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English Language Learners

English Language Learners (ELL) come into the classroom from a variety of countries with a diverse set of experiences. They face the daunting tasks of adjusting to a new home and cultural environment, learning a new language, making new friends, and making sense of the rules, appropriate behaviors, and mechanics of a new school. Simultaneously, ELL students are experiencing many losses while simultaneously trying to “fit in” with their new surroundings.

For teachers, working successfully with ELL students requires more than just teaching the course content. In order for ELL students to achieve academic success, teachers must also support language goals and general learning strategies in the mathematics classroom (Richard-Amato & Snow, 2005). [1] In addition, it is critical to create a friendly, supportive, and predictable classroom community. Some general suggestions for teachers include:

  • Learning about students’ home countries, languages, and previous educational experiences.
  • Valuing students’ differences as resources. 
  • Staying connected to families. 
  • Communicating school norms and expectations clearly, and checking assumptions at the door. Instructing ELL students is a “lifelong process of learning, discovering, accepting, and trying” (Carger, 1997). [2]


 [1] Richard-Amato, P., & Snow, M.A. (Eds.) (2005). Academic success for English language learners: Strategies for K-12 mainstream teachers. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.
[2] Carger, C.L. (1997). Attending to new voices. Educational Leadership 54 (7), 39-43.