Attaining Core Content for English Language Learners (ACCELL)

The ACCELL approach includes methods, resources, and tools to help teachers across the subject areas scaffold core content for ELs. ACCELL was strategically developed from the ground up to align with college and career ready standards.

Teachers learn to:

  • develop ELs’ background knowledge, support their vocabulary acquisition and use, and develop their comprehension through close reading.
  • support the writing of arguments, informative/explanatory texts, and narratives by modeling and using graphic organizers aligned to each genre.
  • improve listening and speaking skills by supporting academic conversations.
  • develop language by teaching the conventions of English grammar, usage, and punctuation.
  • help ELLs understand how language functions in different contexts, make effective choices for meaning and style, and comprehend more fully when reading.

Read on below to learn more about ACCELL's key components (reading and writing), ACCELL resources and tools, and bringing ACCELL to your school, district, or state. Then browse our ACCELL-related projects.

Key Components of ACCELL

Explanations of each of the 11 reading components are provided below.


  1. Pre-Assessing Comprehension: During this component, students take a pre-assessment. Generally, there is only one pre-assessment associated with a text, but teachers have the option of pre-assessing students prior to any new section of the text. Teachers can read the text aloud, or students can read independently or with a partner prior to answering the pre-assessment questions. The pre-assessment consists of a very limited number of questions that focus primarily on key ideas and details. Results of the pre-assessment help teachers determine the level of scaffolding their students require. The pre-assessment gives students an opportunity to answer questions following a cold read—a skill they will need when they take other assessments (either curriculum-based measures or standardized tests). By comparing pre-assessment and re-assessment (component 11) scores, teachers and students can evaluate the learning that has taken place.
  2. Previewing/Reviewing the Text: During the first lesson, teachers question students about the title to introduce students to the text. Book covers and other illustrations can also be used to help introduce the text. In subsequent lessons, students are given an opportunity to briefly review the text covered during the prior lesson.
  3. Reviewing Standards and Objectives: By posting and reviewing reading standards and objectives, teachers make students aware of the knowledge and skills they are expected to master during the lesson. This component of the model addresses the reading standards, as well as the speaking and listening and language standards. In some cases, the lesson may focus on standards in other content areas, such as social studies. In all cases, the lesson includes language proficiency standards (which differ from state to state). The teaching plan lists all the standards that will be covered, but only a limited number of these standards are introduced to students for each lesson. Students review the relevant standard(s) as well as the student objective(s), which are standards written in student-friendly language.
  4. Enhancing Background Knowledge (optional): Before engaging with the text, students may need background information to help them make sense of the text. Not all texts will require this component, however. The background information teachers provide is applicable to the specific text being studied, rather than general information related to the text. It is not a summary of the text, nor does it eliminate the need for a close reading of the text. For example, if students are going to read The Diary of Anne Frank, they may need background information about the treatment of Jews in Holland during the period in which Anne and her family were hiding. They might also benefit from a visual diagram of the living space, which would show that the Franks occupied a hidden, cramped attic at the top of an office building. During this component, concepts relevant to the text can also be explained, along with vocabulary that appears in the text and is germane to the concept. For example, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, prior to reading the text students might learn about steamboats—and learn the words associated with steamboats that appear in the text. Finally, if students are reading an excerpt of text, they might be provided with a very brief summary of what has happened in the text prior to the excerpt they are reading.
