Teacher-Recommended Strategies and Resources to Support English Learners (ELs) in the Classroom


Teachers are a collaborative bunch with some of the best suggestions for supporting and accommodating students. Below are a few of the many valuable resources and strategies recommended by the educators in our Sheltered English Immersion (SEI): Best Practices for English Learners course.


Planning and Instruction

Keeping a visual reminder of best practices to guide us as we plan and instruct lessons can greatly benefit the learning and language development of English Learners (ELs). These practices include:

  • Activate prior knowledge to help students make meaningful connections to the content
  • Introduce vocabulary in purposeful ways
  • Include opportunities for interaction with materials and/or peers
  • Display and share lesson objectives to provide a clear focus for learning

In this video, veteran teachers Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Synieski discuss helpful ways to differentiate instruction to make content accessible for ELs. As Ferlazzo notes however, “It’s not just a list of strategies…it’s about building relationships with students.” We must first earn the trust and buy-in of students before learning will take place.

ELs benefit greatly from multi-sensory instruction. Engaging students in more than one sense at a time helps them to make connections to solidify learning. Using hand gestures and acronyms, the teacher in this video provides a clever way to learn and remember the first ten amendments to the constitution.

The “Windows and Mirrors” concept has inspired educators to take a closer look at the diversity in their curriculum and classroom materials to ensure students feel valued and a sense of belonging in their schools. As explained in this video, “We need windows into the experiences of others and mirrors that reflect our culture and identity.”

Involving Families

Family engagement is key when working with ELs. Understood.org provides a variety of downloadable questionnaires (in both English and in Spanish) to make meaningful connections with and to learn more about students and their families. What a wonderful way to gather valuable information that can set students up for success in school.

Tech Resources

Brain Pop ELL is an online resource that includes engaging, animated videos with characters modeling conversational English. Brain Pop ELL also provides follow-up activities associated with grammar and vocabulary, along with assessments to track progress.

Microsoft OneNote includes a translation feature that can translate text into over 65 different languages. This video provides a tutorial on this useful tool.

Using text (in ten different languages to choose from), images, audio, and video, Book Creator offers a platform for students to create and share personalized, one-of-a-kind e-books. Using this tool to write autobiographies is a creative way for students to demonstrate their language skills while sharing about themselves, their families, and their cultures.


Book Recommendations
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman is a book about a young girl who is inspired to work hard to fulfill her dream of playing the lead role in the school play.

Where are You from? by Yamile Saied Mendez
The description on the back of the book sums up this story beautifully:
With themes of self-acceptance, identity, and home, this powerful, lyrical picture book will resonate with readers young and old, from all backgrounds and of all colors—especially anyone who ever felt that they don’t belong.


Other Note-Worthy Instructional Approaches

  • Provide extra wait time for students to think and develop a response to questions
  • Give students the opportunity to preview content in their own language
  • Play videos at slower playback speeds
  • Turn on the captions when showing videos
  • Use visual aids aligned to the content being taught that pairs illustrations with vocabulary/language. Take it a step further by creating a “Word Wall” with all the visual aids to be referenced throughout the school year


What strategies and resources have you found to be most helpful for maximizing the potential of your English Learners? Please share!

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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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