English Language Learners

The population of English language learners (ELLs) in U.S. public schools is growing quickly. This section includes information on effective ways to teach ELL (also called ESL) students , methods for encouraging learning, and ways to promote family involvement. Please also visit our sister website ColorĂ­n Colorado, which focuses exclusively on ELLs.

When ELLs Struggle: Recognizing the Signs

By: Colorín Colorado (2011)

When working with struggling English language learners (ELLs), it's important to note that there are similarities among linguistic, cultural, and learning disability explanations for behaviors demonstrated by ELLs. This article can be used as a starting point for conversations regarding diverse learners who are struggling.

Extra Support for Adolescent ELLs

By: Nancy Cloud, Judah Lakin, Erin Leininger and Laura Maxwell (2010)

Before- and after-school programs can play an important role in ELLs' success by providing a place and time for homework, extra academic support, and enrichment activities. These programs are particularly helpful for older students who may not have access to academic resources or help at home, or those with responsibilities such as working or caring for younger siblings. Learn more about the elements of an effective before- and after-school program for ELLs from this excerpt of Teaching Adolescent English Language Learners: Essential Strategies for Middle and High School (Caslon Publishing, 2010).

Hooking Reluctant ELL Readers

By: Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens (2010)

In this excerpt from her essay "Literacy Development for Latino Students," published in The Best for Our Children: Critical Perspectives on Literacy for Latino Students, Teacher's College Press, the author describes the reading program she uses to take her reluctant readers from dreading the library to not wanting to put a book down.

Phonics Instruction for Middle and High School ELLs

By: Kristina Robertson and Colorín Colorado (2009)

While it may seem the most expedient solution, it is not appropriate to put an older ELL student in a lower grade to receive the appropriate reading instruction. Age-appropriate activities integrated with academic content give older students the opportunity to make progress as readers.

Creating a Welcoming Classroom Environment

By: Colorín Colorado (2009)

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.

Creating a College-Going Culture for English Language Learners

By: Colorín Colorado (2008)

Some English language learners may not know what to expect from the college application process. Others don't start thinking about college until their junior or senior year. One way to ensure that students are prepared to apply for college is to create a college-going culture in your school and across your district.

Getting Ready for College: What ELL Students Need to Know

By: Kristina Robertson and Susan Lafond (2008)

For ELLs, the challenges of going to college and finding the right opportunities can be overwhelming, but ELL teachers can play an important role helping students apply to college and preparing for the application process as well. This month's Bright Ideas article offers some great ideas for ways that you can support ELL students as they consider their future plans.

Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences with Bilingual Families

By: Kristina Robertson (2008)

How can you hold an effective parent-teacher conference with the parents of English language learners if they can't communicate comfortably in English? This article provides a number of tips to help you bridge the language gap, take cultural expectations about education into account, and provide your students' parents with the information they need about their children's progress in school.

Accessing Students' Background Knowledge in the ELL Classroom

By: Kristina Robertson (2008)

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.

Serving Recent Immigrant Students Through School-Community Partnerships

By: Rakeda Leaks and Robert M. Stonehill (2008)

How do district and school partnerships with community-based organizations help schools better meet the needs of recent immigrant students? This article provides some examples of promising strategies in which community-based organizations and districts work together to address linguistic and cultural differences, help newcomers gain new language skills and catch up academically with their peers, and provide educational and social support to immigrant families.

Pre-Reading Activities for ELLs

By: Colorín Colorado (2008)

Pre-reading activities can engage student interest, activate prior knowledge, or pre-teach potentially difficult concepts and vocabulary. They also offer a great opportunity to introduce comprehension components such as cause and effect, compare and contrast, personification, main idea, and sequencing.

What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners?

By: Suzanne Irujo (2007)

In this article, a seasoned ELL teacher synthesizes her own classroom experience and the findings of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth to make recommendations for effective literacy instruction of ELL students.

Communication Strategies for All Classrooms: Focusing on English Language Learners and Students with Learning Disabilities

By: Dale S. Brown and Karen Ford (2007)

Concrete suggestions for teachers who want to communicate well with all of their students, especially English language learners and students with learning disabilities.

Reading Comprehension Strategies for English Language Learners

By: Colorín Colorado (2007)

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

Urgent but Overlooked: The Literacy Crisis Among Adolescent English Language Learners

By: Alliance for Excellent Education (2007)

English language learners (ELLs) represent more than 10% of the national pre-K through 12th grade enrollment, and more than 70% of these ELLs fail to develop strong literacy skills. To increase this group's educational, college, and job opportunities, policymakers must address the unique ELL literacy questions.

Time is Not on Our Side: Literacy and Literature for High School Language Learners

By: Dana Dusbiber (2006)

Given that teachers often have too much to teach and too little time, teacher Dana Dusbiber suggests an alternative approach to teaching literature for secondary ELLs: the introduction of more multicultural literature in the classroom.

Academic Language: Everyone's "Second" Language

By: Norma Mota–Altman (2006)

Being able to speak English fluently does not guarantee that a student will be able to use language effectively in academic settings. Fluency must be combined with higher order thinking skills to create an "academic language," which allows students to effectively present their ideas in a way that others will take seriously. The author, an ELL teacher, describes her use of "protocols" (a cheat sheet of sentence starters) to build students' cognitive academic language proficiency.

High-Achieving Middle Schools for Latino Students in Poverty

By: Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement (2005)

What are the characteristics of middle schools in which Latino students from low-income families make substantial achievement gains?

Building Trust with Schools and Diverse Families

By: Cori Brewster and Jennifer Railsback (2003)

While increased family involvement is linked to improved student performance, it is not always fully understood and examined within schools. Different types of involvement may include parenting, communicating with schools, volunteering at schools, supporting learning at home, participating in school governance and decision-making, and taking part in school-community collaborations. In order to encourage and foster this comprehensive involvement with all families, school administrators and teachers must develop mutual trust, consider the different cultural attitudes some families may have towards schooling, and be diligent in reaching out.

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