How to Reach & Teach English Language LearnersPractical Strategies to Ensure Success
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More About This Title How to Reach & Teach English Language LearnersPractical Strategies to Ensure Success


Practical, ready-to-use ELL strategies firmly rooted in the latest research

This book provides practical strategies and tools for assessing and teaching even the most hard to reach English language learners across the content areas. Syrja offers educators the latest information on working with ELLs (including using formative assessments) and provides a wealth of classroom-tested models and measures. These tools have proven to be effective with ESL students at all levels, including Long Term English Learners (LTELs). Throughout the book, the author shares powerful research-based strategies and clearly illustrates how they should be implemented in the classroom for maximum impact.

  • Filled with proven ideas and easy-to-implement tips for teaching ELLs
  • Designed to be a practical ELL/ESL resource for classroom teachers
  • Syrja, a former teacher and ESL student, is a noted expert in English language learning and a Professional Development  Associate with the Leadership and Learning Center

This value-packed guide offers educators accessible and research-based classroom strategies for reaching and teaching ELLs.


Rachel Carrillo Syrja, M.Ed., is a professional development associate with The Leadership and Learning Center. She has over eighteen years of experience in education ranging from classroom teacher and coach to professional development specialist. She has spent much of her career specializing in instruction for English language learners.


About the Author ix

About The Leadership and Learning Center x

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xxi

Introduction 1

Where Are the Answers? 2

Using This Resource 2



Chapter 1: The Current State of Education for English Language Learners 5

What Works with ELLs 6

Is It Only About Degree of Implementation? 7

How Long It Takes to Acquire English 8

The New Wave of Immigration 9

A Growing ELL Population 9

Characteristics of the Current ELL Population 10

Chapter 2: The Case for Urgency 11

The Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act 11

State Concentrations of School-Age Children of Immigrants 13

Responding to the Challenges 14

Chapter 3: Long-Term English Language Learners 15

Chapter 4: How Children Acquire Language 19

Part One Resources 23

What Works with Long-Term English Learners 23

Discussion Questions 24



Chapter 5: English Language Learner Instructional Programs 27

Some Issues with the Home Language Survey 28

English Language Learner Program Options 29

Bilingual Programs 30

Dual-Immersion Programs 30

English-Immersion Programs 31

EnglishMainstream 31

Support Programs for ELLs 31

English as a Second Language Instruction 31

Sheltered Instruction 32

Total Physical Response 32

Conclusion 32

Chapter 6: Levels of Language Acquisition 33

How the Four Language Domains Develop in ELLs 34

CommonMisconceptions 34

Conclusion 37

Chapter 7: Assessing English Language Learners 39

Formative and Summative Assessments 40

The Assessment Process 40

Monitoring Language Acquisition 40

Complexities of Monitoring Language Acquisition 40

Assessment in the ESL Classroom 43

Assessment in the Mainstream Classroom 43

Planning Differentiated Assessments 45

AWord of Caution to Mainstream Teachers 48

The Bottom Line 49

Chapter 8: Grading English Language Learners 51

Impact of an Inaccurate Grading System on Students and Parents 52

What About the Teacher’s Beliefs? 54

How to Solve the Grading Issues 54

Chapter 9: Identifying Language Acquisition Levels 57

Creating Language Proficiency Assessments 58

Using Assessment Results 59

Part Two Resources 61

Survey: Auditing Your English Language Learner Program 61

Sample Supplemental Grading Report 64

English Language Learner Profile Sheet 66

Using the English Language Learner Profile Sheet 68

Discussion Questions 69



Chapter 10: Lowering the Affective Filter 73

Establishing a Low Affective Filter 74

Lowering the Affective Filter 75

Ensuring the Environment Is Conducive to Learning 75

Strategies for Lowering the Affective Filter 76

