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October 3, 2012

Tips to Help Your English Language Learners Soar

Written By: Brandi Jordan
X Tips to Help Your English Language Learners Soar This School Year

Tips to Help Your English Language Learners Soar This School Year

by Lori Wolfe, Guest Columnist

We are knee deep back at school and looking good!

October is the perfect month for teachers with second language learners to take a moment and think about their classroom set up and its connection to student achievement. Take a moment to insure that English Language Learners (ELLs) are oriented in the classroom to maximize lesson comprehension and learning. Preferential sitting will facilitate the understanding of the lesson.


Helping Your English Language Learners Succeed

Here is a quick checklist you can use in your classroom:

  1. All of your English Language Learners are facing you when sitting at their desks.  To access the content you are teaching they need to see your body language, facial expressions and gestures, etc. so make sure they are not sitting with their backs to the teacher at anytime.
  2. Each ELL should be sitting next to a strong native English speaker.  This provides an age appropriate English model.
  3. Assign a buddy peer to make sure your ELLs understand each direction and assignment you give.  Teach the buddy peer how to check in with their ELL buddy to make sure they understand your lessons.


Enhance the language growth of your English Language Learners in the classroom by monitoring their English pronunciation and grammar.  Of course we don’t want to correct every error, so select one or two language errors you notice (E.g. incorrect pronoun usage or irregular past tense verbs) and monitor and correct those issues when you notice them.

Throughout the year it is important to accurately assess an ELLs reading comprehension.  Some intermediate language level ELLs can decode and orally read a passage without understanding a word.  Continually checking on reading comprehension and teaching comprehension strategies is imperative for ELL reading growth.

Finally, if you have a volunteer in the room, don’t forget the ELLs.  Use your volunteers to insure your second language learners comprehend your instructions and lessons.   These good Samaritans, can reteach your basic classroom procedures and routines to your ELLs assuring that they understand the daily procedure and set up of your room.  Help differentiate your instruction for second language learners by providing materials the volunteer can use one on one with lower language students.   A great use of your volunteers is to team them up with shy or reluctant speakers. This configuration gives those students a smaller, safer setting to interact with a native speaker and connect to the class work.
What strategies do you use to insure growth for your second language learners? Please share your ideas with us!

About the Author

Lori Wolfe has taught English Language Development, bilingual 1st & 2nd grades, and as a Title I Reading and Math specialist.  She also presents professional development workshops, develops curriculum and blogs. Follow her blogs at Fun To Teach ESL and Fun To Teach Math Blog for more great teaching ideas, tips, freebies and more. You can also find Fun To Teach on Facebook.

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  • Carolyn Wilhelm
    November 12, 2012

    Great information for teachers and even parents about why students need to sit in a certain spot and by certain classmates. It is so easy to think we are doing our best for our ELL students and take it for granted that all the bases are covered. I really like how you explained how a volunteer could help.

  • Mary Timpf
    November 11, 2012

    My school is 80% ELL. SIOP strategies work great. I do a lot of front loading to prepare my students for the text or lesson I will be presenting.

  • Tonya
    October 21, 2012

    I only have 4 English speakers in my class and many of my ELLs have better English skills than they do. I used to try to seat a stronger English student next to those with weaker skills, but I’ve discovered that this pulls the stronger student down. I now seat the lower students toward the front so that I can assist them instead of having student miss out on their instruction and practice. I realize that my situation is perhaps not typical, but for those in my school it is the norm.

  • nichole
    October 21, 2012

    I teach 5th grade in rural Louisiana. Every couple of years I will get an ELL student. This year I have one but she is very fluent in English (at least, conversationally). I always have my class face me–no matter what, but would like help in how to help her comprehend what she’s reading. When I don’t have recess duty, I let her read the text aloud to take her reading comprehension tests. Unfortunately, that’s only every other week. I am not supposed to technically give her tests individually because that’s not on her “paperwork”, but I feel she needs it. I am glad she’s in my class but am concerned for her comprehension in the future. Any ideas? (besides changing her IEP)

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