Supporting ELLs in the Mainstream Classroom

As the number of English language learners around the country continues to grow, an increased number of classroom teachers are working with ELLs and looking for effective ways to support them. It can be quite a challenge, especially for educators who feel unprepared to work with ELLs.

There are, however, a number of things that mainstream educators can do in order to support their ELLs — many of which may already be happening in some form in the classroom. As with many ELL strategies, these often prove to be helpful with mainstream or special education students as well. Here are some ideas!

Classroom Resources

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 outlined in this article you can do to help make ELLs' transitions as smooth as possible.

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.

Language Tips

Even if mainstream educators don't consider themselves language instructors, there are a number of things they can do in order to support their ELLs' language development. This article offers some ideas for getting started.

Reading Instruction

While ELLs will benefit from the same reading strategies that other students use, they will need additional support in learning how to read. The strategies in this article will help you to provide this much-needed assistance in the context of your everyday teaching, particularly to newcomer students.

Developing a Lesson Plan that Includes ELLs

In content-area courses, English language learners (ELLs) have a double challenge: they must learn language and content at the same time. One way to address that challenge is through effective lesson planning, presented in this article.

Teaching Content Areas

In order for ELLs to become successful overall students, they need to learn both English and grade-level content. The strategies in this section suggest ways in which you can provide your ELLs with additional support in learning content areas such as math, science, social studies, and language arts.

New to Teaching ELLs?

The first year of working with English language learners (ELLs) can be full of challenges. Fortunately, there are a number of resources to help! Colorín Colorado has compiled this list to help new ELL teachers navigate their experiences in the classroom. These resources may also be helpful for veteran teachers who are new to teaching ELLs.

Guides and Resources

What Teachers Should Know About Instruction for ELLs

This report from Education Northwest outlines 14 key principles that will help guide classroom and content-area teachers in their planning for ELL instruction and provides instructional implications for each principle.

English Language Learners: A Policy Research Brief

This brief produced by the National Council of Teachers of English gives an excellent quick overview of ELL issues, including population statistics, recent ELL policy, and recommendations for effective instruction. There is also an extensive reference list where you can find other great resources.

Books and Guides

Help! They Don't Speak English Starter Kit

This toolkit offers great ideas on a wide range of topics, including ways to promote literacy and math learning, fair assessment and evaluation practices, and suggestions for getting ELLs' parents actively involved in school. You'll find lots of "grab and go" resources like games, lesson plans, and graphic organizers, as well as step-by-step descriptions of effective classroom strategies, such as total physical response and cooperative learning.

Getting Started with English Language Learners: How Educators Can Meet the Challenge

Whether you're a new teacher or a veteran with lots of experience working with English language learners, you'll find a wealth of useful information in this practical guide by Judie Haynes, an experienced ESL teacher and co-founder of the website everythingESL. The book begins with a discussion of the stages of second language development and also covers such topics as working with newcomers, differentiating instruction for ELLs, and challenges related to content area instruction for ELLs. The real-life scenarios from actual classrooms are a highlight of this very useful classroom guide.

Haynes, J. (2007). Getting started with English language learners: How educators can meet the challenge. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).


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