Strategies for Teaching EL Students

There can be many ways to effectively teach English Learners. I have included below a short list with descriptions that you can incorporate within your classroom to better reach any English Learner (EL) you may have.


  • Small Group Work
    • Often, EL students may not feel comfortable speaking out and interacting with the material in front of a large class for fear of making mistakes and embarrassing themselves. Incorporating small group work where students can work together with peers to complete a task  creates a safe environment for an EL student to interact with English in both an academic and social way with less pressure.
  • Modeling
    • EL students perform better with very clear and concise  directions, and explanations for what is expected of them and their work. Make sure to speak slower while giving directions and show samples of exemplary student work so EL students will understand what is expected of them.
  • Realia
    • Including and incorporating real-life material, topics, and themes within lessons will help make the subject matter more meaningful to all students, including EL students. By selecting topics and themes that can be connected to students’ lives will make the learning more authentic as they will find greater value in the work and better understand why they are doing it.
  • Visuals
    • Though this classroom strategy is helpful for all students, visuals can be especially helpful for EL students in understanding the material, as often times, a visual component does not need an English translation to be understood. Visuals allow a student to think about a problem using their native language before trying to process it in English. They can also help show different ways to answer and think about a topic. The more ways we can make our subjects accessible to EL students, the better.
  • Word Walls
    • Placing important vocabulary around the room allows EL students to have constant reminders of key material and gives them constant support. In conjunction with Word Walls, it is important to clearly label the lesson objectives on the board, or easily seen area of the room, so EL students can have a plan in mind what they will be doing for that day in class.
  • Scaffolding
    • Like other strategies mentioned above, this is something that is important for all learners, but especially for EL students. This could include’chunking’ the work, taking part in pre-teaching activities, structuring discussion breaks in the work to ensure understanding of the materials, and other techniques. A step-by-step process with built in support allows EL students to take smaller steps within an activity and not become overwhelmed by the work.