Reading is a multi-faceted and complicated process. The process of learning to read can be particularly challenging for all students. English Language Learners are faced with a unique set of challenges when reading a text. They might be dealing with new vocabulary, grammar rules, and phonics. In addition, reading academic texts present even greater challenges for ELLs because it is characterized with complex syntax, technical vocabulary, and a lack of helpful context. Therefore, it is essential that teachers become aware of the complexity of texts and the potential linguistic challenges these pose for multilingual learners.
Explore ideas for integrating text into the classroom as well as some effective strategies from our SOS Instructional Strategies collection.
Note: The links below require a Discovery Education login. Please log in in a separate tab before clicking on any links.
It is important to always preview the text and plan for the language and content support ELLs might need. You may also need to identify the complexity of the language in the text and determine what scaffolds are needed based on students’ levels of English language proficiency.
In order to support students, pre-teach social and academic vocabulary they will need for interaction with the text and the associated tasks. When doing this, preview the text, identifying tier one, tier two, and tier three vocabulary words your ELLs will need to know to support their comprehension of the important content within the text. Remember that vocabulary lists in textbooks are often created with English speakers in mind.
Read My Mind encourages students to build a robust vocabulary through participation in a fun and engaging game, and it helps students focus on keywords within the context of instructional media. This strategy stretches students to develop their vocabulary and, in turn, boost both their comprehension and communication skills. The level of competition can be dialed up or down, as appropriate for student learning. Video | PDF
Concept Circles is a strategy used to help students analyze the relationships between content words by using a circle organizer to determine the concept of study. Students identify and discuss vocabulary and its relationship to content and then represent their analysis in the organizer. Video | PDF | Graphic Organizer
In addition to encountering the vocabulary in the text, you can use video clips and images to help students understand key academic vocabulary before or after reading the text.
As students engage with the resources and content, have students develop glossaries which include visual cues for key academic vocabulary.
Another way to develop vocabulary is to create intentional Think-Pair-Share prompts or writing prompts that push students to use the new vocabulary.
Prior to sharing text with students, it's important to identify any background knowledge that may need to be developed to support ELLs. You can use videos and images related to the topic to build background knowledge prior to the reading of any text.
ELL students need as much nonverbal support for reading comprehension as possible, including pictures, diagrams, real objects, gestures, acting, and graphic organizers. Sketchnotes is a strategy that strengthens students' comprehension and analysis of new information by asking them to visually represent lectures and other presentations by drawing their notes, or sketch-noting. When students represent their learning visually, their retention, understanding, and ability to synthesize is strengthened. Video | PDF
Z Chart uses a graphic organizer to help students summarize information using linguistic and nonlinguistic representations. The Z Chart strategy provides a quick way to assess student comprehension of informational text, and it works well as an individual reflection tool and as a tool for cooperative groups to use when discussing a jigsaw activity. Video | PDF | Graphic Organizer
PMI is a teaching strategy that helps students weigh the pros and cons and evaluate ideas to make a decision. While considering a digital resource, students are encouraged to categorize information in order to determine important elements influencing a decision. Video | PDF | Graphic Organizer
You can provide the same content or text but differentiate the task for ELLs based on their English language proficiency. (For example, a newcomer may focus on finding text evidence to identify the setting while advanced ELLs may focus on finding text evidence to determine the plot.
Explicitly teach comprehension strategies, inferring, summarizing, and monitoring comprehension. Get Venn-y With It is a teaching strategy that helps students identify similarities and differences by comparing and contrasting. After viewing two side-by-side images, students complete a Venn Diagram based on their observations. Video | PDF | Graphic Organizer
Some additional best practice strategies include:
- Use sentence stems that students can use as prompts to speak and write. Focus on sentence stems that are formulaic expressions that can be applied in different situations.
- Use visuals and videos to deepen their learning and support them with academic language and concepts. It is also helpful to chunk texts into short, manageable sections.
- Use adapted texts for ELLs at the beginning stage of English language proficiency, will need adapted texts. The adapted texts amplify the language but provide them with the same content.
- Pre-annotate texts with explanation of key concepts and vocabulary. Model for students how to annotate texts to support comprehension.
- Embed oral language opportunities by providing turn and talks and small group discussion to help students understand the text.
- Expose ELLs to a variety of reading materials.
- Check frequently for student understanding. Ask ELLs open-ended questions about what they are reading, and informally test students' understanding.
- Remain flexible in your pacing by adjusting the time ELLs spend with the content
- Provide native language support as much as possible.