The multimedia and other resources on this page support the instructional goal of helping our learners achieve college, career and civic readiness. The page is divided into five sections, the first of which provides the rationale for increasing rigor, while the other four focus on to essential elements in rigorous English language instruction:

  • working with reading strategies,
  • integrating academic language,
  • prompting critical thinking, and
  • providing direct instruction in notetaking strategies. (Parrish, 2016).

Within each of the five sections below you will find videos to build your understanding of these essential elements as well as various instructional planning tools and learner materials. Each item is linked to its source or is a downloadable PDF. It is not necessary to access the materials in the same sequence as presented below. However, you may find it helpful to begin with the first item on the list: the recorded version of Betsy Parrish's CALPRO webinar, Increasing Rigor in the ESL and Basic Skills Classroom. This Webinar provides both the rationale for— and examples of— increased rigor in English language instruction.

Rationale, Background, and First Steps for Increasing the Rigor of Instruction



  • Betsy Parrish's 90–minute webinar outlines the key elements of rigor and demonstrates ways to include rigor at all levels of instruction.
  • Stanford professor Carol Dweck's talk on the growth mindset addresses the learning potential of the failed attempts that are part of risk taking in a rigorous instructional environment.
  • This four–unit exploration of rigor in English language instruction covers the rationale for rigor and the role of academic language, language strategies and critical thinking in rigorous instruction. Each unit includes background video and audio, instructional resources and prompts for reflection.
  • This PDF magazine serves as a companion learning resource to the LINCS ESL Pro online module of the same name (see above.) Created by Patsy Egan (Vinogradov), it contains numerous lessons, learning tasks and projects that provide models for teachers of all levels as they develop rigorous instruction for adult English language learners (ELLs). The magazine includes tips and audio notes from experts in the field.
  • This survey activity encourages learners to collect, collaborate, analyze and report on data using academic language frames.
  • This PowerPoint™ presentation demonstrates the one–question survey process.



  • Robin Scarcella discusses the role of academic language in the English language classroom. Although she is addressing K–12 teachers in the video, the key points that are discussed the video apply equally to adult English for speakers of other languages (ESOL).
  • This chart identifies one or more words from Academic Word List sublists 1 and 2 that can be authentically introduced in thematic lessons on typical ESOL topics such as the classroom, job search, etc. Level–appropriate definitions and collocations are also suggested.
  • This is one of many tools that academic language expert Jeffrey Zwiers features on his website. Although it was developed for K–12, this chart provides language frames that work equally well in adult classrooms.
  • This template helps learners keep track of vocabulary. Consider using Google Drive for members of the class to collaborate on an online vocabulary notebook.
  • Here are two examples of how to develop learners' vocabulary learning strategies (VLS): a social VLS worksheet, and a metacognitive VLS commitment card.
  • Susan Finn Miller created worksheets that accelerate learners' acquisition of words from the Academic Word List: through analysis of the target term, engaging with the word in different contexts, and working with the target word's word family.



  • A New American Horizons video feature a reading lesson on birth order; it challenges learners to read closely and use academic discourse to discuss what they've read. (See below for the text resource.)
  • These beginning– and intermediate–level question stems and frames can be used for any content.
  • This site with readings and text-dependent questions helps learners demonstrate critical thinking skills as they explore topics in history, literature, and culture through primary sources along with primary sources. The site also –features primary source material for advanced learners–, and includes images for all learners.
  • Free, leveled news articles, primary sources, text– dependent questions, and standards–aligned formative assessments are presented.
  • This is the text used in the reading lesson in the New American Horizon's video "Developing Reaading Skills for Intermediate and Advanced Learners" (see above).
  • A visual guide is presented for instructors and learners to use as they navigate through complex text.
  • This page on the Adolescent Literacy website explains the benefits of using anticipation guides (exploiting prior knowledge and piquing learners' interest in a topic) and provides both a PDF and Word Doc version of an anticipation guide template.



