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Teaching & Instruction

Good teaching can be the difference between success and failure for a young reader, especially one who is learning to read in English as a second language. All teachers need to have a large repertoire of methods and strategies at their fingertips if they are to help their students develop the reading and writing skills that will allow them to become successful learners. The articles in this section offer a variety of strategies that cover all components of reading instruction, as well as information on how to design an effective reading program.

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Rethinking Language Goals in Science with Three-Dimensional Learning

In this article written for Colorín Colorado, Emily Miller and Rita MacDonald offer ideas for new ways to think about language in science instruction using a three-dimensional model of learning and numerous classroom examples.

Communication and Language Strategies for the Science Inquiry Classroom (Part 2)

Opportunities and Challenges for ELLs in the Science Inquiry Classroom (Part 1)

In this excerpt from Chapter 4 of Becoming Scientists: Inquiry-Based Teaching in Diverse Classrooms, Grades 3-5, the authors describe some of the challenges that ELLs may face in an inquiry classroom and offer guidelines for identifying important academic language features, writing language and content objectives, and choosing appropriate strategies for students' proficiency levels.

Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

ELL Ideas: Learning About the Environment

Oral Language Development and ELLs: 5 Challenges and Solutions

Standards That Impact English Language Learners

In this article written for Colorín Colorado, Dr. Diane Staehr Fenner and John Segota discuss the ways in which language proficiency and teaching standards can help shape the instruction of English language learners. They also discuss the relationship between these different sets of standards and their connection to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Introducing the Common Core State Standards in Cleveland

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Including ELLs

As we observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this year, it's important to remember that our commemoration is more than a moment of silence — it's an important educational opportunity for students, including English language learners (ELLs). Here are some of the lessons we learned from our experiences, as well as ideas for engaging ELLs in discussions about 9/11 and related issues.

Teaching Sequence

Helping children understand the concept of sequence develops both literacy and scientific inquiry skills. Here are a few simple activities that families can do together to give kids opportunities to observe, record, and think about sequencing.

Differentiated Instruction for English Language Learners

Bright Ideas for Back-to-School Night... and Beyond

It's time to head back to school. And while kids are stuffing their backpacks with new school supplies, we're packing a different sort of bag here at Reading Rockets — one filled with resources to help make one of the most important evening events of the school year really sparkle — back-to-school night.

Resources for First-Year ELL Teachers

Teaching Tips: Summer School for English Language Learners

Veteran teacher Sharon Eghigian has nearly 15 years of experience teaching in a variety of ESL summer programs. Some of those programs include ESL summer school (Grades K-5), "Jump Start" classes at non-profit agencies (ages 8-16), and cultural orientation/ESL classes for newcomers (K-5). Sharon draws on her experience and shares some of her favorite summer ESL school activities and tips in the following article. Most strategies are geared towards elementary ELLs, although many can be adapted for older students.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners

This article focuses on strategies that are part of three main approaches: building background knowledge, teaching vocabulary explicitly, and checking comprehension frequently.

Teacher Tips: Effective Collaboration with ELL Paraprofessionals

Social and Emotional Needs of Middle and High School ELLs

Tips for Teaching Middle and High School ELLs

Compare, Contrast, Comprehend: Using Compare-Contrast Text Structures with ELLs in K-3 Classrooms

This article explains (a) how to teach students to identify the compare-contrast text structure, and to use this structure to support their comprehension, (b) how to use compare-contrast texts to activate and extend students' background knowledge, and (c) how to use compare-contrast texts to help students expand and enrich their vocabulary. Although these strategies can benefit all young learners, the compare-contrast text structure is particularly helpful to ELL students.

Supporting ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom: Reading Instruction

Supporting ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom: Making Students Comfortable

Learning a new language is an overwhelming experience for anyone — especially if you are supposed to be learning in that new language at the same time! Here are some ideas for helping students feel more comfortable in the mainstream classroom.

Creating a Welcoming Classroom Environment

On a daily basis, ELLs are adjusting to new ways of saying and doing things. As their teacher, you are an important bridge to this unknown culture and school system. There are a number of things you can do to help make ELLs' transitions as smooth as possible.

