5 Ways to Help English Language Learners Thrive

As integral members of the educational landscape, English Language Learners (ELL) students represent a diverse group whose needs require careful attention. Second Language Learners bring a wealth of cultural and linguistic richness to schools, enhancing the learning environment. This post is designed to assist school leaders and teachers in fostering an environment conducive to ELL success, highlighting the importance of adapting and changing to meet the needs of every learner.

According to the National Education Association (NEA), by 2025, 1 in 4 students will be ELL students. Understanding the distinct challenges faced by ELL students is crucial for fostering their academic growth. Language is closely tied to identity, so it’s important to help students learn English without forcing them to give up their native language. Making these connections is essential.

ELL students are tasked with acquiring a new language while mastering grade-level subject matter, which can present significant obstacles. Therefore, it’s vital for school leaders and teachers to encourage a support system specifically designed to address these complexities. This involves having a committed ELL staff that understands second language acquisition and can accurately pinpoint ELL student needs, a critical step in closing the gaps. This understanding is key to ensuring that every students receives the necessary support to achieve their full potential.

Creating a welcoming campus and classroom atmosphere is crucial for the academic prosperity of ELL students. Introducing students to others who speak the same language or share a similar heritage can enhance their educational journey. If there isn’t anyone on your campus who speaks the language, seek out district support or community mentors. Campus leaders and teachers play a vital role in promoting a caring, supportive community by encouraging cultural respect, diversity, and inclusiveness in their learning environments. Highlighting various cultures and languages can enhance ELL students’ pride in their heritage while enriching the educational journey of all students. Using visual cues, gestures, and bilingual resources can contribute to better understanding, promoting a sense of belonging among ELL students.

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Implementing instructional strategies that consider ELL students’ unique needs significantly bolsters their learning experience. Supporting ELL students in the classroom can be done by:

  • Helping students make connections between their native language and English. You may not know their language, but it’s important to allow them to answer questions orally in English and in their language. This will help them gain confidence in English and help them feel that they’re not “giving up” their language, but growing and learning something new.
  • Embracing differentiated instruction to cater to diverse learning styles.
  • Using visual aids, graphic organizers, hands-on activities, and digital tools to fortify comprehension.
  • Providing vocabulary instruction to help ELL students grasp the intricacies of the English language.

An integrated approach of content and language instruction ensures that ELL students can keep up with their classmates while still progressing in their English language proficiency. It’s important to remember that the goal is to create a learning environment where all students, including ELL students, can flourish. These strategies contribute to this aim by making the curriculum more accessible to students who are in the process of mastering English. 

Understanding the unique backgrounds and varying levels of English proficiency among ELL students is crucial. Tailoring personalized learning plans that focus on each student’s needs, strengths, and improvement areas can significantly enhance their learning process. Employing strategies like small group instruction, peer tutoring, and individualized assistance can serve as tools for their academic growth. Frequent evaluations of students’ progress help pinpoint any learning gaps and make necessary modifications to their educational strategies.

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Promoting a robust home-school connection is pivotal in enhancing the success of ELL students. Parents often have a unique perspective on their child’s abilities, challenges, and passions that can significantly contribute to tailored learning approaches. School administrators should strive for open lines of communication with families, ensuring that language barriers do not obstruct this vital dialogue by providing interpreting services as needed.

Equipping families with resources like bilingual reading materials or language-learning software can reinforce at-home learning. Making use of parent-teacher meetings, school functions, and informative sessions can further engage parents in the education of their child, creating a collaborative effort that greatly enhances the overall achievement of ELL students.

As our campuses evolve, it’s important for us as campus leaders and teachers to embrace the changes and work to ensure that we meet the needs of all students. Effective and respectful practices will help students learning the English language thrive.


Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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