Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Strategies and Content Areas for Teaching English Language Learners

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Strategies and Content Areas for Teaching English Language Learners

Article excerpt

Language and literacy education for students who are English language learners (ELLs) has become a topic of interest for many educators. However, educators often disagree on the best strategies for teaching ELLs. Six selected strategies and content areas for teaching ELLs are provided to include strategies for teaching specific skills, sample storybooks for building literacy skills, and so on. Assessment with a sample rubric to include language reduced proficiency is also provided.

Keywords: English language learners, strategies, content, assessment


Language and literacy education for students who are English language learners (ELLs) has been well cited in the research as a current hot topic (Anthony, 2008). However, educators and other school professionals often disagree on the best way to teach ELLs. Moreover, programs to address the needs of ELLs vary greatly. The child's first experience with school, both positive and negative, has shown to have a lasting effect. Therefore, in order to meet the needs of ELLs, educators must provide the most conducive environment for learning as possible.

Getting Started

English language learners (ELLs) are one of the largest groups to struggle with literacy (Hickman, Pollard-Durodola, & Vaughn, 2004). Because of this, focus of instruction should be placed on the learner's ability to comprehend the lesson content and not on the learner's language proficiency (Myburgh, Poggenpoel, & Rensburg, 2004). Moreover, research has indicated that ELLs benefit from the same explicit, systematic instruction proven to be effective for native English speakers (Mathes, Pollard-Durodola, Cardenas-Hagen, Linan-Thompson, and Vaughn, 2007). Teachers of ELLs should employ strategies in their classrooms to benefit all of their students. See Table 1 for six strategies and content areas for teaching English language learners.

The Six Strategies and Content Areas

Drama and Movement

Incorporating physical experiences such as drama and movement in reading instruction has shown to be fun for children. For ELLs especially, drama and movement has been shown to help with decoding, fluency, and vocabulary (Sun, 2003). Moreover, good teaching pedagogy should not be limited strictly to reading instruction. Early childhood teachers often use play and drama for learning experiences as appropriate for that stage and age of development for various content areas (Royka, 2002).

Reig & Paquette (2009) suggested the use of games to aid ELLs in classroom instruction. For example, We're Movement Machines was a game to mimic machines in motion. Falling Rain Dance to imitate weather in movement was another such teaching and learning game. Another game, Strike up the Gadget Band, to explore sounds and actions of ordinary kitchen gadgets, was also shown to benefit learners, especially ELLs.


Classroom teachers must employ strategies to help ELLs with basic mathematics concepts. Furthermore, mathematic concepts can be taught kinesthetically. An example would be for students to measure items using their body parts such as arms, legs, or hands. Math concepts such as rhythms and patterns can also be taught kinesthetically (Church, 2001). For example, teaching aides such as Counting 1 to 20 by Jack Hartman, Everything Has a Shape by Hap Palmer, and Shapes All Around Us by Music Movement & Magnetism were methods in which ELLs mastered mathematics concepts.


In addition to movement strategies, music can also be used to motivate and stimulate ELLs who are struggling with language development (Abril, 2003). Basic music concepts can be taught through games such as Musical Follow the Leader. Another strategy to help ELLs learn through music were activities which actively engaged them with instruments, such as drums or Orff instruments.

Vocabulary for basic music concepts, as with other content areas, can be taught with hand signs or gestures (Abril, 2003). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.