How to work with ELLs in a classroom and a Freebie

Like many schools, mine has a growing ELL population. In many ways they are more challenging then my LD students but here are a couple ideas that might help you while working with these students. I have found changing up my instruction and adding a couple of different ideas work for ALL students.

English language learners (ELLs) face academic challenges as they work to acquire conversational language skills, as well as the more formal academic language they need to learn content in English. When teaching ELL students, it is important to remember that just like native speakers, ELL students bring a wealth of background experiences into your classroom and have a range of learning style preferences and cultural backgrounds, all of which should be considered when planning their reading instruction.

Who Are ELL Students?

Are trying to acquire English language proficiency, while in English-speaking classrooms. My goal is to help them master the English language, while enabling them to maintain their native language and culture. Students are trying to gain knowledge and experiences in the four domains of language learning:  listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

  • Will learn to use English in social interactions, both formally and informally. In this context, students need abundant opportunities to interact with proficient English speakers in a range of settings. By facilitating these interactions around meaningful topics, you will help students gain exposure to a wide vocabulary and a range of topics they might not come across naturally.
  • Need to learn, and practice using, content-specific language so they can successfully learn, communicate, and extend academic content-area learning. 
  • Benefit from lessons rich with visual aids and non=linguistic cues. Picture books (especially nonfiction picture books) 
  • Benefit from model readings and hearing the English language read with fluency. Modeling is a great way for students to hear the English language read fluently while they follow along, viewing both the text and art.
  • Model fluent reading. While listening to a story being read aloud, readers can track each word as it is highlighted. In this way, students make sound-symbol correlations between the words and audio pronunciations.
  • Utilize graphic organizers. After listening to a book, students can draw pictures illustrating the beginning, middle, and end of the book on a graphic organizer. 
  • Students can further build their vocabulary using the infer-and-define strategy in which students infer the meaning of an unknown word and then clarify it by using a student made dictionary.  Students can add their newly acquired words into their personal dictionaries.  
  • Use guided reading.  As you work with your ELL students to teach and model reading strategies.
  • Use conferencing, explicit modeling, and think-alouds to guide ELL students in thinking critically about the texts they read. 
  • Use inferential questions in the notes section of your students' text to encourage critical thinking about the text. Seeing these preview questions before they read will provide students with a reading focus and will require them to analyze the text and synthesize information as they read.   
  • Encourage evaluation. Students are working toward synthesizing and evaluating information and responding to reading through writing.  Use this time to guide students in evaluating their own opinions based on the text.  

I hope these ideas help you out in the classroom or in small group. Do't forget to get your sentence writing visual freebie. Have a great week.


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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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