ell teaching strategies

ELL Teaching Strategies: Their Many Benefits

Everyone knows English is a popular language, but few know that almost 400 million non-native English speakers are on the planet. And, because there are so many English language learners (ELLs), there must be practical strategies allowing students to reach English proficiency in multiple ways. Apart from grade levels, there are several reasons to support ELLs in breaking a language barrier.

ELL students need assistance because:

  • English language fluency helps a student communicate and cultivate relationships with peers and teachers
  • English language proficiency makes a comprehensible input when applying to college or uni
  • English proficiency is often necessary for professional development
  • Knowing other languages makes a big difference while traveling abroad

The scientists,  A. Herrell and M. Jordan, wanted to support educators more. They wrote a book, "50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners." The same researchers regularly publish new editions. Luckily, we have made a more concise compilation of the practical strategies to teach ELL students effectively.

This article highlights scaffolding techniques, interactive and collaborative activities, and vocabulary building. Also, there are written directions for developing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in ELLs.

Understanding the Needs of English Language Learners with Different Background Knowledge

Teaching ELL students heavily depends on the English learners' proficiency levels:

English level Characteristics
Beginner A student knows the alphabet and simple vocabulary words, can write their name, gives simple responses and can speak slowly
Pre-intermediate Simple spoken and written language, ability to describe surroundings or talk about essential matters (mood/weather, etc.), holding short conversations
Intermediate Students understand short texts and start to clearly express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences
Upper-intermediate English learners can get the meaning of longer texts and videos on various topics and express themselves clearly
Advanced Such students use their substantial vocabulary to discuss even unfamiliar topics, fluently express themselves, and produce complicated texts
Proficiency Proficient English learners can easily converse with native English speakers on the spot, understand academic language and unpopular terms, pick up even slight differences in tones and expressions

Choosing engagement strategies for ELL students is much easier after finding their English language level. The one-size-fits-all approach is relatively ineffective in ELL strategies since meeting students' individual needs is better. Indeed, a beginner and a proficient speaker have different demands.

Besides, all strategies to support English language learners help tackle other issues. First, a language barrier is detrimental when ELL students try to cultivate relationships with native English speakers. So, it often leads to social isolation.

Next, when the entire class speaks a new language and has a new culture, there is often ostracism among ELL students. If an ESL teacher chooses the right approach, kids learn to respect each other.

Finally, there is an academic struggle when most teachers devalue any previous student achievement of ELLs. People whose native language isn't English struggle to express their knowledge in English, and others underestimate them.

Classroom Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners

Given all the issues in mainstream classrooms, any ESL lecturer wonders how to tackle them. Sure, it's the easiest when the entire class has the same language level. But, English is often the first language for some students and the second for others. Therefore, such classes should have unique teaching strategies for English language learners. The educators can employ multiple ways of engaging students at different levels. So, what are the strategies for teaching English language skills that most teachers fancy?

Differentiated Instruction for ELL

Differentiating instruction opens up our list of strategies for teaching ELL students who need more assistance. In a nutshell, an educator offers several working methods here. Although many often confuse this strategy with individual learning, DI is far from it. Contrarily, all the students learn the same information in different forms. Initially, the tutor considers everybody's language skills, background knowledge, personality, strengths, and other characteristics. Then, the educator adapts the plan to meet students' individual preferences.

For instance, how would a student respond to visual aids if they better understood audio recordings? Then, some kids learn the best when teachers speak slowly or provide students with tasks that involve writing.

Among the successful cases of DI implementation was the experiment in the Junior High School in Taiwan. There were twenty-five teenagers with mixed abilities, but the teacher managed to engage them all in learning a new language. The only secret was the differentiating strategy during planning.

Scaffolding Techniques for Student Learning

One of the prominent teaching strategies for ELL students is the scaffolding technique. Why do people call it like that? Similarly to construction workers, educators build temporary frameworks, allowing students to access help whenever necessary. The whole point of scaffolding is to teach English language learners independence gradually. Such tactics reduce the stress when students learn other languages, especially in a new culture.

There are various examples of educating students through scaffolding. A teacher can provide students with smaller chunks of information for better understanding. Some educators actively present visual aids, like pictures, to help students remember tricky vocabulary words. Plus, if classroom tasks involve writing, a teacher gives ELLs sentence frames before they gain enough language skills.

Several years ago, there was a Book Club case. The teacher wanted learners to develop their second language, English, so they could hold whole discussions. Thus, the Book Club leader started with teacher-focused gatherings to teach them language skills. As time went on, more ELLs obtained language fluency. Ultimately, the literature discussions became learner-focused, with little teacher participation.

Interactive and Collaborative Activities in the Learning Process

Sometimes, a student needs a little breathing room during classes. Luckily, there are both fun and productive language learning strategies to support ELL students in a classroom. Educators can fill students' time in the classroom with engaging discussions and captivating games. The teacher's main objective is to distribute roles evenly among smaller groups. For instance, there must always be someone whose first language is English to help ELLs during debates or other activities.

Games like "Two Truths, One Lie," "Hangman," or "Bingo" not only teach language skills but also act as icebreakers. A real-life case from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia demonstrated a positive student response to collaborative tasks. The experiment proves that English language learners benefit from collaborative work as they develop critical thinking and leadership skills. Finally, they even battled the fear of speaking English.

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Language Development Strategies

The professional development of an education worker reflects on student achievement. Understanding the peculiarities of the most productive language development strategies helps elevate the results. Here are a few tactics that end up making sense in a classroom.