Math Instruction for English Language Learners

Language plays an important part in math instruction, particularly for ELLs. This article offers some strategies for making language an integral part of math instruction, and for ensuring that ELLs have the tools and language they need to master mathematical concepts, procedures, and skills.

Tips for Educators of ELLs: Reading in Grades 7-12

These tips offer some great ways to help your regular and newcomer English Language Learners become confident and successful readers. Add a new language strategy each week, and watch your students' reading improve!

Tips for Educators of ELLs: Reading in Grades 4-6

The tips below offer some great ways to help your English language learners (ELLs) become confident and successful readers. Add a new language strategy each week, and watch your students' reading improve!

Tips for Educators of ELLs: Teaching Vocabulary in Grades 4-12

Research shows that vocabulary development is one of the most important skills students need to acquire to become English-proficient. This article provides some strategies to help you get started.

Tips for Educators of ELLs: What To Do First in Grades 4-12

Before you begin to work with your ELLs, these preparation strategies will make your reading instruction more productive and effective.

Accessing Students' Background Knowledge in the ELL Classroom

As you teach content areas to ELLs of diverse backgrounds, you may find that they struggle to grasp the content, and that they approach the content from very different perspectives. Drawing on your students' background knowledge and experiences can be an effective way to bridge those gaps and make content more accessible. This article offers a number of suggestions to classroom teachers as they find ways to tap into the background knowledge that students bring with them.

From the Classroom: Working with Chinese ELLs

In this article written exclusively for Colorín Colorado, Xiao-lin shares some insights on ways that teachers can work effectively with Chinese students and parents, as well as some of her own classroom strategies for working with bilingual students. While some of these strategies are culturally/linguistically-specific, many can serve as a model when working with students from diverse backgrounds.

Teaching History to Support Diverse Learners

What is the best way to engage students with learning disabilities in learning history when the curriculum requires them to think like a historian- analyzing multiple sources and evaluating media such as diary entries, images, songs, and political cartoons. This article tells you how to include them in "Doing History" without watering it down. An extensive resource list is included.

Best Practice for ELLs: Peer-Assisted Learning

Teachers of English learners should devote approximately 90 minutes a week to instructional activities in which pairs of students at different ability levels or proficiencies work together on academic tasks in a structured fashion.

Best Practice for ELLs: Small-Group Interventions

Providing small-group reading instruction in five core reading elements (phonological awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) can really help English language learners in the elementary grades.

Culturally Responsive Instruction for Holiday and Religious Celebrations

The first step in implementing more culturally responsive instruction is recognizing how our own cultural conditioning is reflected in our teaching. This article shows teachers how to bring rich cultural content into their teaching in a way that expands students' knowledge and interest. The article offers suggestions that teachers can use throughout the school year, as well as when observing cultural and religious holidays and celebrations.

An ELL Teacher's Back-to-School Checklist

Gear Up for a New School Year!

Starting a new school year positively is very important. It is likely that most teachers will have newly enrolled students in their classrooms, as well as students who do not speak English as their first language. For this reason, there is a lot for teachers to think about as they start the new school year.

What the Research Says About Effective Strategies for ELL Students

Back to School

It's time to go back to school! Whether you're a novice or an old pro, we have some ideas and resources to get you ready and set for the best school year yet!

Selecting Vocabulary Words to Teach English Language Learners

Which words should you teach first? Use this guide to Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 words to effectively build your students' vocabularies.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners

Explicit teaching of reading comprehension skills will help English Language Learners apply these strategies to all subject matter.

How to Develop a Lesson Plan that Includes ELLs

This roadmap can help you teach content knowledge to ELLs through comprehensive lessons that develop background knowledge and build academic skills.

Cooperative Learning Strategies

Cooperative Learning is a great way to engage ELLs in learning both language and content. This article has several ideas for small group activities that build skills and promote teamwork.

Introducing a Text Before Reading

Teachers can help motivate students to learn by activating prior knowledge and pre-teaching difficult concepts and vocabulary before starting a new unit.

Oral Language Development for Beginners

Teach vocabulary and communication skills by having students act out simple activities. This strategy, called Total Physical Response, helps students in the early stages of language development.