A Peek into Two Classrooms 76

Chapter 11: Connecting with Families of English Language Learners 81

Where to Begin 82

Making Parents and Families Feel Welcome 82

Educational Opportunities for Parents 84

Chapter 12: The Importance of Cultural Connections 87

Funds of Knowledge 88

Connecting with Families 89

Part Three Resources 91

Planning Resources for Family Nights 91

Sample Parent Letter 91

Parent Education Planning Checklist 92

Family Night Planning Checklist 92

Family Reading Night Parent Resources for Elementary Schools 93

Before-Reading Strategies 93

During-Reading Strategies 93

After-Reading Strategies 93

Family Night Parent Resources for Secondary School 93

Discussion Questions 94



Chapter 13: What We Do Matters: The Importance of High-Quality

Instruction 97

Action Research to Identify High-Impact Strategies 98

Conducting Action Research 99

Chapter 14: Using the Four Domains of Language in Teaching 101

The Domains in Detail 102

Listening 102

Speaking 102

Reading 102

Writing 103

Engaging Students Using the Four Domains of Language 103

The Fifth Domain: Thinking 106

Chapter 15: Making Content Comprehensible 107

Chapter 16: Total Physical Response 111

Chapter 17: Sheltered Instruction 115

Examples of Sheltered Instruction 116

Graphic Organizers and ConceptMaps 116

Schema Building 117

Word Study 117

Sheltered Instruction Strategies 117

Conclusion 118

Chapter 18: English as a Second Language 119

How English Learners Are Placed in ESL Classes 120

ESL Programs 122

ESL Curriculum Materials 122

Content-Based Instruction for ESL 123

Content-Driven ESL 124

Content-Based ESL 124

Part Four Resources 127

Assessing the Effectiveness of Our ESL Program 127



Chapter 19: High-Impact Strategies for Teaching the Content Areas 131

Chapter 20: Strategies for Reading 133

Approaches to Reading for Elementary and Secondary English Learners 134

Assessing Preexisting Reading Ability 135

Comprehension: The Key to Accessing Content 136

Background Knowledge 137

The Strategy: Making Connections to Background Knowledge 137

The Strategy: Making Connections—Text to Text, Text to Self, Text toWorld 139

The Strategy: List-Group-Label 140

Motivation and Attention 142

The Strategy: Teaching Questioning 142

The Strategy: Teaching Students How to Predict 144

The Strategy: Tea Party 146

Comprehension Strategies 148

The Strategy: Reciprocal Teaching 148

The Strategy: Creating Mental Images Through Visualization 155

The Strategy: Interactive Reading 155

Word Recognition 158

Fluency 158

Vocabulary Development 159

The Strategy: Repeated Reading 160

The Strategy: Key Vocabulary Prediction 161

The Strategy: Word Maps 163

Wide Reading: The Importance of Independent Reading 165

The Strategy: Implementing Independent Reading 166

Chapter 21: Strategies forWriting 173

AWord About Grammar and Usage 174

Writing in the Content Areas 174

The Strategy: Implementing Writing Across the Curriculum 174

The Strategy: Connecting Reading and Writing Through Content 176

The Strategy: Developing Voice 178

The Strategy: RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) Writing 179

Chapter 22: Strategies forMath 183

How to Help English Learners Achieve in Math 184

Difficulties That English Learners Face in Math 185

Strategies for Math 186

Preinstruction Strategies 186

The Strategy: Previewing the Lesson 186

The Strategy: Vocabulary Instruction for Multiple-Meaning Words 189

During-Instruction Strategies 194

The Strategy: Group Solutions 194

Other Strategies 195

Postinstruction Strategies 196

The Strategy: Paired Summarizing 197

Chapter 23: Strategies for Other Content Areas 199

Teaching Text Features 201

The Strategy: Prereading Text 204

The Strategy: K-Q-L 206

Differentiation for Levels 1 and 2 English Learners 208

The Strategy: REAP 208

Part Five Resources 211

Elementary Interest Survey: My Favorite Things 212

Secondary Student Interest Survey 213

Discussion Questions 214



Chapter 24: How Can IMake These PracticesWork for My English

Learners? 217

The Strategy: Microteaching 218

The Strategy in Action 218

Part Six Resources 223

Microteaching Checklist 223

Discussion Questions 224

Notes 225

Definitions and Key Terminology 231

References 237

Index 243

For my beautiful Haley.