How have you planned to support the English language learners in your classroom?

3 Tips for supporting the English language learners in your class

Student needs in the United States are changing. Teachers need the right tools in order to effectively reach all students. Now, more than ever before, there are populations of students who don’t share the same native language or English proficiency as many of their peers. School districts need teachers who are willing to become experts in ESL to be sure that students of all backgrounds are afforded all of the opportunities that the English language makes available to them.

Dr. Connie Zucker, the program director for Concordia University Ann Arbor’s ESL Program, understands these shifts quite well. Below, she offers three tips for classroom teachers to remember when supporting English language learners.

Tip #1: Put yourself in the shoes of your English learners.

You already know this, but empathy is underrated. Try to understand how your students are experiencing life and the world around them. This can help you connect with them in more effective ways.

Consider this example:

Would you need help figuring out your textbook reading if it looked like this?

Revolucioni Amerikan ishte një ngjarje e rëndësishme në historinë botërore. (Albanian)


Kev hloov pauv Asmeskas yog qhov xwm txheej tseem ceeb hauv keeb kwm ntiaj teb. (Hmong)


Would you have come up with this meaning?

“The American Revolution was a significant event in the history of the world.”


What can we learn from this example?

As you can see, being handed text in an unfamiliar language can be very intimidating. This example shows just one aspect of being an English language learner. In addition, as a follow-up exercise, you can take the time to really empathize with your students. Graham Skerritt wrote about this in his article Putting yourself in their shoes. Try to translate and understand the sentences above using teaching strategies and tools available to you. Skerritt suggests asking yourself some follow-up questions when you’re finished.

Follow-up questions:
  • Tell about what you did.
  • What did you learn?
  • Which parts did you enjoy?
  • What did you dislike?
  • How did you feel?


Tip #2: Become informed about your students’ home language and culture.

This will enable the teacher to be more sensitive in working with your students and their families. Plus, it will make your English learners feel more welcome in the classroom because their classmates will become a little more culturally aware.

ESL teachers have the ability to inspire their students to embrace confidence and courage as English language learners.


Tip #3: Teach using research-based methods to help your students acquire academic English.

This is essential for their success in each content area. There are methods that have proven to be very helpful, and all content-area teachers can learn to use these methods with great success.


Getting your ESL Endorsement

The demand for ESL-trained teachers is growing, with some schools requiring their teachers to become endorsed in ESL. Also, ESL teachers have the ability to inspire their students to embrace confidence and courage as English language learners. Furthermore, if you’re interested in learning how to become an ESL teacher in Michigan, feel free to visit us here.

— Vanessa Lane is the Content Marketing Lead at Concordia University and can be reached at When she's not at work, she can be found playing with her kids or watching NBA basketball with her husband.

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