Welcome to the ESOL Link

Overview to the ESOL Link education2

Do you have awesome students who seem competent in the classroom, so confident that they don’t seem to need language support?  They communicate with you and others with minimal difficulty.  This is because they have mastered BICS.  BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, the vocabulary all English Language Learners, ELLs learn first because it is the language heard and spoken first when acquiring another language. The most challenging language comes next.  Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency Skills, CALPS, is the hardest to acquire and has been known to take up to 5-7 years for language learners to use with the accuracy of their peers.  See the page on BICS and CALPS.  

Teaching an English learner is not specific to newcomers.  In fact, all students in your class could benefit from careful examination of the academic language needed to succeed in the class. There are three tiers to academic language with tier 1 being words most frequently used and tier 3 being content specific words. You will find more information on the three tiers of academic vocabulary in the links section of this blog.

Differentiating instruction is easier when you consider the WIDA Can Do Descriptors. See links forWIDA.  WIDA has updated their site recently to include PD modules helpful for mainstream teachers. Also, in case you did not know, the Can Do Descriptors are now aligned a bit differently.

Nervous about your newcomers?  Don’t be!  New students are likely to be more nervous than you are.  Take time to explore the animated link on culture shock and the posting How to Provide a Welcoming Environment for your Newcomers.

Whenever you have a child who speaks another language in your classroom, you have a culture different from yours to understand. There are pages dedicated to culture in this blog.

My Students are here. Now what do I do?

chalk board for blogSo you read about creating a welcoming environment for your beginning level English Language Learners (ELLs) and now you need to go to the next step.  Did you remember to:

  • Write key words on the white board?
  • Plan lessons with  pictures, gestures and realia?  If not, it is not too late- find a photo from Google Image, clip art, or Flickr to display while you are teaching.
  • You could give your ELL a graphic organizer to sort or classify vocabulary.
  • When modeling and teaching safety vocabulary, don’t be too concerned if you need to offer translation in their native language.  It will not hurt the acquisition progress.  Go to http://translate.google.com/ or purchase the google translate app for free on your I phone.  It will even say the word in the student’s native language.
  • Did you speak when facing the students, not the board?  Sounds odd, but it happens.
  • Avoid colloquialisms and idioms?
  • Provide explicit directions for homework?  Including writing the homework assignment on the board.  The beginning ESOL student can copy if allowed time.
  • So far, so good.
  • We are still smiling, right?  Trying to?  Don’t give up… it will get better!

How Important is your Daily Routine to your Newcomer?

communicationfolder4An important first step in designing an inclusive classroom is to critically analyze your students’ daily routine. This includes access to instructional materials.

Here are some reflection questions:

  • Is the material I am giving my student representative of their language proficiency level?
  • Will the diverse language abilities and cultures represented in my classroom be able to follow this anchor chart, worksheet, assessment, homework, classroom assignment or communication note that is being sent home?

Research has shown that students’ development of knowledge and perceptions of both themselves and others is significantly affected by the classroom instructional materials they encounter (Hirschfelder, 1982); this is especially true for EL students and others who might also be navigating the acculturation process at the same time (Ndura, 2004).

You can help your newcomer assimilate into the classroom routine by:

  • Providing your newcomer with all resources available to other students, name tag, home communication folder and such.
  • Assigning a buddy (preferably a student who speaks the newcomer’s language).
  • Including your newcomer in all classroom routines by planning cooperative learning opportunities whereby the newcomer has a role.
  • Scaffolding classroom expectations and assignments to align to what your student “can do.”
  • Modifying or accommodating all assessments. (See your ESOL specialist on how to begin this process.)

Classroom Routines

Your newcomer can participate in all classroom activities. In fact, he or she is keenly aware of everything that is happening in the classroom and will mimic the actions of others. For this reason, be sure to be consistent with daily routines and resources. Assign your newcomer a task of copying, matching pictures, tracing, being the timekeeper during group work or drawing. There are numerous activities he or she can do. Using the Blooms Taxonomy Chart, look at DOK level one. Then assign a language objective that meets the needs of your standard or assignment goal. Give your newcomer a task that fits both the verb from the DOK chart as well as the lesson objective. Be sure to scaffold the student with pictures, manipulatives or graphic organizers.  If you need help getting started, contact your ESOL specialist.

Home/School Connections

Be observant of what materials you are sending home. How much English is read at home? Important materials can be translated into the family’s native language.

Is your student’s home communication folder clearly labeled? By marking each side of the folder KEEP AT HOME and RETURN TO SCHOOL you will be helping the family understand what is expected of the home/school materials.


All students should receive formative and summative assessments. See your ESOL specialist for tips on modifying and accommodating assessments based on your students “can do” level of proficiency.

Want to learn more? Check out this list of the top 14 principles for ELL instruction in the mainstream classroom.

What teachers should know about instruction for ELLs