Promoting Student Voice and Choice: Examples from a Secondary EL Classroom Project

  • Emily Suh Texas State University
  • Lisa Hoffman
  • Donna L. Albrecht Anderson University
  • Scott Wade Jefferson County Public Schools
Keywords: newcomer, high ability, gifted, WIDA, choice menu, high school, multilingual


A creative reflection project was designed and implemented for English learners in a newcomer high school class using instructional strategies which are often reserved for classes with gifted students. The researchers designed the project around two principles which are also hallmarks of high ability curriculum design: 1) an assumption that emerging multilingual students have high abilities and unrecognized talents, and 2) a commitment to students using their own agency to show their learning. We consider connections between instructional strategies used by English language learning specialists and high ability education specialists. The resulting asset-based project was aligned with the WIDA framework to support differentiation and assessment. This article discusses the successes and struggles that came from implementing this project with secondary English learners. We also share the materials created for this unit as well as considerations for other educators who might consider adapting or implementing a similar project.

Author Biographies

Emily Suh, Texas State University

Emily Suh is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate Program of Developmental Education at Texas State University.  Her research explores the intersection of multilingual students’ language acquisition, literacy practices, and identity enactment in K-16 contexts.  In 2018, she received the Dissertation Award from the American Association of Applied Linguistics.

Lisa Hoffman

Lisa Hoffman is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Education at Indiana University Southeast. Her research interests include teacher preparation for culturally and linguistically diverse classroom contexts, supporting multilingual student success in STEM fields, and gifted education opportunities for emerging multilingual students.

Donna L. Albrecht, Anderson University

Donna Albrecht has taught and administered in local and international PK-12, and university settings for 25 years. She has taught IB courses, social studies, high ability and ESL students.  Donna has designed and administered ESL programs in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and in Indiana.  Before joining Anderson University, Donna was the intermediate school principal at the International School of Indiana. In her current role, Donna directs and teaches in the English Language Teaching Program and conducts Professional Learning Community groups, focusing on culturally and linguistically diverse students, and high ability learners in Madison, Hamilton, and Marion County schools.  Donna has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, and Ed.S. degree from Ball State University in School Superintendency; an M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from The American University in Cairo, Egypt; and a B.A. from Anderson University in political science and economics. Donna is licensed as a superintendent, building level administrator, and teacher (ESL, High Ability, PK-12; and social studies 5-12) in Indiana.

Scott Wade, Jefferson County Public Schools

Scott Wade is a National Board Certified teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.  In 2014, Wade received the prestigious ExCel Award, and he now mentors National Board candidates. He leads his interdisciplinary team at the all ESL Newcomer Academy. He regularly partners with teachers and teacher-educators interested in supporting multilingual students in secondary schools.