Supporting ELLs: Where to Start


Navigation Links:

Overview and Purpose

1 in every 10 students in NYS is an English Language Learner.

How do we support students whose first language is not English?

This mini-course is designed to give a brief, yet explicit learning experience in order to prepare participants for a successful journey with their English Language Learners (ELLs). Participants include teachers, administrators, staff, or other stakeholders in an ELL's academic progress.

Unit 1 of this course provides an overview of who ELLs are, how they are identified in NYS, and what this means in terms of their education. Unit 2 provides examples and opportunities to discover barriers in academic progress. Unit 3 provides various tools and practice for overcoming these barriers to best support ELLs.

Needs Assessment

The Problems

Knowledge: Educators, administrators, and others who support ELLs in their education lack sufficient knowledge on what it means to be identified as an ELL. In addition, the process for identifying ELLs is not known. Lastly, there are factors that play a large role in ELLs' academics that are often not addressed or determined.

Skills: Educators, administrators, and others who support ELLs in their education do not have the necessary skills for incorporating supports into instruction or materials. Attempts at determining the problem can also be misguided without proper use of references that demonstrate ELL barriers or proficiencies.

Attitudes: Beliefs about ELLs can often be based in false or faulty judgements. Ideas about a student's academic shortcomings can place the student at fault for factors beyond his or her control. It is a common belief that lack of resources and time prevent teachers or tutors (among others) from providing support or modifications for ELLs.

Addressing the Problems

This course aims to educate participants about ELLs, including resources on who they are, how they are identified, and how these various factors in turn affect the student's education. Participants will be provided resources and activities to build their knowledge and skills on how to support ELLs' academic progress. The course is designed to promote self-reflection and align the participants with a growth mindset, finding value in student differences and opportunity in diversity.

Performance Objectives

  • Express who ELLs are and how they are identified in New York State.
  • Identify common barriers in ELLs' academic success and implement strategies to mitigate them.
  • Modify instruction and materials to support ELLs' in the classroom while aligning with grade level standards.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Who are ELLs?

Module 1.1: How are ELLs identified?

Module 1.2: What does it mean to be an ELL?

Unit 2: What are ELL barriers?

Module 2.1: Identifying Barriers in Instructional Delivery

Module 2.1: Identifying Barriers in Instructional Material

Unit 3: How do we modify?

Module 3.1: Instructional Delivery Differentiation

Module 3.2: Material Modification


Edmonds. (2009). Challenges and Solutions for ELLs. The Science Teacher (National Science Teachers Association), 76(3), 30–.

Markham, & Gordon, K. E. (2007). Challenges and Instructional Approaches Impacting the Literacy Performance of English Language Learners. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 10(1-2), 73–.