What is Teaching English Language Learners?

English language learners, sometimes referred to as ELLs, are students who have limited ability to use the English language. The ELL definition includes those whose first or home language is one other than English. A related term, ESL, stands for English as a Second Language. ESL refers to a program designed to support ELLs in the development of language skills, primarily in the categories of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Some ESL programs also include training in cultural orientation, study skills, and specific content vocabulary.

For an English language learner, attending a school that is conducted primarily or exclusively in English can provide significant challenges. In most school systems, ELL programs are in place to support English language learners and enable them to fully access the grade-level school curriculum. Some school systems have ESL classrooms, while others provide pull-out services for ELL students. All teachers should employ strategies in the classroom to actively support English language learners. In addition, many colleges and communities offer ELL courses for adults interested in language learning.

Teaching English language learners requires understanding the language acquisition process and a repertoire of strategies designed to facilitate language learning. Those teaching ELL students benefit from tools and resources designed to enhance English language learning across all curricular areas. Some teachers have a role specifically focused on teaching ESL students. These teachers may conduct one-on-one or small group lessons specifically aimed at teaching specific language content that students need for class participation. Other teachers seek to support ELLs in the context of a general education classroom. Activities, assessments, projects, and lesson plans created for ELLs provide teachers with valuable material to support their practice.

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Teaching English Language Learners Resources

Study.com is home to a wide variety of resources to meet the needs of English language learners. Educators can find lesson plans, games, activities, and tools for use in supporting English language learners, as well as ideas and resources to employ while making accommodations for ELL students. Resources are available that are appropriate for ESL classrooms, general education classrooms, and small group or individual lessons. In addition to teacher resources, find lessons for school-aged and adult learners looking to enhance their knowledge of employment-related language. Study.com's English language learner resources are appropriate for students of all ages and all levels of language learning.

Teaching English Language Learners Courses

For those teaching English as a second language, online resources available at Study.com include courses for both teachers and students. Grammar lessons teach students of all ages the basics of English grammar, and are useful for conversation and formal speaking as well as for writing. A course geared toward adult learners deals with common communication needs in the workplace. Teacher resources include in-depth exploration of the language acquisition process, as well as explanations of the application of various teaching strategies to the specific needs of English language learners. Both a general teaching course and a course designed for teaching reading include activities, projects, assessments, and accommodation ideas suitable for teachers in a wide variety of ESL teaching situations.

For teachers and parents

Teaching English Language Learners Lesson Plans for Teachers

Whether an ELL teacher is working exclusively in an ELL program, or is working to support the ESL students present in a larger classroom, targeted ELL strategies are necessary to successfully meet the needs of English language learners. Study.com provides an effective source of classroom strategies, specific lesson plans and activities, and tools such as flashcards and games. Teacher resource modules include basic language-enhancement activities, lessons targeting educational skills such as study skills, subject-matter lesson plans, and supplemental student activities for ELLs. Lessons referenced in these modules cover elementary through adult learners, with ideas and accommodations for both beginning speakers and those with more advanced language skills.

Lesson plans
  • Activities & Resources for Teaching ELL

    Lesson plans for all ages address language objectives, from basic topics like weather to complex issues like world events. Find activities, discussion questions, vocabulary and games for beginning to advanced ELLs.

  • Student Success Skills Lesson Plans

    Find resources for teaching critical educational skills. Lessons address study skills such as memory, note-taking, and test-taking; research skills such as library and text features; and cause and effect.

  • Academic Subjects for English Language Learners

    Academic lesson plans for elementary to adult learners teach academic skills with a focus on language acquisition. Find lessons in math, science, and history as well as grammar, writing, and literature.

  • Activities for Teaching English Language Learners

    Both ESL teachers and general education teachers can enhance their instruction with these language-rich ELL activities, flashcards, and games. Topics include reading, speaking, listening, conversation, and grammar.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does ELL mean in school?

    ELL is an acronym for English language learners. In school, English language learners are students who are not proficient in the English language, often because their first language is not English. ELL students often receive support and accommodations to help them learn English and succeed in the school curriculum.

  • What does an ELL teacher teach?

    An ELL teacher focuses on the language acquisition needs of English language learners, students who struggle to effectively use English for learning the general curriculum. An ELL teacher focuses on the students' ability to listen, speak, read, and write in English. Topics may include basic communication, study skills language, and language related to academic disciplines.

  • What is the best way to teach English language learners?

    English language learners have a variety of skill levels and needs. Language needs to be taught both explicitly and in the context of its educational use. Some English language learners are taught exclusively in the general education classroom, while others receive language support.

  • Why is it important to teach ELL students?

    It is important to teach all students and ensure their access to the school curriculum. ELL students often need additional support to ensure that they understand the language used in both academic and social contexts. It is important to understand the language acquisition process and provide accommodations and instruction to ELL students to ensure their academic success.