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Using Consistent Curricular Routines to Keep Learning at the Center for Multilingual Learners

There are some days that students come to class feeling anxious. In particular, newcomers who are still acclimating to their new context may need help in order to feel secure. The good news is that a welcoming classroom can be a place to foster reliability and consistency for multilingual and English learners so they can grow and learn.


Creating a predictable routine is one of the easiest strategies to implement in a classroom, and it’s also extremely important in lowering the affective filter and reducing anxiety. Because newcomers and beginning level language learners don’t always understand every word being said, having set instructional patterns helps them relax. If they know what to expect, they can focus more of their energy on the instruction itself.


Help multilingual learners develop familiarity with the way a unit is set up and how lessons will unfold

  • You can help students see how a unit is laid out by first doing an initial walkthrough of the whole thing. This is just a quick skim, turning each page.
  • Have students notice what they see in each unit as they preview. For example, if you are using a Vista program, point out the “Connect to the Theme” video at the beginning of each unis. This introduces essential language students will need for the unit theme.
  • Point out to students that there is always something to do before, during, and after reading. Have multilingual learners look for ways they will work with peers—in partners or in a small group. Try a scavenger hunt for the visual icons to see if they can match the symbol with what they will do.

Develop predictable signals

  • Follow the sequence of activities and the academic content areas of each unit, adding an auditory or visual signal for key transitions. For example, you can use a handclap or an object like a rain stick or gourd for an auditory cue. Alternatively, turning off the lights when it is time for small groups or partners to return to their seats for the next activity can be a visual cue. [NOTE: Never flicker lights, as this may trigger reactions in students, physical and/or emotional.]
  • Have a designated spot where students submit any work in hard copy, and consider writing or projecting a list on the board for the session’s task or assignment. Write it in the same location on the board each time.


Working in tandem, a great teacher implementing a great curriculum allows the pedagogical frame to be made visible, so it can reinforce a strong, consistent pedagogical message to students. This comprehensive approach is designed to supports students’ efforts to take gradually increased responsibility for their own learning in language and literacy. Maintaining the routines helps keep learning at the center so students grow and progress.


Click here to Watch Dr. Trujillo’s video on creating consistent curricular routines.


Click here to see how Vista can help you set a familiar framework for success for multilingual learners across all grade and proficiency levels.


By Dr. Jenni Trujillo


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