4 Ways to Support ELL Students in the Classroom

Marissa Alonzo | Published  February 09, 2018


ELL students, also known as "English-language-learners," are students that are learning English as their second language and make up eleven percent of the PreK-16 population. To illustrate the impact, this means that 3.8 million students in today's classrooms speak Spanish as a first language, and that figure only makes up one portion of the overall number of students who are ELLs. 

ELL students may not be native English speakers, but they are students that deserve a quality STEM education along with the rest of their peers. How do we help teach our ELL students in a way that doesn't make them feel isolated or ostracize them? 

Identify the bias

ELL students come from various backgrounds and have a variety of experiences. Unfortunately, one assumption that comes with an ELL student is that the student comes from poverty and cannot learn advanced academic concepts or that they do not like school. This, in fact, cannot be further from the truth for some as many ELL students arrived in the United States to pursue goals and dreams that would not be attainable without a proper education. Leaving the assumptions at the door could eventually lead to educators untapping potential in all of their students. 

Learn about their culture

The culture of an ELL student student can help provide real-world examples during STEM lessons. For example, rural Mexicans have experience with fields and livestock crops, or with chores such as cooking and inventory of goods. The skills are STEM-oriented and can assist in supporting examples of chemistry and biology. In addition, students, whether or not they are ELL, can grasp scientific concepts better when they can associate it with something familiar. 

Flexible grouping

Setting up the classroom for learning can be a challenge whether or not you have an ELL student. Having a more flexible classroom setup for lessons can be more engaging, fun, and increase student inquiry and understanding. Using a variety of formats such as individual, small-group, and whole-class helps students learn, and can help ELL students by allowing them to construct knowledge through listening and engaging in instruction. 

Get hands-on

In addition to classroom setup, getting students more hands-on in the classroom helps students work together to solve problems, apply them to real-world situations, create connections to STEM careers, and more. ELL students and STEM education can sometimes be a challenge, but with some thought and planning these students can reach their full potential. 


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