic complexity. I then analyze student data and WIDA level, along with WIDA Can Do Descriptors and to design WIDA MPIs and equitable and effective instruction that is a best-fit for student language proficiency.

Lexical Load Example

In one example that comes to mind, using WIDA Performance Definitions I was able to determine that my WIDA level 2s were struggling with a lexical load that was too high for them.  To remedy this, I was able to find reading material that used the same Tier 2 vocabulary as the language arts anchor text, but with a much lower lexical load.  Thus, these students were exposed to grade level concepts and vocabulary that was within their Zone of Proximal Development. Students developed the same comprehension sub-skills as their peers (determining main idea and detail) using supports from the MPIs (leveled text, sentence frames, and word banks with the support of a peer). In this manner, I kept the rigor high as well as the accessibility.

View a sample of MPI strand used.

View a sample of leveled reading.


Early Literacy Example

Another example that comes to mind is an early literacy example in grades 1-3.  Our students’ MAP  reading scores for grades 1-3 weren’t progressing as much as we had expected after adopting a new curriculum. Digging into the MAP learning continuum data showed us a trend of a large group of students struggling at the phonics level.  Responding to this, we gave this group of students individualized phonics assessments and were able to determine gaps in decoding skills.  From there, we were able to dynamically group students and further target their phonics instruction to fit the needs of those gaps during our guided reading times and literacy centers.  For students who still needed more help, we were able to set up short-term literacy interventions managed by ELL teachers and para-educators.  This increased targeting of specific decoding skills to specific students led to much more efficient progression of decoding proficiency for our ELLs.

Example of early phonics data 


Action Plan

Using the PLC question format (above), educators are often are faced with determining what to do when students aren’t hitting the learning targets we are setting. When making revisions to our instruction isn’t enough, we sometimes need to do interventions or make action plans for individual students.  In this example, this student was scoring far below his peers in reading, he wasn’t producing much writing and the literacy instruction in the classroom just wasn’t working.  To approach this, the teacher and I assembled reading data and five writing samples.  After analyzing the writing samples using the WIDA Writing Rubric, we were able determine that this student was struggling at the vocabulary level.  We were also able to identify specific gaps in decoding skills.  Reaching out his parents and using a combination of resources, we were able to put together an action plan that addressed vocabulary-building, specific decoding gaps, and moving from sentence-level to phrase-level writing.  The plan helped this student find purchase and he made significant leaps in all three areas.  We were then able to revisit the plan, make adjustments to the goals based on his work and roll out a second round. After two cycles, I’m happy to report that he is no long on an action plan!

Action plan example


Action Research Example

Untitled-1A district I worked for in the U.S. encountered a huge influx of low-level English Language Learners (ELLs), the majority of which were  WIDA level 1s and 2s (newcomers). The district was at a loss as to how to proceed.  Continue the current model (co-teaching and push-in)?  Shift to pull-outs? How much?

As there is not a lot of research regarding newcomers or SLIFE and service models, I performed an 8-week action research study comparing two service models: co-teaching and push-in; targeted pull-out with push-in support.  I was able to determine that targeted pull-out with a sheltered instruction model was a better fit for these students as they made larger strides in decoding, comprehension and writing development.  As a result, we were able to shift to this model until the students were able to pass beginning of the year benchmarks.  At that point, we were able to shift back to co-teaching and a push-in more effectively.




Co-teaching is often considered the apex of instructional collaboration.  In my experience, while co-teaching is tremendously effective, it takes intentional planning and norming of practices in order to reach the potential of the models.  Below is an example of co-teaching resources I put together for our district to help teachers better understand the models and (more importantly) norm their collaborative practices as a unit.  I’m proud to say that our co-teaching practice is evolving measurably each year!




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