Language Development Strategies

Vocabulary Strategies for English Language Learners

While most language lessons partially focus on expanding the vocabulary, lessons for ELLs require special classroom activities. Even though such learners can participate in daily life conversations, they might lack academic language vocabulary, or vice versa. To strengthen their confidence and ability to self-express, educators implement vocabulary strategies.

For instance, teachers often hang posters with new words. It helps avoid wasting students' time staring at the empty walls. Another unusual tactic is when a tutor signs objects in the classroom. Some lessons can include watching movies or listening to podcasts in English. Besides vocabulary enrichment, such activities provide a little breathing room for learners.

There was a similar case in Kuala Lumpur public school. Malay primary ELL twelve-year-olds significantly advanced in English thanks to the mentioned strategies for teaching English. Bright cartoons and video games indeed helped!

Strategies for Teaching Grammar to English Language Learners

An extensive vocabulary is excellent, but ELLs need grammar skills to utilize those words. Some people think that productive language learning is boring. However, a little effort can make even teaching syntax to English language learners engaging.

Everyone who went to school once experienced direct methods. One of the common examples is a sentence frame, where students fill in the gaps. However, ELLS should combine such activities with indirect methods. An excellent illustration is memorizing irregular verbs through singing songs. A catchy tune and simple sentences do wonders together and are as good as sentence frames! Others recommend using grammar in context by discussing pop culture or memes.

The Darussalam Polytechnic ELL students have proven the effectiveness of the mentioned methods. Most confessed that context and multiple examples made grammar learning more enjoyable.

Reading and Writing Strategies for English Language Learners

The ability to perceive written information and self-express through writing is crucial. On the one hand, ELLs with these skills quickly text with peers. On the other hand, they can enjoy whatever literature they prefer, even outside of the curriculum. The education system offers writing and reading strategies for English language learners to make an ELL more capable, so here are some examples.

Everyone appreciates it if a teacher tells hooking stories or reads aloud. ELLs can read bilingual books for individual work so that English text starts making sense faster. Later, they can hit local bookshops and buy whatever they like!

As for writing, the most reliable tactic is to start with sentences, which then turn into paragraphs and whole essays. With writing prompts, the process becomes even smoother.

A great case took place in the School of Foreign Languages in Beijing. Local ELLs practiced reading and writing simultaneously by analyzing the text and journaling their impressions.

Instructional Strategies for English Language Learners

Effective instructional strategies for ELLs cover all the methods educators use to explain the course material. There are techniques for delivering information and activities to make students more independent. Usually, an effective strategy allows learners to connect theory and practice better.

There are plenty of particular illustrations. Some educators ask learners to give regular feedback to adjust the lesson plans. The others change the pace according to the student's needs. Often, tutors speak clearly or read out loud to engage ELLS. Such things as pre-lesson vocabulary are essential, too.

One of the US public schools had a case in their Reading and Language Arts class. Over half of the students were ELLs, so their teacher opted for group work, a culturally responsive approach, and additional theoretical materials. This way of teaching students made them more eager to learn.

Listening and Speaking Strategies for English Language Learners

Most commonly, listening and speaking are the first skills that an ELL requires in their initial lesson. Greeting each other and introducing ourselves goes before anything else, and teachers actively encourage talking. However, such an issue as increased teacher talking time prevents learners from unfolding their true potential. How do educators maximize the listening and speaking activity?

First and foremost, the goal is to create a welcoming environment where educators appreciate every student's effort. On the contrary, focusing on errors too much may fuel unnecessary fears in ELLs. Moreover, the best idea for a teacher is to step aside to let students discuss their favorite topics. Listening is also entertaining if there are games like "listen-and-retell," funny dialogues, and drama-style acting.

One of the Malaysian private schools successfully implemented these ideas. As a result, sixty participants in the experiment eagerly discussed even unfamiliar topics.

Technology Integration Strategy in Lesson Planning

Nowadays, education and technology go hand in hand, regardless of the subject. With the growing popularity of remote learning, there are now multiple solutions for ELLs. Tech helps to boost proficiency and makes studying more comfortable, so why not?

Overall, we can talk about the gamification of ELLs' learning processes. Besides the standard virtual classrooms, English learners eagerly employ various applications, digital whiteboards, libraries, and interactive games. Plus, teachers are happy to use digital tests for quick assessments.

An analysis of the ELL achievement dynamic in one of the US schools proves the advantages of technology. Fourth and fifth graders who used iPads were likely to continue learning English outside the classroom.

Assessment Strategies for English Language Learners

Assessment is an inevitable part of education, and it regularly appears in all language learning stages. Some alterations can significantly improve the evaluation process in the case of ELLs. An effective tactic would be to step away from regular, rigid tests. Here are some alternatives to them.

An ELL student's growth looks clearer during continuous assessment, like portfolio and performance-based evaluation. This way, an educator can see the progress made before and after. Similarly, ELLs sometimes self-assess by journaling to see their strengths and areas that require improvement.

A multi-case study of three Chinese universities demonstrated that peer and self-assessment built a trusting atmosphere in ELL groups. Eventually, the students developed both language and leadership skills.

FAQs

How to Support ELL Students?

Why is Differentiation of Process Necessary for English Language Learners?

What Challenges Do English Language Learners Face in the Classroom?

Conclusion

Overall, there are several effective teaching strategies for English language learners today. Each covers a specific aspect of foreign language learning, including skill development, group work, scaffolding, technology use, assessment, instructing, etc.

They all cater to the specific needs of ELLs since they demand increased attention and care. And, granted that educators implement all the necessary methods, such students easily merge with the English-speaking community, feeling comfortable and welcome.

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