Lesson 3: What accommodations exist for ELLs

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Learners will identify accommodations associated with proficiency levels for primary and secondary grade levels.

Learner will identify accommodations for ELLs as a whole as well as ways to adjust for proficiency level.

Case Study

Mrs. K has a class of 20 students, three of which do no speak English as their first language. She also finds out that because she has these students, she will be sharing her classroom and working with another teacher, an ENL teacher. Mrs. K feels uncertain and confused about the language that revolves around working with non-English speakers and about teaching with another teacher.

Mrs. K and the ENL teacher have recently found out the levels of their three ELLs: one at emerging and two at expanding. The two Expanding level students speak English quite well socially, but the Emerging level student only gives answers in short phrases or sentences.

The class has taken many assessments and participated in various learning activities after being in school for a month or so. Mrs. K has noticed how much her ELLs are struggling to do well on assessments and understand the activities in all subject areas: math, science, history, and English. She is left wondering what she could do to adapt her assessments and activities in order to help them perform at their best while at the same time getting a more accurate representation of what students know and understand.


As students progress through their English language acquisition, they may need new or different adaptations to the material.

For test accommodations, often times it is either the question, the answers, or even both, that need adapting in order for students to better understand what is being asked or what it is that they need to. According to Young et al. (2014), "linguistic modification" is one way we can adapt our tests to benefit ELLs, and even non-ELLs. "Because some non-ELLs may not be reading at grade level, these students may have also benefited from the simplified language used in the modified version of the items." (Young et al., 2014, p. 5) Not only can these adaptations be beneficial to ELLs in our classrooms, but to the students who are NES that are also impacted by the language or "wordiness" of a question.

One way to modify these items is "remove empty context". An example of this is provided below:

Tina used 1 liter of chicken broth to make her special rice dish. This amount of chicken broth is closest to—

A 1 ounce

B 1 cup

C 1 pint

D 1 quart

In this original version of the test question, students were hung up on what chicken broth is and detracted from their understanding of the question. Instead, the modified version of this was "One liter is closest to..." Here, they removed the unnecessary context behind it and made it much more concise and direct, getting directly to what needs to be assessed.

Additionally, accommodations that students are entitled to on New York state exams, as well as all content area assessments, are extended time (such as time and a half), separate location, bilingual glossaries, and more. For a full list of accommodations, see page 15 of this article REQUESTING AND ADMINISTERING REGENTS EXAMINATIONS AND REGENTS COMPETENCY TESTS that provides a list of accommodations to ELLs. Although these are for regents exams, most can be applied to all grade levels and content area exams, especially the extra time and access to a glossary. File:Section2-15.pdf


Young, J., King, T., Hauck, M., Ginsburgh, M., Kotloff, L., Cabrera, J., & Cavalie, C. (2014). Improving Content Assessment for English Language Learners: Studies of the Linguistic Modification of Test Items. Research Report. ETS RR-14-23. ETS Research Report Series.


  1. Read- Read the article File:Setting Clear Learning Purposes for ELLs.pdf
  2. Watch- Watch the video that corresponds with this article. The link can be found here or within the article. Once the page has loaded, scroll down to the section "Watch the Video" to find the 5 minute video.
  3. Discuss- Using the information from the introduction, article, and video: What changes could Mrs. K make to her classroom to reach her ELL students on a more beneficial level?

Post your answer in the Discussion section of this lesson, Lesson 2. Your response should pose a question for your classmates to respond to. Respond to at least two other people.


Considering what you have learned and what you have viewed in the videos, what changes would you consider making to your own classroom? To your assessments and activities? How do these apply to your grade level and content area?

Use the Discussion section of this page to post your reflection. Read the posts of at least two others.


Course homepage: English as a New Language: The Basics, Accommodations, and Co-Teaching

Up Next: Section 2: Accommodations - Lesson 4

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