Educators have access to many resources via the vast knowledge of information that is on-line. We
encourage you to look for research-based practices and collaborate with others in the field to continue
to improve student achievement. Below is a starting point for educators. Through Central Rivers AEA we have
two Consultants for English Language Learners, Annalisa Miner and Lisa Wymore, who are here to assist you in person and have professional discussions around the topics where districts would like assistance. Please feel free to contact them at any time.
Understanding language acquisition
In order to know what resources to use with English language learners (ELLs), teachers must first know a student’s level of English Proficiency. Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) may take up to 2 years to acquire. This is everyday, basic vocabulary. However, it can take students 5-10 years to learn Cognitive Acadamic Language Proficiency (CALP). CALP consists of the academic language, higher order thinking, vocabulary, etc… that students need to be successful in our academic settings. Problems sometimes arise when teachers think that a student is proficient in English, because they have good BICS. This sometimes tricks educators into thinking that “they have great English and can carry on a fine conversation with me. Why aren’t they turning in their homework?” The answer may be that they have good oral language, but have not acquired the academic language necessary to be successful in school. It is crucial, as an educator, that you learn your student’s level of English proficiency and use this to guide instruction.
How do you know a student’s level of English Proficiency?
Each identified ELL is required annually to take the Iowa – English Language Development Assessment. Students will have scores in reading, writing, speaking, and listening English proficiency (1-6). Ask your ESL teacher or administrator for this data. If a student is new to the district, they will have been given an initial placement assessment which will provide teachers this information. It is crucial to know where your ELL students are at. We encourage you to take a few minutes to find this data on each student. It will save you weeks in learning this information on your own.
Once I know my students level of English proficiency, how do I know what the data means?
The Language Acquisition Chart provides educators characteristics and behaviors on each proficiency level, as well as instructional and assessment strategies.
We highly recommend accessing WIDA’s CAN DO descriptors for ELLs. Once you know your student’s proficiency level, look up the grade bands you are teaching and this will give you a basic overview of what the students ‘can do’ at each proficiency level in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. This is a fantastic tool to see if what you are asking the student to do aligns with what are ‘reasonable’ expectations. These can also be used to guide instruction and assessments, and to choose appropriate strategies.
What are some other resources I can access to use in my classroom?
As we stated earlier, there are thousands of websites devoted to ELLs. Below we will provide you some sites that we feel will give you a good start and can provide some instructional support. However, keep in mind, we are always here to assist you in person!
Iowa AEA Online offers many sites that can be used for classroom instruction (and also at home with families, see ‘Parents tab’ for more details). Description of each site and how it can be used to support your ELLs! Don’t miss out on this resource and how you can use these in your classrooms!
Midwest Migrant Educational Resource Center through Hamline University offers a variety of resources to educators. One of our favorites are the ‘Unit Boxes’. They have compiled themed kits with books, realia, games, learning sheets, audio visuals, and more. Be sure to utilize these resources!
The Help Kits! are a resource guide for teachers seeking recommendations on teaching strategies, lesson plans and materials. You can download the entire document at:
- Help! Kit for Grades pre-k – 6th
- The Help Kit! A Resource Guide for Secondary Teachers of Migrant English Language Learners
Graphic Organizer sites:
Judie Haynes, a veteran ESL teacher, provides lesson plans, teaching, tips, resources, articles, discussions, and more.
Check out this website for all your needs…technology, curriculum, methods, research, blogs, and a wealth of other links and resources.
Dave’s ESL Cafe
Dave offers ideas for teachers as well as students! A place to learn and connect with others.
International Children’s Digital Library
The ICDL’s goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community. The site has multiple languages available.
Learning ESL…A Wealth of Resources for Children and Adults Learning English as a Second Language
Students can sit on their couch and practice up on their English language skills via the many different offerings on this site! This website is geared towards all ages and has many links that support interactive learning.