Teaching English Language Learners to Read

Featuring Diane August, Margarita Calderón, and Fred Genesee discussing best practices for teaching English language learners.

Teaching English Language Learners to Read

Diane August, Margarita Calderón, and Fred Genesee discuss best practices for teaching English language learners.


In classrooms around the country, teachers need to teach reading to children who don't speak English, and they haven't been trained. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education convened a panel of scholars to determine the best research-based practices for teaching English language learners. The panel hopes to release its report in 2004. For this teleconference, we brought you three members of the panel who shared their expertise as independent researchers in the area of second language acquisition.

This teleconference was produced by Reading Rockets in partnership with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), the National Education Association (NEA), the International Reading Association (IRA), and the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE). Funding for this teleconference was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

Teaching English Language Learners to Read is available for purchase at our online store, LearningStore.

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Downloadable resources

If you currently teach English language learners (ELLs) you may find the following downloads useful:

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Please visit our English language learners/Bilingual section of LearningStore to discover the best research-based practices for teaching ELLs.

Discussion questions

  1. How does your school district assess language proficiency of incoming ELL students? Is social proficiency assessed differently from academic proficiency?
  2. In your own words, describe the difference between word-level skill and text-level skill attainment for ELL students. Then, describe specific things teachers can do to increase ELL students' text-level skills.
  3. Consider a read aloud you recently used. What vocabulary or concepts were presented in the book that could cause confusion for ELL learners? What could you do to scaffold the read aloud experience that would benefit ELL learners?
  4. Compare and contrast the teaching of comprehension strategies to ELL students and to native English speakers.
  5. Create a list of teaching behaviors that could promote comprehension skill development for ELL students.


Diane August is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Margarita Calderón is a Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR).

Fred Genesee is a Professor in the Psychology Department at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Delia Pompa is the moderator of this webcast. She is the Vice President of the Center for Community Educational Excellence, at the National Council of La Raza.