More Than English: Teaching Language & Content to ELLs

Resources for teaching English Language Development (ELD)

Teaching Language and Content to ELLs

At “Loose Ends”? Help is on the way for teachers of ELLs!

Everyone Listens to MeDo you sometimes feel like you are being asked to do the impossible?  Teach ’em academic English language, cover the content, get ready for high stakes tests – and do it all with limited time and resources.  More Than English is my ongoing collection of resources and strategies that have worked the best for me.  Teachers – ESL and mainstream – can use these tools to teach both language and content to all English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades K-12.   ESL teachers need to be familiar with  content area standards and mainstream teachers need to understand and support English Language Development (ELD).  When we work together, we are all powerful!   Go to my blog, Loosely Speaking, for updated strategies, resources, suggestions, and opinions. My most recent post is 10 Offers of Wisdom from Fictional Characters – Give the Gift of Reading.

Who are our students?

While over 100 languages are represented, the majority of ELLs in the United States come from Spanish speaking families.  Most of our students were born in the US to parents whose first language is not English.  We have also seen a recent influx of non-English speaking immigrants.  Students and the teachers alike are struggling to survive.  Newcomers need basic communication skills (BICs) , teachers need effective strategies, and all students need to gain academic language proficiency (CALPS) more quickly so they aren’t stuck in the LTELL (Long Term English Language Learner) quagmire.

Language Acquisition 

To teach English learners effectively, it helps to know how a language is learned and/or acquired. This is a quick introduction for classroom teachers with no specific training in teaching English to speakers of other languages.  For a more detailed presentation, read Language Acquisition:  An Overview by Kristina Robertson and Karen Ford.

So how do we accelerate language acquisition?

There are quite a few factors that affect Second Language Acquisition (SLA):Bicycle girl

  • Motivation / attitude
  • First language literacy
  • Similarities between L1 and L2
  • Home support
  • Life experience
  • Personality and learning style
  • Peer pressure / role models
  • Cultural Background
  • Quality of instruction

We only have control over the last factor – quality of instruction.  Marzano and others have conducted research that indicates that the most important factor in a student’s success in school is the teacher. Whether or not our students are ELLs, we have to take into account all the factors – social, economic, and personal –  that affect their ability to learn and succeed in school.  But we can’t change them.  As a colleague once told me, “The parents are sending us what they have.  They aren’t keeping the best ones at home.”

The following resources and strategies for teaching ELLs are the ones I have found the most effective over the years.  I hope they help you meet the challenge of accelerating language acquisition for your ELLS – short term, long term, and newcomers.

ELD Teaching Strategies by Content Area

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Instructional Models

Resources by Content Area

Standards – ELD, Common Core, Bloom’s  

ELD standards  Standards developed by WIDA for English Language Development in Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing

Common Core Standards  Common Core Standards for ELA and Math with resources specifically designed to teach these standards.  These standards are demanding but they can be taught to students at all levels of English language proficiency with the appropriate corresponding strategies.  

Essential Standards  Standards developed by North Carolina for the other content areas

Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy In this rapidly changing world we must work to develop higher level thinking skills in our students, regardless of language proficiency.  Andy Griffith knew this. 

So did Harry Potter. 

Lesson Planning – How To

Tools, templates, and vocabulary lists to help you combine content and language objectives in your classes.  The World Depends on Them!

The Law 

An historical overview of major court decisions and legislation, and how they guide instruction, plus information on immigration reform

EC or ESL  

Research based suggestions on how to determine if a struggling ELL also has a learning disability

Tech Tools for All Teachers  

Handy tools for everyone, not just ESL teachers

ESL Sites  

A handful of my favorite sites

Loosely Speaking  

My take on current issues, challenges, and strategies for teaching content and language to ELLs

Spanish Resources 

Padres de Familia:  Information in Spanish for parents to empower greater involvement in their child’s education

Bilingual Letters and Forms

I continue to add new finds to this site so if you would like to be updated automatically, enter your email at the upper right and “subscribe.”  I welcome suggestions for other resources to be included in this site.  Please use my contact form or email me directly at

Jessica Loose – MsED TESOL, Reading Specialist, Curriculum Specialist

 photo credit:  Eve Turek, Yellowhouse Gallery, Nags Head, NC

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