Many schools and districts across the US have begun developing language growth plans for their language learners. These plans, also called Individual Language Plans, have the potential to motivate students and accelerate their learning. Because there are so many components to language acquisition, having manageable goals in listening, speaking, reading, and writing can help students focus their attention on their goals and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Sarah Clayton, the English Language Development specialist at Elk Creek Elementary School in Rifle, Colorado, recently shared language goals with a fourth-grade newcomer and noticed the difference it made for the student and his teachers. When the student first arrived, he spoke no English, but was quick to fit in socially with his bilingual classmates. Because he was well educated in his native language, he was also quick to become frustrated with his inability to communicate what he understood. He felt overwhelmed with the challenge of learning language and content.

Sarah and I co-created the Language Growth Plan below with input from the student and his teachers. Once the student understood the achievable goals outlined on the plan, his frustration diminished. The growth plan is written with WIDA’s Can Do Philosophy and asset-based approach. Notice how all of the goals are built on the student’s strengths in each language domain. Each goal also suggests supports that classroom teachers can use to help the student achieve the goal.

In just two weeks after sharing the Language Growth Plan with the student and his teachers, Sarah noted all the measurable ways he had already achieved some of the listening and reading goals. She explained, “We did some basic teacher instruction in English yesterday and he was able to share what they meant in Spanish. We tried the reading goal as well and he did an excellent job! He found 21 words he could identify that he already knew in English or as a cognate. He was able to tell me what we read about, who we read about, and why we were reading about it.  Note: The class was reading about frogs and the student responded to each of the key questions about the English text as follows.

What: Fragile Frogs (Ranas Fragil) – he could say both

Who: Scientists

Why: Animals, extinct, problems, habitat (all cognates)

He told me (Sarah) in Spanish that frogs were dying because there were problems in their habitats.

Sarah sent this report to the student’s classroom teachers and used this information as formative language assessment. As the student continues to grow and achieve the goals in each language domain, they will develop new goals and share them with the team. Language growth goals motivate students and help teachers support them in achieving these goals.

Do you create Language Growth Goals or Individual Language Plans for your students? How do they impact instruction? Please share a format that works for your students or modify the one below for your context.

Beth Skelton

Author Beth Skelton

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  • Sara Sharer says:

    This is exactly what I am doing for my students right now. I have been desperately searching for a format and just yesterday started to make my own, it looks much like yours. My teachers asked for actual grade level examples that would help with the Speaking and Writing domains so I have added an example column.

  • Beth Skelton says:

    That’s great, Sarah! Please share your version with me. I’m glad you are creating growth plans for your students! Best, Beth

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