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7 Steps to Help ELL High School Students Be Successful

All good educators constantly search for the best teaching strategies they can use for high school English Language Learners (ELL). The motivation is to help them be as successful as they can possibly be. This is really the same goal teachers have for all their students, and the road to helping ELL students is paved with the same differentiated teaching strategies teachers use for all students.

A successful ELL programs must be collaborative, with core content teachers, ELL specialists and the administration all working as a team. In addition to collaboration, there are some other steps individual teachers can take in their classrooms to help all ELL high school students to be successful.

Step One: Meet Regularly

The importance of the collaborative relationship cannot be stressed enough. Teams should meet regularly to plan the curriculum and address teacher and student concerns. Communication between ELL students and content-area teachers is key. The ELL teacher should be involved in the planning of the curriculum and selection of materials to be used for ELLs.

Step Two: Create Individualized Learning Plans

Not all ELL students can be placed in one category. Nearly 60 percent of students classified as ELLs were born in the U.S. and seem to be proficient in English when speaking, but they have trouble learning in content-area subjects at school and expressing themselves in writing. However, approximately 20 percent of students do not speak English at home.

Other students may have achieved a high level of academic proficiency in their native country while others may have a limited educational foundation in their native language and English. Individualized programs need to be implemented in order to reach students across the spectrum. As one educator has stated, “there is a patchwork quilt of English language learner profiles.” In order to reach them all, individualized programs are necessary.

Step Three: Establish a Buddy System

Assign ELL students a buddy who can help them with instructions, and help them learn their way around the classroom and the school. If there is a successful ELL student who can be a buddy to help the new ELL students understand the assignments, so much the better.

Step Four: Be Attentive and Specific Giving Instructions

ELLs not only listen to the words of teachers when instructions are being given, they watch facial expressions and gestures. Teachers should speak clearly when giving instructions, and, as much as possible, face the ELL students.

Using visual aids, such as pictures and charts, when giving instructions to ELL students will help them better understand what is expected, also.

Step Five: Accommodate ELLs with differentiated instruction

ELL students may need to use a different text to learn the same materials. More time to complete assignments, or extra help with vocabulary prior to completing a specific reading assignment, may also be helpful. Additional support, such as after-school tutoring or summer school, may be necessary.

Step Six: Make Frequent Assessments

The goal is for ELL students to become proficient in English as soon as they possibly can. Assessments may need to be modified in order to correctly assess the progress of ELL students. They may have made substantial progress and ready to move to an advanced level of instruction, but due to a standardized test, with its advanced vocabulary or complicated instructions, the progress may not be apparent. Individual assessments that are reasonable in measuring the success of ELL students should be used as well as alternate ways of measuring comprehension.

Step Seven: Use ‘Cluster-Classrooms’

One experiment that is showing success is referred to as a “cluster model.” The class is composed of approximately one-third ELL students and two-thirds native English speakers. In this model, both categories of students benefit from their interaction. New English Language Learners are not isolated, and native speakers benefit from the classroom diversity. The idea is to generate respect between cultures and foster proper use of the English language. Ideally, a cluster classroom will include aides who speak the native language of each ELL student and can help support the learning experience of the ELL students.


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