Teaching Content Areas

English language learners have to learn content with their native English-speaking peers, but they have the added challenge of learning English at the same time. Here are some ways to support ELLs in learning academic content.

Using Children's Television to Learn Literacy and Language

Television can be another good way for English language learners to learn new words and improve their overall English skills.

Reading Motivation and Fun

Regardless of what reading program or strategies you use in your classroom, reading needs to be fun! There are many ways that you can help promote the joy of reading.

Standards-Based Writing for ELLs

Writing is a social process, and each culture has its own conventions about sharing narratives. Help ELLs become successful writers by fostering self-expression and explicitly teaching English writing conventions.

Vocabulary Development

Knowing vocabulary words is key to reading comprehension. The more words a child knows, the better he or she will understand the text. Using a variety of effective teaching methods will increase the student's ability to learn new words.

Reading In Middle and High School

English language learners (ELLs) enter U.S. schools in all grade levels, and with a wide range of backgrounds, reading skills, English language proficiency, and content knowledge. These resources address some of the unique challenges of working with older ELLs.

Reading in Second and Third Grades

Reading is a process of getting meaning from print. Children must have basic knowledge about sound-symbol relationships, vocabulary, and reading prosody. These form the basis for decoding, reading fluency, and reading comprehension that students will need to learn content in the upper grades.

Reading in First Grade

Reading is a process of getting meaning from print. Children must be able to distinguish between different sounds and have basic knowledge about the written alphabet, sound-symbol relationships, and concepts of print. These form the basis for decoding and reading comprehension.

Reading in Kindergarten

Reading is a process of getting meaning from print. Children must be able to distinguish between different sounds and have basic knowledge about the written alphabet, sound-symbol relationships, and concepts of print. These form the basis for decoding and reading comprehension.

Assessing Fluency

Assess the fluency skills in your ELL students by finding the right reading level, tracking reading rate, and paying attention to expression and comprehension.

Using Informal Assessments for English Language Learners

Informal assessments provide continual snapshots of student progress throughout the school year. By using informal assessments, teachers can target students' specific problem areas, adapt instruction, and intervene earlier rather than later.

Placing English Language Learners in a Program of Instruction

After gathering information on a student's level of English proficiency, educational background, and academic content knowledge, your next step is to come up with a plan for placing the student in an instructional program that meets his or her language and academic needs.

How to Reach Out to Parents of ELLs

English language learners (ELLs) benefit just as much from their parents' involvement in their education as other students.

How to Create a Welcoming Classroom Environment

The Diversity of English Language Learners

The schooling experience of ELLs is impacted by many factors such as time in school, quality of instruction, transiency, home environment, and past emotional experiences in school. The following vignettes illustrate some of these differences.

Reaching Out to Hispanic Students and Families

In this section, you'll find ways to effectively reach out to English language learners (ELLs) and their families.

Helpful Video Resources

Reading Rockets has produced a number of videos about English language learners and reading in general that you may find helpful.

Using Cognates to Develop Comprehension in English

Cognates are words in two languages that share a similar meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. For Spanish-speaking ELLs, cognates are an obvious bridge to the English language.

Capitalizing on Similarities and Differences between Spanish and English

Fortunately for Spanish-speaking English language learners (ELLs), there are many similarities between English and Spanish. Here are some of them – as well as ways to address common problems for Spanish speakers learning English.

Instructional Programs for English Language Learners

One of the major decisions in the field of teaching English language learners (ELLs) is which program of instruction to use. These programs range from bilingual education to English-only immersion.

No Child Left Behind and English Language Learners

Title III of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires that all English language learners (ELLs) receive quality instruction for learning both English and grade-level academic content.

What Is the Difference Between Social and Academic English?

Social English, or the language of conversation, may develop very quickly, but mastering academic English, the language of school, can take years. Use these tips to lead students toward full language proficiency.

Common Questions About English Language Learners

Here are some common questions that teachers have about English language learners (ELLs).

