Teaching English Learners - Part 4: Access to Content

Raylene Olinger

Beginning this year, core content educators in Colorado are required to complete ELL-specific professional learning in order to renew their license.  You can get more information about these requirements here.

The Colorado Department of Education has identified 4 areas in which teachers need to be proficient in order to support English Learners.  In this post, I discuss the fourth standard: Educators are knowledgeable in the teaching strategies, including methods, materials, and assessment for CLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) students.

As discussed in previous Teaching English Learners blog posts, written by Beth Melton, students who are learning English are often negotiating new cultural norms, learning to read and write in a language they may only partially understand, and developing social and academic language. At the same time, they are learning the content knowledge and skills taught across various subjects and courses. The success of these learners depends upon their ability to comprehend what is being taught and can be supported greatly by teachers who intentionally take steps to make their instruction more comprehensible.  

This video provides an introduction to the idea of Comprehensible Input. Strategies for helping students make sense of information are important and the use of graphic organizers can help students understand what to focus on in what they are reading or hearing. There are great examples of graphic organizers found in the SEED PAK.

Supporting students with visual cues and realia allows them to connect language and academic vocabulary with objects, tapping into what they already know and helping them to build background knowledge.  This, paired with intentional vocabulary instruction can aid students in developing language within the context they are working.

Finally, students who are learning English need to have opportunities to use English.  Structures for classroom discussion such as those highlighted in Maggie Bruski’s recent blog post set both an expectation for language use for all students.  This additional post provides great strategies for scaffolding student discussions for English Learners.

Click on the links that follow to view each post in this series-- part 1: supporting culturally and linguistically diverse populations, part 2: language acquisition, part 3: literacy development and part 4: access to content



Bruski, M. (2019, Feb. 1). The power of classroom discussion [web log]. Retrieved from https://www.seedpaknwboces.org/article/power-classroom-discussion

colorincolorado. (2012, Dec. 14). Building on background knowledge [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLoU659hwTdDYM8NViUI9pNcO-EyB-ZfHk&v=...

PearsonSIOPModel. (n.d) Component 3: Comprehensible Input [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTnHonxao70

Stewart, E. (2012, Dec. 12). Vocabulary: explicit vs. implicit [web log]. Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/blogs/common-core-classroom/55272

Knight, N. (2014, Oct. 24). Why are academic discussions so important for our ELLs? [web log] Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2014/10/24/academic-discussions-and...