The ESL Teaching Podcast

Episode 38: Responsive Classroom and Planning with ELs in Mind - An Interview with Hilary Woods

In this episode, I interview my friend and colleague, Hillary Woods. She shares her perspective on the responsive classroom method and teaching with English Learners in mind after 16 years of experience teaching 4th - 8th grade students.

Hilary discusses the value of connecting with students and getting to know them whether they are English Learners or not. This process starts at the beginning of the school year in her classroom, and continues in various ways throughout the year. 

Through her use of the responsive classroom method, she describes the routines and procedures she introduces from the start to create a student centered learning environment. Her goal is to create a safe, joyful, engaging, and predictable classroom where students feel comfortable and engaged while learning the required academics.

We also discuss Hilary’s planning style. She likes to stay ahead, but not too far ahead in order to be prepared, but allow flexibility to respond to student needs. She highlights two questions she always asks herself while planning.

  1. How do I want students to interact during this lesson?
  2. What do I need to explicitly model?

One of the specific lessons she shares about is an Emoji paragraph, including guiding questions that support students to practice writing in a low-risk, fun way.

Hilary believes success in a responsive classroom looks like students engaged and participating, students conversing with each other and having all of the materials ready. One key to this is teachers having partnerships set up at the beginning  - students need to know exactly who they are supposed to converse with at any point so they feel included in the classroom.

What you will hear about Responsive Classroom and planning for ELs.

  • How Hilary navigates mixed ability level classrooms
  • Ways to connect with students and get to know them
  • What a Responsive Classroom and how to begin creating one
  • Considerations for lesson planning
  • Hilary’s definition of a successful classroom.


As mentioned in the episode, I am linking some useful resources!

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