The English Language Learner KnowledgeBase for Teachers

The English Language Learner (ELL) KnowledgeBase for Teachers is an online resource supporting educators responsible for implementing programs for ELL students. It offers resources related to teaching ELL students based on Office for Civil Rights and the No Child Left Behind Act requirements.

This KnowledgeBase is currently being updated to reflect recent changes under federal law. The current version is provided for your reference as much of the information may still be relevant.

Element 1: Understand the Law

Purpose: Districts are required to take affirmative steps to address the language development of English language learners (ELLs) where the inability to speak and understand the English language prevents the students from effective participation in the district's regular education program. Element 1 addresses the legal requirements related to ELL students. Besides school leaders and staff members, these requirements must be understood by the entire school community.

Activity 1: Become Familiar with the Legal Aspects and Precedents

Activity 2: Review the No Child Left Behind Act

Element 2: Implement the English Language Learner Program

Purpose: School districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but they should consider three general questions when making a decision.

  • Is there a need to provide English language learner (ELL) services?
  • Will the ELL program meet the educational needs of ELL students effectively ?
  • Is the program approach backed by scientifically based research?

The program chosen should be considered sound by experts in the field. If a district is using a different approach, it must show it is considered a legitimate experimental strategy.

Activity 1: Investigate Approaches to English Language Learner Programs

Activity 2: Use Culturally Responsive Teaching Methodologies

Activity 3: Develop an English Language Learner Program

Element 3: Communicate With and Involve Parents

Purpose: School districts have multiple obligations under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act and Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requirements. Under Title III, schools receiving such funds are to ensure timely and effective notification to parents of ELL students and extend a means for them to be involved with their child's education. The OCR requirements specify districts do so in a way that ensures meaningful access to ELL students and their parents. Accordingly, schools must develop effective methods of involving parents of ELL students in their child's education. In fulfilling these responsibilities, districts should develop procedures for providing the parents of ELL students with the same information provided to the parents of their non-ELL peers in a language-appropriate manner.

Activity 1: Communicate with Parents Using Language-Appropriate Methods

Activity 2: Develop and Implement a Parent Involvement Program

Element 4: Identify and Assess Students

Purpose: A district should have procedures in place for identifying English language learner (ELL) students and assessing their English proficiency. Such procedures should involve parents in making the final determination of whether their child is placed in the district's ELL program. Parents deciding not to have their child or children participate must sign a participation waiver.

Activity 1: Develop Appropriate Student Identification and Assessment Policies

Activity 2: Identify Students Whose Primary Home Language is Other Than English (PHLOTE)

Activity 3: Ensure Assessment of Students

Element 5: Coordinate the English Language Learner Program with Other Programs

Purpose: As noted at the National Clearinghouse for English Language Aquisition (NCELA), "School districts are to provide alternative language instruction programs to children with limited English proficiency to help them develop their English language skills and meet the same state academic content and student achievement standards all students are expected to meet.

In doing so, school districts have broad discretion in selecting appropriate language programs, but should consider the following when developing their program.

  • Is there a need to provide alternative language services?
  • Will the alternative language program effectively meet the educational needs of ELL students?
  • Language instruction curricula used to teach ELL children are to be tied to scientifically-based research and demonstrated to be effective.
  • Provided by teachers certified as English language proficient.
  • Parents must be notified as to why their child is being placed in the program and have the right to have their child removed from the program."

Activity 1: Coordinate the English Language Learner Program with Other Programs

Activity 2: Conduct Program Evaluation

Element 6: Exit Students and Monitor Academic Progress

Purpose: A district should establish criteria to determine when English language learner (ELL) students qualify for exiting from the program. The exit criteria should be based on objective standards that ensure ELL students will be able to participate meaningfully and successfully in the district's regular education program.

