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Noticing Tools™

These resources inspire middle-school English Language Learners to create digital design projects that connect to their lives and cultures, and to engage in hands-on, full body activities where they act out, discuss, experiment with and represent the mathematical ideas behind their designs.


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Digital Design for English Language Learners

Featuring supplemental activities, teaching strategies and sample projects, both formal and informal educators and their students will be able to support “mathematics talk” and language literacy, areas deemed critical for English Language Learners’ mathematics learning.

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Design Project Guidelines

All of the students involved in Digital Design ELLs created their own final project that focused on something they were interested in and the mathematics they learned along the way. Below are a few tips for scaffolding the process while also developing language and math literacy.

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Why Noticing Tools™?

English Language Learners (ELLs) are confronted with dual challenges: learning both a new language and core academic content, with its own specialized vocabulary. Leading research suggests that some of the best instruction for ELL students provides diverse opportunities for speaking, listening, reading and writing while encouraging them to take risks, construct meaning, and seek reinterpretations of knowledge in different contexts. They also benefit from thematically integrated projects that promote higher order thinking, cooperative learning, and high-quality exchanges between teachers and students.

Made possible by the generous support of the Verizon Foundation.


These activities were piloted twice over the course of a week in an after-school setting. Due to the modular nature of each activity, they can be implemented separately to fit a variety of educational settings and pacing preferences. Activities are separated into three parts: Getting Started, Going Deeper, and in-app Digital Design.

Digital Design for ELL Crazy Animal Hybrids 2
English Language Learners

Crazy Animal Hybrids

In this activity, students combine animals to make new, crazy hybrid creatures and explore the fractional parts, redefining of a whole, and equivalent fractions.

Digital Design for ELL Dancing with a Mood 2
English Language Learners

Dancing with a Mood

Students will use different angle types (e.g. linear pairs, complementary, supplementary or right angles), as they create dances with their bodies to achieve a desired mood. Then they will move towards creating a digital version of their dance in Choreo Graph.

Digital Design for ELL Intro to Fraction Mash 2
English Language Learners

Intro to Fraction Mash

Students use Fraction Mash to explore the connections between fractions and art by creating "mashups", making funny selfies, and hiding their faces within images in surprising ways. They will explore fractions visually and numerically and will also discover what makes fractions equivalent.

Digital Design for ELL Personality Plus 1
English Language Learners

Personality Plus

In this activity, students will use Fraction Mash to create an infographic that shows how each piece (i.e. each fraction) of their personality makes up who they are as a “whole.”


Documenting the diverse stories of English Language Learners was an important part of this project. Students came in with a variety of backgrounds in mathematical knowledge and in English language proficiency. Some self-identified as persons who enjoyed math and others voiced their everyday struggles in a classroom. These case studies show the possibilities for English Language Learners when using NYSCI’s Noticing Tools™ alongside multimodal learning experiences that were developed and tested in NYSCI workshops.

Digital Design for ELL Andre Case Study
English Language Learners

Andre Case Study

Andre was born in the United States and taken back to Mexico for three years, two of which he spent going to school. He came back to the United States before his younger brother returned, and lives with his mother, younger brother, and younger sister. Andre was older than the majority of the workshop participants, entering 9th grade in the fall of 2017.

Digital Design for ELL Andrea Case Study
English Language Learners

Andrea Case Study

Andrea came to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her father, mother, and sister in October of 2016. She attended the first pilot session of Digital Design For English Language Learners in the spring of 2017 as a sixth grader, during which she spoke primarily Spanish.

Digital Design for ELL Alejandro Case Study
English Language Learners

Alejandro Case Study

Alejandro was born in the United States and then moved back to Mexico, where he lived for five years until 2016. He traveled back to the United States by himself, joining his family in New York. Alejandro was starting his first full school year in the fall of 2017 as a sixth grader

Digital Design for ELL Alfredo Case Study
English Language Learners

Alfredo Case Study

At the time of the Digital Design Workshop, Alfredo was going into sixth grade and was born in the United States, though his family is from Ecuador. He was a confident English speaker with Spanish as his first language, and he thought through what he meant to say before saying it out loud. His two older siblings live in Ecuador, and his little brother and parents live in the United States.