Supporting Students Who Are English Learners in the Early Literacy Classroom

As a Wolfpack WORKS Literacy Coach, one aspect of my work that I greatly enjoy is helping beginning teachers learn how to teach literacy to students who are English learners.  Whether you are a new teacher or a more seasoned educator, it is important to keep in mind how challenging it can be to teach students who are both learning the English language and learning content.

Here are some “tips” that I share with my Wolfpack WORKS beginning teachers to help them implement optimal ways to teach students who are English learners:

  • Create a language-rich and print-rich environment.  Label objects and areas throughout your classroom. Provide a variety of reading materials to support readers and writers by developing rebus style (pictures and photos) bulletin boards and anchor charts.  Display student work that highlights student reading and writing.
  • Consider the impact of a student’s native language on their acquisition of the English language.  For example, you may want to share cognate connections (i.e. words that are very similar in spelling and meaning) between words across languages (i.e., attention in English;  attencion in Spanish).  Also, it is important to point out to students that vocabulary words may have multiple and varying meanings in different languages.  
  • Simplify your language. Slow down your speech and explain complex vocabulary terms, figurative language, and unknown sayings.
  • Accompany directions with gestures and/or visual representations whenever possible.  Use graphic organizers and realia (objects from everyday life used to demonstrate) new concepts.  
  • Model, model, model. A picture or example is worth a thousand words!
  • Provide background information on topics that may include novel information.  Activating and building students’ background knowledge supports concept development and the learning of new ideas and processes.
  • Provide students with many opportunities to both listen and practice in non-threatening environments (especially in pairs or small groups).
  • Reach out to colleagues or others with more expertise in this area for suggestions and to support you as you reflect on your practice.
  • Foster positive home/school connections so that students and their families feel respected and know that their home language and culture is valued!  


Tammy Marble-Youel, M. Ed.

Wolfpack WORKS Literacy Coach


Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.