  • The instructor in this ATLAS Minnesota video demonstrates the types of questions and tasks that enable learners with limited proficiency to demonstrate their critical thinking skills.
  • Another New American Horizons' video, provide a window into several different teachers' approaches to encouraging critical thinking in beginning– through advanced–level learners.
  • Essential strategies to infuse critical thinking into instructional routines are reviewed.
  • This tool helps learners work as a class, or in groups, to organize their thoughts.
  • This set of problem–solving scenarios and worksheets helps beginning and low–intermediate learners demonstrate their critical thinking while defending their solutions in a variety of cross–cultural and workplace scenarios.



  • Although originally intended for the speaker's (Jennifer DesRocher's) biology class, this video provides a clear, visual explanation of how to arrange and take Cornell notes.
  • Another of the New American Horizons' videos features a teacher in a high–intermediate class demonstrating the use of listening grids, a note–taking technique that can be used for all levels.
  • A collection of ideas for about using graphic organizers for notetaking with text, lectures and as a pre–writing tool is presented.


Citations for Resources Listed Above

DesRochers, J. [Jennifer DesRochers]. 2012, July 26. How to take Cornell notes. [Video file]

Dweck, C. (2014, November) The power of believing you can improve on TED [Video file]

Margolis, C. (2015) Critical thinking: Prepositions and maps in the ATLAS TIF Lens Series. [Video file]. St. Paul, MN: Hamline University. Retrieved from

Parrish, B. (2016, September 30). Increasing rigor in the ESL and basic skills classroom. Archived CALPRO Webinar. [Video file] Sacramento, CA: CALPRO. Retrieved from

Parrish, B. & Florez, M. (2012) Developing reading skills for intermediate/advanced learners. Teaching ESL to Adults Classroom Approaches in Action. [Video file]. Newtonville, MA: New American Horizons Foundation. Retrieved from

Parrish, B. & Florez, M. (2012) Tasks to promote critical thinking and learning skills. Teaching ESL to Adults Classroom Approaches in Action. [Video file]. Newtonville, MA: New American Horizons Foundation.

Parrish, B. & Florez, M. (2012) Developing listening skills with high intermediate learners. Teaching ESL to Adults Classroom Approaches in Action. [Video file]. Newtonville, MA: New American Horizons Foundation.

Scarcella, R (2007). Classroom applications of academic language. Doing What Works. [Video file]. U.S. Department of Education.

Teacher Resources

Adelson-Goldstein, J. (2016). The academic vocabulary chart. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (PDF)

Adelson-Goldstein, J. (2016). One–question survey. [Presentation] Northridge, CA: Lighthearted Learning.

Adelson-Goldstein, J. (2016). Problem solving scenarios and worksheets. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (PDF)

Adolescent Literacy (2017). Anticipation guides. Washington, D.C.: WETA.

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Primary source sets. [Website]. Boston, MA: Boston Public Library. Retrieved from

Egan, P. (2017). LINCS ESL Pro Meeting the needs of today's English language learners. Companion Learning Resource. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Reearch and Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Newsela. (2017) [website]. Retrieved from

Verner, S. (n.d.) Thinking outside the blank: 8 critical thinking activities for ESL students. [Blog post] Hamilton, Ontario, CA: Elegant E-learning. Retrieved from

William and Mary School of Education. (n.d.) Graphic organizers: Guiding principles and effective practices [PDF]. Retrieved from

Zwiers, J. and Soto, I. (2016). Constructive conversation skills poster [PDF] in I. Soto — (Ed.), Academic language mastery: Conversational discourse in context (p 40–41). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Learner Worksheets

Adelson-Goldstein, J. (2016). An academic vocabulary notebook template. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (PDF)

Finn Miller, S. (2015) Vocabulary Workouts [PDF]

Parrish, B. (2016). Single question survey worksheet [pdf] from the online module materials for LINCS ESL Pro Meeting the Needs of Today's English Language Learners. Professional Development Module.

Parrish, B. (2016). (2016) Personality and the birth order theory. [pdf].

Ramirez, S., Howard, L. & Adelson-Goldstein, J. (2015). TDQ stems and frames chart [PDF]

Five expository text structures and their associated signal words