New Jersey Department of Education

DOE A to Z: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

English Language Learners (ELL) in the Mainstream

Part Three: Sample Teaching Models and Strategies

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Instructional Strategies and Tips
“Usually my teacher prepares a little checklist that lists the schedule for the day on it. There is a little circle next to each step on the list. When you do the first step on the list, you check it off. Next, just continue on by doing the same thing. But, sometimes my teacher doesn't have time to make the list. At those times, she will just write the steps that need to be completed on the chalkboard in order. That seems to really help a lot of students including me.”Mia, grade 5

Based on “Ten Things the Mainstream Teacher Can Do Today to Improve Instruction for ELL Students,”Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, Oregon, these 13 “tips”are designed to help teachers make simple changes in the way they teach to facilitate learning.

  • Enunciate clearly. Don’t raise your voice. ELLs can hear. They don’t understand your rate of speech or when your words blend together.
  • Add gestures, when needed. Point to objects; act out a task as you describe it. Draw pictures, when needed.
  • Write clearly and legibly. Avoid cursive writing. Write what you say on the chalkboard or white board, so that students can see and hear what you are talking about.
  • Write in print or word process information. Many ELLs can’t read cursive writing.
  • Build your instructional setting around routines. Students will feel less culture shock if they know what to expect.
  • Develop a set of clear, consistent, verbal and visual signals for classroom instructions.
  • Repeat information and review the information frequently. Try to rephrase or paraphrase in shorter sentences, using simplified English syntax.
  • Check often for comprehension of directions and content. Never ask, “Do you understand?”The Answer will always be “yes.”
  • Have students demonstrate their understanding of information and directions through manipulation of materials, drawing, writing, or TPR [see glossary].
  • Avoid using idiomatic expression or slang. ELLs cannot understand inferences in idioms and can only understand the literal meaning of the words in the expression.
  • Present new information with reference to the known. Help students to make connections when introducing new information—connections from text-to-text [learning that has already occurred in your classroom], text-to-self [background knowledge the student already has learned, and text-to world [knowledge the student has gained from his own experiences]. A good resource for a discussion of making text connections is Mosaic of Thought –see “Resources.”
  • Discuss the lesson’s content and language objectives each day. Post them in your classroom in simplified language.
  • Make sure instructions for activities are listed step-by-step on the chalkboard or white board.