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AI for Reading and Writing in ELT at the Primary and Secondary Levels

by Tan Huynh, Valentina Gonzalez |

Have you ever said or had the thought, “What would I do without Google?” Now, AI has the potential to replace Google in our teaching practices — in our own practice, it has amplified our work with multilingual learners of English (MLEs). In our work, we find it beneficial to filter all instruction through multiple lenses, and two among these are comprehensible input and output. Partnering with AI can help you create content that is more accessible to your students, and it also facilitates their output.

Comprehensible Input: AI for Reading

Sometimes, a text is several grade levels above an MLEs’ reading levels. This is especially challenging in the secondary context, when students are asked to conduct research but the sources they find are many years beyond their reading levels. You may be used to running around the classroom, darting from student to student (all at different English proficiencies), helping them process their texts (all on different topics). In these situations, students are wholly dependent on you, the teacher, if at their reading skill levels they aren’t able to comprehend the advanced, dense texts you’re working with.

With AI tools (e.g., Poe, Perplexity, Gemini, ChatGPT), students can independently process any level of input. You can begin by teaching students to do the following:

    • Copy a paragraph from the original text. Ask AI to summarize it at your reading level (or at one level above yours, for a challenge).
    • Take the topic and ask AI to provide a 1-3 paragraph summary of the topic.
    • Take a topic and ask AI to summarize it using headings and bullet points.
    • Ask AI to provide examples at your reading level.
    • Prompt AI to provide statistics.

The goal is to have students use AI as a tool to make content more accessible at their proficiency level. Some will say that this is not developing their reading skills, but there’s a difference between stretching their skills and snapping their spirits. AI can stretch MLEs by providing text just one year above their reading levels.

Comprehensible Output: AI for Writing

By making content accessible, MLEs form the “bricks” of knowledge. Now it’s time to help them construct something with these bricks. However, a pile of bricks is not what we want MLEs to produce — we want them to construct those bricks in a cohesive structure. We can teach our MLEs to use AI tools to:

    • Provide a suggested outline for a specific topic for a specific task.
    • Offer guiding prompts to cover different aspects of a topic.
    • Suggest options to transition between two or more sentences or paragraphs.
    • Produce a model text so they can analyze the writing.
    • Provide options for starting an essay (an introduction) or concluding a text.

The goal of having MLEs use AI for writing tasks is to have them edit the AI-generated ideas and suggestions, not simply copy and paste. AI can become a brainstorming partner and sounding board for ideas. Ultimately, the students choose which ideas from AI they want to explore or which AI-generated suggestions most align with their communication goals.

What About AI and Elementary School Students?

Many of our ideas for using AI with secondary students can also be incorporated into elementary school settings to increase language development and content knowledge. That said, before we begin using AI in our teaching, we have to decide why we are using it: Are we using it to teach students to use AI, or are we using it to improve outcomes for thinking and learning? Pre-K to fifth-grade teachers of MLEs are finding that with AI they can more efficiently and effectively accommodate lesson plans, making stronger learning outcomes for their MLEs.

Though young learners may not use AI in the classroom alone, teachers can leverage AI to support the unique needs of MLEs at various levels of English language proficiency. AI can help us to meet students where they are. Here are some example prompts you can use with AI to improve your lesson plans and/or lesson planning efficiency:

    • Take this lesson plan and differentiate it into four levels of English proficiency.
    • Take this lesson and incorporate soccer analogies and references.
    • Take this week’s lesson plans and summarize them. Then translate them into [Spanish]. (This can be sent home to share with families and caregivers).
    • Take this reading passage and translate it into [Korean] and [Urdu].
    • Take the same reading passage and break it down into three reading levels and add pictures and other multimedia to make it more understandable.
    • Produce a song about [insert the topic of study, e.g., the water cycle or branches of government] to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off.”

Using AI in these ways makes our lives easier, creating more time for us to actually work and interact with our students.


AI is a tool, and when MLEs are taught how to use it effectively, their learning blossoms. AI can make learning more equitable by making texts and content more accessible. Additionally, MLEs can develop their critical thinking skills by learning to use AI to more coherently communicate their ideas.


About the author

Tan Huynh

Tan Huynh is a secondary school teacher specializing in English language acquisition, an author, a podcaster, and a consultant. His suggestions are rooted in his experience teaching students from fifth to tenth grade in public, private, charter, and international schools. He also taught secondary social studies and spends much of his days coplanning and coteaching. Tan shares his application of research-based strategies on his blog, podcast, and online courses with the hopes of celebrating teachers who answer the call to serve multilingual learners of English.

About the author

Valentina Gonzalez

Valentina Gonzalez is an author, passionate educational consultant, and content creator with more than 25 years of dedicated service to the field of education. Her journey encompasses diverse roles, from being a classroom teacher to a district facilitator for English learners, and from a professional development specialist for multilingual learners to an independent educational consultant. Throughout her career, Valentina has remained steadfast in her commitment to promoting literacy, celebrating culture, and nurturing language development.

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