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This article addresses critical factors that impact learning for a growing population of students in American classrooms, the English Language Learner (ELL). Even in the smallest school districts, it is common for teachers to have one or more students with limited or no command of the English language in their classrooms. Many students in schools with specialized ELL programs spend the majority of their day in regular classrooms trying to fit in with their peers as they struggle to learn a new language. This article focuses on the five stages of language acquisition and proficiency along with corresponding research-based strategies teachers can use at each stage. Elements of an effective language program described in this article are based on an asset model of instruction where students’ differences are valued, respected, and utilized. When cultural-linguistic differences are used as assets rather than problems, all students, native and non-native English speakers, benefit.

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