ELL Strategies Compact Guide

More schools than ever before are responding to a growing population of students with varying cultural and linguistic backgrounds. English language learners (ELLs) are learning the language of instruction while learning the grade level curriculum and a wide range of literacy skills. Teachers and administrators must respond to the challenges prevalent in their classrooms by sharing the responsibilities to successfully address the needs of English language learners.


Benefits of Guide

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  • Equips educators with an easy-to-use guide addressing instruction for English language learners
  • Identifies types of support English language learners need in learning English and academic content
  • Features active learning strategies to support student and parent involvement
  • Emphasizes the importance of a nonstressful environment for engaging students in learning
  • Provides basic information on instructing and assessing English language learners
  • ˆHelps educators make good choices in how they plan instruction and interact with English language learners in their classrooms or schools

The purpose of the ELL Strategies Guide is to help educators understand that focused educational support is essential to ELLs in their development of concepts and language skills. The role of the school is to assist these students in acquiring both the English skills and content knowledge they need to participate equally in learning activities with their peers and to meet grade-level expectations.


Use the ELL Strategies to:

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  • Understand the basic support that must be provided for English language acquisition in the context of classroom instruction
  • ˆˆAdapt lessons to add supports that meet the unique needs of ELLs
  • Plan assessment opportunities that allow for demonstration of knowledge and understanding
  • Engage students in learning with appropriate questioning strategies
  • Become familiar with strategies that improve delivery of instruction and increase student learning
  • Utilize content-related strategies that motivate students to learn
  • ˆˆProvide students the appropriate scaffolding to achieve high levels of performance in acquiring language and content
  • Identify effective strategies for teaching students

The parents of English language learners should be involved in the education of their children. The parents are making a cultural adjustment and opportunities to ease this transition must be provided for parents.

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  • Communicate with parents in their home language

  • Verify that parents have access to school personnel

  • Provide families new to the school or community with a contact person who shares similar cultural/language background

  • Involve new and returning parents in school events

  • Involve parents in family literacy activities

  • Have volunteers or staff members greet parents in their native language when they visit school or drop off or pick up their children

  • Show parents they are valued by finding ways to help them feel comfortable and accepted in the classroom and on the campus

  • Identify bilingual contacts and others who may be willing to serve in a volunteer capacity

  • Offer volunteer training sessions to build parent confidence and stimulate involvement in campus volunteer experiences (e.g., assistant to librarian, teacher assistant)

  • Use translators during conferences or meetings to ensure parental understanding

  • Encourage parents to read and speak to their children to develop their native language at home

  • Hold meetings with groups of parents to find out their concerns or interests

  • Encourage parents to use their native language with their children to reinforce previously learned concepts

  • Provide books written in the native language and encourage parents to read these books to/with their children at home

  • Host parent trainings to demonstrate ways parents can reinforce learning at home such as:

    • Build your child’s vocabulary by naming surrounding objects and things
    • Increase vocabulary by talking about words and objects
    • Show that you value reading
    • Use humor, expression, and different speaking voices as you read
    • Discuss the printed words in books by asking questions, discussing the illustrations, and talking about what is happening
    • Stop reading when loss of attention or interest is observed
    • Read a favorite story or one with a high-interest level more than one time
    • Model word-to-word correspondence by using a place marker, pointer, or finger so a left-to-right reading progression is observed
    • Point to and pronounce functional vocabulary in the community (e.g., signs, cereal boxes, neon signs) and have students discover new words while reviewing familiar ones
  • Offer workshops that focus on needs or interests of families (e.g., completing applications, searching for jobs)

  • Provide training on different aspects of the campus and school district

  • Invite parents to visit the classroom regularly to celebrate the performance and work of their children

Culture may affect classroom behaviors, but it may also influence comprehension of content. It is helpful when teachers can ease cultural adjustment issues for English language learners. Understanding and showing value for the cultures of all learners helps to overcome any misinterpretations and reduce anxieties that may exist.


  • Peruse a multi-cultural calendar to schedule important school/classroom activities to prevent conflict with religious holidays
  • Show respect of cultural customs and create opportunities to close cross-cultural communication gaps
  • Encourage an awareness of and respect for diversity within a classroom
  • Seek opportunities to promote friendships between ELLs and their native speaking peers to increase successful adjustment
  • Recognize that some students may be uncomfortable asking questions of teachers because their culture views it as disrespectful
  • Be sensitive to cultural backgrounds of individual students and build upon them during group discussions, reflective writing experiences, and independent reading
  • Invite students to share about their cultures but only if they are comfortable in doing so
  • Have students tell a story that is popular in their home country
  • Have students use their native language to tell a story; have someone translate
  • Share misunderstandings of a culture (e.g., customs, words, gestures)
  • Use music that is representative of different countries (e.g., singing songs, listening stations, discussion)
  • Engage students in researching their own cultures and sharing their findings with the class
  • Stimulate conversation about the aspects of different cultures (e.g., clothing, utensils, foods)
  • Promote meaning/retention by drawing connections between written text and ELLs’ knowledge base as they may have cultural differences and common experiences may differ
  • Become aware of cultural differences in order to understand student interactions (e.g., praise quietly rather than in front of others, recognize students may not look directly at a teacher when they are speaking, out of respect for that teacher)
  • Teach meaning of grading or written correction symbols
  • Explain common classroom behaviors (e.g., asking/answering questions, taking turns, offering opinions)
  • Provide additional wait-time prior to an ELL responding to a question to give the student time to form the language needed to respond; display teacher interest in the response
  • Restate what the ELL says when communicating orally to model correct grammar; direct error correction during a discussion may discourage oral expression and limit or halt progress
  • Promote ELLs’ understanding of the culture within the United States including social interactions
  • Value the roles that families play in their children’s development and demonstrate this through the development of family partnerships

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