  5. Acquiring Vocabulary: This component provides dedicated time for pre-teaching conceptually complex vocabulary. No more than two words are generally pre-taught per lesson. Most vocabulary is taught in context during components 5-7 using English-as-a-second-language techniques such as briefly defining target words accompanied by visuals, gestures, and examples, if available, to explain word meanings. Glossaries are prepared ahead of time to provide teachers and students with accurate definitions and examples. Words and phrases are selected for instruction based on three criteria: 1) the word is important for responding to text-dependent questions; 2) the word is important for acquiring the skills indexed by the language standards (e.g., learning about figurative language); and 3) the word appears frequently in texts across content areas.
  6. Reading for Key Ideas and Details: While most of this component deals with key ideas and details, some of the questions also address other language standards. First, teachers read the text aloud to model fluent reading, while students listen and follow along in their texts. During this reading, teachers can define challenging words using the methods described in Section 5. Next, teachers pose a guiding question(s) for each section of text. Then students engage in independent or partner reading of the same section of the text. During this reading, students work in pairs to respond to supplementary questions, which are intended to: 1) help students uncover the meaning of the text, and 2) help them answer the guiding question(s). ELLs with lower levels of English proficiency are given word banks, sentence starters, or sentence frames to help them respond to the questions. Numbering sentences can also provide additional support.
  7. Annotating the Text for Key Ideas and Detail (optional): During this component, students engage in a second close reading to identify words that they still do not understand and/or parts of the text that they still find confusing. For the parts that are confusing, students develop questions to ask their teacher or classmates. Following annotation, the teacher engages students in discussion so they can help each other figure out word meanings and clarify confusing parts of the section of the text.
  8. Revisiting Text for Craft and Structure or Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: During this component of the model, the teacher helps students acquire knowledge and skills associated with craft and structure or integrating knowledge and ideas. The teacher might explain the skill associated with the standard and model it for students, drawing on the section of the text for examples. The teacher should then give students opportunities to work in pairs and apply their knowledge to the text. ELLs with lower levels of English proficiency should be given sentence starters, sentence frames, and word banks to help them answer questions.
  9. Developing Language: This component provides dedicated time for language development and is focused on the conventions of standard English, knowledge of language, and vocabulary acquisition and use.
  10. Building Listening and Speaking Skills: While listening and speaking skills should be integrated into all reading and writing components of the instructional model through opportunities for partner talk and whole-class discussion, this component provides dedicated time to focus on these standards.
  11. Re-Assessing Comprehension: The final component of the reading section of this model is a re-assessment of comprehension. The questions for re-assessment include some of the questions used for pre-assessment as well as additional questions that cover the entire text. Comparing students’ performance on this re-assessment with their performance on the pre-assessment helps teachers (and students) evaluate how well students have mastered the relevant reading standards.


