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


  • Emily Suh Texas State University
  • Lisa Hoffman Indiana University Southeast
  • Donna L. Albrecht Indiana University Southeast
  • Scott Wade Jefferson County Public Schools



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, Indiana University Southeast

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, Indiana University Southeast

Donna Albrecht is Associate Professor, Coordinator of the ENL/ESL program, and Director of The New Neighbors Education Center at Indiana University Southeast. She taught English as a second language (ESL) in Intensive English programs and higher education settings, and has taught and administered in local and international PK-16 schools for over 30 years. She designed, taught, and administered ESL programs in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and in the United States. Dr. Albrecht has an M.A. in TEFL from the American University in Cairo, an Ed.S. in School Superintendency, and an Educational Administration and Supervision, both from Ball State University.  She holds teaching licenses for ESL, Gifted & Talented, Social Studies, and administrative licenses for school principal and superintendent.  Her research focuses on leadership and educator training in PK-16 ENL/ESL programs and identifying and teaching English learners with gifts, talents and high abilities.​

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.