Activity 1: Develop Appropriate Exit Policies and Procedures for the English Language Learner Program

Activity 2: Exit Students

Element 7: Provide Professional Learning

Purpose: In fulfilling the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Office for Civil Rights, staff development must occur to ensure ELL students progress academically and be afforded equal educational opportunity. This includes professional learning in the following areas:

  • processes/policies for the identification and exit of ELL students for intake staff members and classroom teachers,
  • implementation of the program model for ELL program staff members,
  • strategies for working with ELL students for content teachers, and
  • assessment process for translators and staff members who will assist in Special Education.

Activity 1: Understand Policies and Procedures for Professional Learning

Activity 2: Develop and Implement a Personal Professional Learning Plan

Task 3: Identify Resources for Professional Learning

Guideline: Each teacher should identify content resources needed to accomplish professional learning activities. Content used should be scientifically based, designed to improve instruction, and be of sufficient intensity and duration to have a lasting impact on instruction.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Resources, Handouts and Exercises

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University offers materials for English as a Second Language (ESL) students and teachers. As noted at its website, "resource pages for students help with answering general questions about the English language, grammar problems, idioms, and academic conventions. Resources for teachers include online journals, lists of other online resources, and an annotated bibliography for ESL instructors."

Help! They Don't Speak English Starter Kit

This websiste provides "Resource guides to help busy teachers with practical, research-based advice on teaching, evaluating, and nurturing limited English proficient students." The versions available are for grades pre-K - 6, for secondary teachers, and for teachers of young adults.

10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children's Books for Racism and Sexism

This article from the Council on Interracial Books for Children provides guidance in selecting bias-free reading materials for children.

Limited English Proficient Students in Physical Education

This brochure from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is designed to help Physical Education (PE) teachers understand the unique challenges of working with ELL students. Though the brochure is aimed specifically towards PE teachers, it serves as a good example for all teachers and especially those working with ELL students for the first time.

Becoming Bilingual

From Reading Rockets, "this PBS show is for a teacher who speaks only English, having students who speak another language can be incredibly daunting. How does one teach a child to read in a new language? Hosted by acclaimed actress Rita Moreno Becoming Bilingual: The Challenges of Teaching English Language Learners to Read visits schools across the country that are creating bilingual readers. It can be viewed online and is available for purchase in VHS or DVD formats."

Center for Applied Linguistics

The Center for Applied Linguistics' website provides "a comprehensive range of research-based information, tools, and resources related to language and culture."

Center on Instruction - ELL Strand

This link is to the former Center on Instruction website. As a U.S. Department of Education funded content center, "the Center on Instruction provided materials and resources to improve instruction and intervention for English Language Learners, including exemplary delivery models and professional development for teachers in content and language areas."

Four Stages of Language Acquisition

This article from describes the four stages all English language learner students go through in learning English.

NABE State Affiliates

This resource provides a link to the list of the National Association for Bilingual Education's state affiliate organizations.

National Association for Bilingual Education

As noted at its website, "the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) is the only national professional organization devoted to representing Bilingual Learners and Bilingual Education professionals. NABE has affiliates in 25 states which collectively represent more than 20,000 members that include bilingual and English language learner (ELL) teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, administrators, professors, advocates, researchers, and policy makers."

National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs

This link is to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA) website. As noted at its website, NCELA "is authorized to collect, analyze, synthesize, and disseminate information about language instruction educational programs for limited English proficient children, and related programs. Priority is given to information on academic content and English proficiency assessments and accountability systems." The NCELA website also provides national and state data, research reports, and resources related to ELLs.

Strategies and Resources for Mainstream Teachers of English Language Learners

This link is to Education Northwest's "hot topics" report, Strategies and Resources for Mainstream Teachers of English Language Learners.

Strategies for Supporting Literacy Development of Second-Language Learners

This article offers a series of strategies supporting the literacy development of second-language learners through the use of bilingual books.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

As noted at its website, "Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL), is a global association for English language teaching professionals. Representing a multifaceted academic discipline and profession, TESOL offers members serial publications, books, and electronic resources on current issues, ideas, and opportunities in the field of English language teaching."

Teaching Tolerance

This link to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project offers resources on teaching tolerance.