Students write about a text after they have read the unit text. The components related to this extended writing are outlined below. However, during close reading students are given opportunities to write constructed responses to standards-based questions.

  1. Reviewing Writing Standards and Objectives: By posting and reviewing writing standards and objectives, teachers can make students aware of the skills and knowledge they are expected to master during the lesson.
  2. Preparing to Write: It is important for ELs to engage in the same writing activities as their English-proficient peers, although with additional scaffolding (depending on their proficiency levels). Prior to writing, ELs have an opportunity to generate ideas and organize their thoughts using a graphic organizer. They also discuss their ideas (in their home language or in English) with a partner before they begin writing. ELs with lower levels of proficiency are given access to word banks and sentence starters or sentence frames.
  3. Writing: During this time, the teacher guides students through writing conferences, meets with small groups to teach specific writing techniques, and/or works one-on-one with students.[1] ELs have access to paragraph frames to help them write. ELs with lower levels of proficiency are given access to word banks and sentence starters or sentence frames as well. They may also work with a partner for additional support. Students are given opportunities to edit their writing to improve their grammar, and to share their writing with others.

Resources and Tools

In addition, the Center for ELs at AIR will make a suite of resources and tools accessible to teachers that will help them implement the ACCELL framework. These include the following:

  • Word analyzer website: This tool displays words that are among the 4,000 most frequently used words in texts in Grades K–12. Its purpose is to help teachers select frequent, high utility words for instruction of ELs because successful literacy instruction is enhanced when  students acquire general and domain-specific words and phrases.
  • Lesson preparation template and overview: This tool provides a framework for teachers and curriculum developers to develop academic, text-based lessons for ELs. It provides guidance for developing each component of a lesson, including objectives, mini-lessons, vocabulary instruction, background knowledge, close reading, and writing. Its purpose is to help teachers develop lessons that are similar to those that will be presented in the professional development modules.
  • Guide to making complex text comprehensible for ELs: This tool assists teachers in understanding text complexity at the lexical, sentential, and discourse levels, with concrete information and examples for making complex text comprehensible for ELs. Its purpose is to help teachers and curriculum developers create comprehensible grade-level text without simplifying content.
  • Standards-aligned question stems: This tool provides text-dependent question stems and example questions aligned with each of the reading standards for informational text and literature in Grades 2–12. Its purpose is to help teachers create text-dependent questions as represented in academic standards.
  • Functional grammar analysis guide: This tool provides instruction and examples for functional grammar analysis of phrases and sentences, which is a method to help ELs understand complex syntax. Its purpose is to help teachers guide ELs in functional grammar analysis, with the goal of helping them to understand the underlying structures in English in order to meet language, reading, and writing standards related to English grammar.
  • Model units at three grade levels that exemplify the ACCELL approach.

Bringing ACCELL to You

A Tailored Approach

The Center for ELs at AIR provides professional development to states, districts, and schools to assist teachers in using the ACCELL Model to help English learners meet language and content standards. All sessions are tailored to reflect the standards of the state in which the training takes place, the audience of teachers, and the target group of ELs for which the training is intended.

Professional Development Delivery

The ACCELL professional development takes a job-embedded approach. Job-embedded professional development (JEPD) refers to teacher learning that is grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and is designed to enhance teachers’ content-specific instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Hirsh, 2009). JEPD produces enduring effects when it is matched to the school curriculum, state standards, and assessment of student learning; compatible with daily school operations; and framed to address the particular instructional needs for a teacher’s given assignment (Blank & de la Alas, 2009; Wei et al., 2009). The ACCELL professional development includes ongoing coaching to help teachers implement ACCELL and integrate ACCELL into a school’s professional learning community (PLC).

Suggested Training Scenarios

Two-day Foundational Training

This two-day training introduces teachers to all of the components of the ACCELL model and gives teachers practice with using the scaffolding structures.

Prior to the first day of training, participants may engage with an introductory online module about ACCELL and, in turn, provide key information about themselves, the ELs they serve, and the areas of greatest need for them as educators of ELs. This information will be used to tailor the training. Major foci of the training generally include segments on Enhancing Background, Acquiring Vocabulary, Scaffolding Close Reading (to ensure depth of understanding during multiple readings of text), Developing Language, and Preparing to Write and Writing. Time is always provided for participants to plan units/lessons integrating ACCELL techniques with the instruction of texts for their own classrooms.

One-day Follow-up Training

The one-day follow-up training will provide opportunities for teachers to solidify their understanding of ACCELL and work together to create a lesson that they can implement.

Support for Implementation

Staff from the Center for ELs is available to extend learning for teachers following the foundational training, by reviewing and providing feedback remotely to teachers on lesson plans developed using the ACCELL model, given each teacher’s unique circumstances.

Training for Coaches

This one-day training builds on the foundational training and provides information and tips for coaches of ACCELL-trained teachers in how to provide instructional support for ELs using the ACCELL strategies. The Center also offers follow-up, remote support to coaches following the one-day, face-to-face training.  In some cases, expert staff from the Center for ELs can serve as coaches directly, using hybrid models of on-site, in-school/classroom support and remote observations and feedback.

Administrator Training

This three-hour presentation provides an introduction and overview to the ACCELL model’s research-based instructional supports for helping ELLs meet content and language standards. Participants learn what to look for in classrooms where teachers have received training and support on the ACCELL model.

[1] These methods are the methods used in a writers’ workshop, with additional supports for ELs. See Calkins, L. (2011). A curricular plan for the writing workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.