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MS in Education Course Insight: 6 Classroom Strategies for Reaching English Language Learners (ELLs)

Study alongside Walden University students with this required reading taken from the MS in Education degree course Enhancing Learning for Diverse Populations.

As of 2015, 9.5% of U.S. public school students were English language learners.1 In some states, like California and Texas, that number is much higher. But even if your school has only a few English language learner students, you still need the right teachers and right teaching strategies to ensure they receive a quality education.

Education expert Judie Haynes details some of the most vital English language learner teaching strategies in her piece “Six Strategies for Teaching ELLs Across Content Areas.” Studied by Walden University MS in Education (MSEd) students enrolled in the Enhancing Learning for Diverse Populations course, Hayne’s six strategies are a good place to start for anyone planning to engage in English language learner teaching. In Haynes’ own words, the English language learner strategies are:

MS in Education Course Insight: 6 Classroom Strategies for Reaching English Language Learners (ELLs)

  1. Determine content and language objectives for each lesson.
    Teachers need to learn how to write a content objective for every lesson in language that ELLs can understand. At the end of the lesson, students should be asked if the objective was met. Classroom teachers also need to set language objectives for the ELLs for each lesson. A language objective specifically outlines the language that ELLs will need in order to meet the content objective. For example, if your content objective is for ELLs to provide examples of solids, liquids, and gas, the language objective could be to write simple sentences about the stages of matter.
  2. Connect content to ELLs’ background knowledge.
    Teachers need to consider the schema that ELLs bring to the classroom and to link instruction to the students’ personal, cultural, and world experiences. They also need to identify what their students do not know. They must understand how the cultures of their ELLs impact learning in the classroom.
  3. Provide comprehensible input for ELLs.
    Language is not “soaked up.” The learner must understand the message that is conveyed. … ELLs acquire language by hearing and understanding messages that are slightly above their current English language level. When ELLs are assigned to a general education classroom and spend most of their day in this environment, it is especially critical for them to receive comprehensible input from their content area teachers and classmates.
  4. Make lessons auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.
    Use visual representations to introduce new concepts and vocabulary. Find graphs, maps, photographs, drawings, and charts. Create story maps and graphic organizers to teach ELLs how to organize information. ELLs will benefit from hands-on activities. Have them learn by doing.
  5. Use cooperative learning strategies.
    Lecture-style teaching excludes ELLs from the learning in a classroom. We don’t want to relegate them to the fringes of the classroom, doing a separate lesson with a classroom aide or ESL teacher. Working in small groups is especially beneficial to ELLs who have an authentic reason to use academic vocabulary and real reasons to discuss key concepts. ELLs benefit from cooperative learning structures. Give students a job in a group, and monitor that they are participating.
  6. Modify vocabulary instruction for ELLs.
    ELLs do not usually learn new vocabulary indirectly. It needs to be explicitly taught in order for them to understand texts that they are reading. ELLs need many more exposures to new words than native-English speakers. They need to learn cognates, prefixes, suffixes, and root words to enhance their ability to make sense of new vocabulary. Understanding context clues such as embedded definitions, pictures, and charts builds ELLs’ schema. They should actively engage in holistic activities to practice new vocabulary, because learning words out of context is difficult for them.

How Can You Learn More Strategies for Teaching?

Haynes’ “Six Strategies for Teaching ELLs Across Content Areas” is just one of the many materials you can study in Walden University’s MS in Education (MSEd) degree program. In fact, whether you want to devote your education career to teaching English language learners or wish to focus on other areas, Walden’s MSEd degree program has the coursework you need to advance your teaching skills and position yourself for promotions and raises.

In addition to its comprehensive master’s in education curriculum, Walden offers an online learning environment. If you’re unfamiliar with online education, you may be unaware of how beneficial it can be. Not only does a master’s in education online program allow you to complete your coursework from home, it also gives you the freedom to attend class at whatever time of day is best for you. This means you can earn a master’s in education online while continuing to teach full time.

Whether it’s teaching English language learners or any other group of students, a master’s degree in education can help you gain the skills you need to succeed in the classroom. And thanks to the online learning opportunities available through Walden University, earning an education degree is more possible than ever before.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,