Selecting vocabulary words to teach ELLs

Lesson plans that include ELLs

Cooperative Learning strategies

Placing ELLs in a program of instruction

Identifying needs for ELL program placement

Extending English Language Learners' Classroom Interactions Using the Response Protocol

Despite the need to use and develop their English-language proficiency, English-language learners (ELLs) are often quiet during classroom discussions. The Response Protocol was developed to help teachers elicit and support the oral interactions of ELL students.

Increase Student Interaction with "Think-Pair-Shares" and "Circle Chats"

Peer interaction can play an important role in a student's language development. In order to increase opportunities in which students can interact, try some of the strategies listed in this article, including the "think-pair-share" and "circle chats."

Suggestions: Working with ESL Students Who Have Special Needs in Reading

Teachers are in a unique position to create positive attitudes in English language learners. These suggested children's texts can help ELLs open up about the struggles, ambivalence, and rewards of learning a second language.

10 Things Mainstream Teachers Can Do Today

These ten simple tips can help make school more welcoming and more successful for the English language learners in your class.

Fostering Literacy Development in English Language Learners

Researcher Karen Ford offers some insight on how ELLs use their native language skills to learn to read and write in a second language, and how teachers can help facilitate the process.

A Unified Model of Language-to-Literacy Intervention Approaches

This model introduces a variety of strategies for teachers and parents that: 1) help to identify the child with language-based emergent literacy problems, and 2) assists in the remediation of those problems.

Improving Mathematics Problem Solving Skills for English Language Learners with Learning Disabilities

Find ways to help English language learners with learning disabilities who are struggling in math. Strategies for working through mathematical problems, questioning, and assessment are included.

Integrated Vocabulary Instruction: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners in Grades K-5

An integrated and comprehensive approach to vocabulary instruction is important for all students, particularly English language learners.

Out-of-School Time Programs for At-Risk Students

Out-of-school time (OST) can be essential for at-risk students to develop basic academic skills. Education research lab McREL studied a variety of programs across the country to determine how OST programs are being used to help this population.

Closing the Achievement Gap: Focus on Latino Students

This policy brief provides a snapshot of the current demographic and achievement trends of Latinos, some of the specific barriers to closing the achievement gap, and presents a set of recommendations to improve educational opportunities for Latino children.

English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction

Find out how teachers can play to the strengths and shore up the weaknesses of English Language Learners in each of the Reading First content areas.

Teaching English-Language Learners: What Does the Research Say?

The Latino population is the fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States. This policy brief provides the data and context to support a call for increased attention to the condition of education for Latino students.

English Language Learners with Special Needs: Effective Instructional Strategies

Students struggle in school for a variety of reasons. Unless these students receive appropriate intervention, they will continue to struggle, and the gap between their achievement and that of their peers will widen over time.

Bilingual Students With Disabilities Get Special Help

There are many children who are eligible for both special education and English as a Second Language instruction, but few models exist for how to serve these children well. Learn about a program in Clark County, Nevada in which dually trained teachers provide overlapping instruction to meet both these needs.

Effective Reading Instruction for Struggling Spanish-Speaking Readers: A Combination of Two Literatures

Learning to read in a new language involves different skills than learning to speak. Here's how teachers can make sure ELLs are getting solid reading instruction.

Honoring Family in the Classroom

In this article excerpt, Alma Flor Ada and Rosa Zubizarreta suggest an innovative but practical technique for helping parents engage in a meaningful way with their children and their children's schools. Teachers send home questions or dialog prompts designed to encourage parents to share stories about their own life experiences with their children. These stories then become the basis for classroom discussions about students' cultures, and they can also be used to generate meaningful classroom curriculum activities.

Context Counts in Second Language Learning

Learning a second language is hard, but it can be made easier when the teacher knows a bit about the similarities between the first and second languages, and can successfully motivate students.

Teaching English Language Learners

Children who are learning English as a second language have been taught to read both with and without using their native language as a base for learning. Research gives us some insight into what works with English language learners.

Research Agenda: Reading Among Children for Whom English is the Second Language

Research suggests that reading instruction in a child's first language has a positive effect on literacy development in both languages. Ideas for further research on teaching English language learners to read are included.

Recommendations for Teaching Reading to LEP Students

Researchers recommend learning to speak a new language before learning to read it, since spoken language familiarizes newcomers with new word patterns and sounds.