Teaching ELLs in the subject areas
Teaching subject matter to students who are learning English requires special care and skills.
The sites below provide numerous suggestions for making content accessible to ELLs. Some
suggestions require advance preparation and are suitable for when there is ample time, but
many, many others can easily be incorporated during instruction.
Primary / Elementary
What Elementary Teachers Need to Know About Language
This two-pager summarizes basic information about language that’s useful when teaching
ELLs. It’s available on a website from the Centre for Applied Linguistics in the United
States which has some other useful materials referred to elsewhere in this site.
Teaching Reading 3—5
This video link is part of a workshop offered by Annenberg Media in the United States.
The video gives an excellent overview of ways to develop literacy skills in elementary
classrooms. You must register at learner.org to view the video, but registration is free.
(The subsection entitled Where do I start? is particularly useful for teachers working with
ELLs for the first time.)
Reading to Learn: ELLs in Grades 4—6
This 50-minute video explains the special challenges faced by ELLs in elementary and
ways to address these.
Teaching ELLs to Read
This one-and-a-half hour webcast discusses how children learn to read in a second
Working with Young ELLS: Some Considerations
This two-page document describes characteristics of young ELLs and the best learning
conditions and instruction for them.
Intermediate / Secondary
Adapting the Ontario Curriculum for ELLs (Grades 1—8)
Pages 49 and 50 Differentiating Instruction for ELLs in this excellent document give an
overview of adaptations that can be made for ELLs. Pages 55—61 describe adaptation
strategies in more detail. Although written for the Ontario context, the strategies
described are usable in all ESL settings. Sample content units are provided on pages
Leading Math Success: Tips for ELLs in Math Grades 7, 8, 9 and 10 (Applied)
Pages 3 to 5 in this document, prepared in Ontario, summarize strategies for teaching
math to ELLs. These are discussed in much more detail at the end of the document on
pages 16 –24.
English Language Learners in Science
This short document list many tips for making science accessible to
All Subjects / Levels
Helping ELLs Understand Content Area Texts
Although written for the American context, this eight-page article gives a good list of ideas
for preparing and delivering a content lesson targeted to ELLs.
Adapting Lessons to Include ELLs
Page 19 of this excellent 27-page document prepared in British Columbia called The ESL
Kids in My Class gives some concrete suggestions for teaching in a manner sensitive to
How to Develop a Lesson Plan that Includes ELLs
This short article describes a complete lesson from building background knowledge,
through instruction and practice to assessment.
Challenges for ELLs in Content-Area Learning
This one-page article gives a good overview of the challenges ELLs will face in reading
overall and in math, science and social studies classrooms. It can help to increase
sensitivity to these difficulties.
Meeting the Challenge of Content Instruction
This one-page article follows up by outlining things mainstream teachers can do to make
content more understandable for ELLs.
General Principles for Teaching ELL students
This short document lists some strategies and methods for teaching ELLs.
ESL Learners: A Guide for the Classroom—Classroom Planning with ESL in Mind
This document prepared by the BC Ministry of Education gives a comprehensive
overview of ways to accommodate ELLs in the classroom.
SIOP: Making Content Comprehensible
This short document follows a model of instruction for ELLs called Sheltered Instruction
(SIOP). It gives some good strategies for teaching ELLs in any subject area.
Principles for Teaching ELLs in the Content Classroom
This two-page document available on the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education ESL
Infusion website gives six general guidelines to follow in teaching ELLs in mainstream
Working Effectively with English Language Learners
This three-page document, from on American online journal called Rethinking Schools,
lists ways to improve instruction for ELLs and ways teachers can become more culturally
Educating ELLs: Implementing Instructional Practices
Pages 29 to 31 of this document give general strategies for teaching ELLs, and pages 32
to 81 give extensive examples of specific activities, such as dialogue journals, math logs,
etc. that can be used with ELLs.
© 2010 Eastern School District
Information and content by Martha Trahey