Supporting English Language Learners

Everyone wants more resources to help English language learners. Harris Education Solutions has two platforms that teachers of ELL students appreciate. Castle Learning and eDoctrina include several tools that support students overcoming language barriers.

Different Tools for Different Levels of English Proficiency

English language learners have widely different instructional needs based on their backgrounds. While not every tool available on the Castle Learning and eDoctrina platforms is appropriate for every ELL student, each feature greatly benefits a particular subset of ELL students.

Plenty of ELL students have lived in the US for years. Many of these students have an advantage over their monolingual peers because multilingualism promotes cognitive development. However, biliteracy takes years to develop, so primary teachers will want to provide consistent support and instruction to promote English proficiency and literacy. Teachers will also want to encourage developing fluency and literacy in the home language whenever possible.

Recently immigrated students frequently need significant, global support. In addition to their academic challenges, they often struggle with culture shock and homesickness. Immigrant students with a solid academic background will transfer their content knowledge and skills, making their transition less challenging than immigrants with minimal formal education.

Whatever the new arrivals’ background, your patience and empathy make adjusting to a new system, culture, and language less stressful. The Castle Learning and eDoctrina platforms decrease the work it takes to meet their academic needs, freeing some time to support their emotional needs.

Helping ELL Students Meet the Standards

The educational goal for ELL students is the same as their native English-speaking peers. Regardless of their background, they should meet the standards in all subjects, including English literacy. To help students succeed, teachers scaffold content lessons and teach English. Students with more limited English proficiency may also need their assignments adapted.

Castle Learning and eDoctrina make scaffolding and adapting easier. The platforms also include resources for teaching English.

Scaffolding means structuring lessons to help ELL students meet the same objectives as their peers. Teachers unfamiliar with scaffolding instruction sometimes make the mistake of choosing activities that require only low-level thinking skills. Watered-down instruction limits English language learners’ access to a quality education.

Adapting assignments and assessments provides a way for some ELL students to show what they know. These adaptations lower the frustration level for immigrant students struggling in a new language.

Follow State Guidelines

Your state provides guidelines for assessing, setting benchmarks, and promoting quality instruction for English language learners. Thirty-five states belong to the WIDA consortium, which provides the comprehensive WIDA 2020 Standards Framework. Notably, CaliforniaArizonaTexas, and New York, which all have high concentrations of English language learners, use independent frameworks. Some districts may supplement the state’s framework.

You will want to use your state’s formal assessment to measure students’ English proficiency for academics. Gauging students’ proficiency levels with informal interactions distorts perceptions. Many students have a higher level of proficiency in social contexts than they do in academic contexts. The distinction misleads many educators into thinking that some students no longer need supports. Sadly, sometimes teachers wonder if a child is “faking” not understanding due to the discrepancy in academic and social language proficiency.

To experience how ELL students often feel reading in a non-native language, you might try reading articles in The New England Journal of Medicine. Notice how much time and concentration it takes to understand text with unfamiliar ideas and words.

Provide Support with Scaffolded Instruction

You could spend years learning to scaffold instruction. Below are a few quick ideas to get you started:

  • Connect prior knowledge to new lessons.
  • Pre-teach and display academic vocabulary.
  • Use graphic organizers and other visual aids to help students organize information.
  • Teach and display sentence frames related to the content. Sentence frames allow students to fill in the blanks with their ideas without coming up with the syntax. For example, a history teacher might teach, “The ______ caused _______ because _______.”
Provide Support by Adapting Assignments

Here are a few ideas on how to adapt assignments and assessments for ELL students needing additional supports. These adaptations are beneficial for students with low to medium levels of English proficiency and literacy.

  • Irregular spelling doesn’t make learning to read English easy. “Enough” and “though” don’t rhyme, but “queue” and “to” do. Students with emerging literacy skills benefit from hearing and reading words simultaneously. Give students audio versions of written text until they read fluently in English.
  • Reading text in a non-native language takes longer to process. Give ELL students enough time to think by individualizing how much time you allow them on assessments.
  • Provide extra practice before tests, so students hear the associated vocabulary more.
  • Allow newly arrived students with minimal English skills to use a dictionary or translation tool to help them understand.
Use eDoctrina and Castle Learning to Teach English, Scaffold Instruction, and Adapt Assignments

eDoctrina and Castle Learning reduce the workload of supporting ELL students. Choose the appropriate features to make your life easier and meet the needs of your ELL students. All features are available on both platforms unless otherwise noted.

  • Share your best assignments with other ESL teachers with a few clicks. Invite them to share their best assignments with you too. Collaborating to create effective ESL resources will help students improve their English proficiency.
  • Supplement your ELA program with a wealth of pre-made English language arts resources.
  • Add explanations to assignments that help ELL students access the material.
  • Upload graphic organizers, videos, and pictures to any assignment to help students visualize ideas.
  • Customize the assessment window for students who would benefit from extra time.
  • Provide assessments in Spanish for newly arrived Spanish-speaking students. Castle Learning has assessments available in Spanish to help you check a student’s understanding of various subjects and place them in the correct classes. You can print these in Spanish or convert them online. Available Spanish translations include NYS Regents exams
    in Algebra I, Global History and Geography, US History, Earth Science, and Living Environment.  Castle Learning also offers K-12 reading sets that are translated into Spanish.
  • Encourage continued literacy in French or Spanish if that is their home language with Castle Learning.
  • Allow students to use the Google Translate feature to translate a question or passage into their native language. Google Translate is far from perfect, but it is often sufficient for students to understand the content and not spend time translating.
  • Help students overcome some of the obstacles of English spelling oddities by allowing them to use the text-to-speech feature.
  • Preview vocabulary with Castle Learning. Later, when students come across the word in the lesson context, they will better understand what it means and how to use it. Castle Learning has a vast bank of vocabulary questions that you can search by keyword, level, and subject. You can also quickly make digital vocabulary flashcards.
  • Assign Castle Learning’s self-study to direct students to practice in the subjects they need help. The self-study feature provides unlimited practice and instant feedback with vocabulary and language structures.
  • Include audio, video, or text to any assignment using eDoctrina. Students can also answer with audio, so they get practice speaking.
One Lesson at a Time

When you first start teaching ELL students, helping them achieve grade level may feel daunting. However, helping them flourish is one of the most rewarding parts of any teacher’s career. At Harris Education Solutions, we make tools to help you do your best work.

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