English Learners

Strategies for Supporting EL Students (English Learners)

Strategies for Supporting EL Students (English Learners)

English Learners (EL) are students whose primary or first language is not English. They need special assistance in order to participate effectively in school instructional programs. The instruction and assessment of students, cultural background, and the attitude of teachers have been found to be factors in EL student achievement.

Enriching the Classroom Environment

In order to have an environment that’s beneficial for the teacher and the student, literature and other disciplines should be integrated into the instruction. Postponing content area instruction until students gain language skills widens the achievement gap between EL students and their native English speaking peers.

By integrating literature and culture into the instruction, the students will benefit greatly. Students will be motivated, and learning will be more enjoyable. Integrating other disciplines into the lesson will make the content more significant to EL students and will create higher order thinking skills.

Aside from learning a second language, integrating language into other contents means using it as a medium to teach science, mathematics, social studies, and other academic subjects. When language and content areas are integrated, EL students become aware that English isn’t just an object of academic interest or a key to passing an examination. Instead, English becomes a means of interaction and sharing among people. Students will be able to acquire higher level skills, communicate across the curriculum, and be successful in their daily lives.

Strategies for Supporting English Learners in the Classroom

  • Encourage dictionary use. Teach about multiple meanings.
  • Use visuals – pictures are worth a thousand words.
  • Use movement, rhymes, and
  • Bring items that students can touch and talk about.
  • Graphic organizers (Venn diagrams) help students see relationships.
  • When possible, make connections to the EL student’s home culture.
  • A teacher can provide opportunities for English Learners to build knowledge and acquire vocabulary through hands-on learning.
  • Through the internet, English Language learners can view videos of events, activities, and places around the world. Viewing these can help them develop an understanding of new concepts, at the same time build topic-related schema (background knowledge).
  • Model thinking through think-aloud for making inferences, determining a word meaning, or finding main ideas. Teachers who use the think-aloud strategy strengthen effective reading strategies such as summarizing, questioning, predicting, and connecting.
  • When reading a book, stop to make connections and clear up confusions. It is a great strategy to figure out unknown vocabulary and improve reading comprehension.
  • Allow ample time for EL students to answer a question.
  • Use learning groups in various Sometimes, group students with the same language. Other times, group students with different languages.
  • Give directions orally and in writing.
  • To make learning more meaningful, a teacher can connect a new topic to an event or experience from the student’s It can support the learner in making connections between vocabulary in their first language and English.

Additional tips

Involve the parents in the student’s learning. By getting to know the family, a teacher will have a better understanding of the student’s perceptions of learning. The teacher can also evaluate the level of student learning in the first language.

English learners experience difficulty in writing because they don’t know how to recognize their errors. Grouping EL students with more competent writers and direct instruction with interactive approaches will produce significant gains. This approach includes peer and cooperative learning which allows the student to learn from the models of others. Eventually, the English learner and other members of the group can engage in project-based activities and shared writing experiences.

EL students can also have difficulty comprehending what they read. A teacher can use tools that support reading comprehension such as graphic organizers (Venn diagrams) to support understanding and working in small groups. The teacher should know the students well in order to choose the appropriate reading comprehension strategy.


EL students need additional support, programs, and services. Often, issues arise because of differences among students, teachers, and peers within the school who are linguistically and culturally diverse. Teachers should realize that not every student learns at the same rate as their counterparts.

INcompassing Education provides EL professional development for teachers in Indiana and Tennessee. We cover all aspects of professional development such as RTI, PBIS, Depth of Knowledge, improving school climate and culture, school turnaround, classroom management, teacher mentoring, and so much more. For more information, please visit www.incompassinged.com.


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