Strategies for ELL Students


Next month I will be teaching my students (9th-12th graders) unit 3 on Human Body Systems.

There are six stages of English language acquisition: pre-production, early production, speech emergent, beginning fluency, intermediate fluency, and advanced fluency. According to the definitions, most of my students belong to early production and speech emergent stages. So I will describe these two stages for most of my students without one specific example, however I do have one student whose name is Cindy Wu, and she is in a even lower stage which would be in-between pre-production and early production stages, and I also have one student who is almost like a native English speaker: Ellie Jiang, so she would represent the advanced fluency stage.

  1. For Cindy Wu, the first strategy I adopt will be speaking slowly and use shorter words, I will make sure she is receiving the information from the instructions I gave, I will also sometimes give instructions to the Cindy individually about what she need to do in a project or work about human body systems. Another strategy will be asking yes/no and either/or questions, by doing this I will be able to encourage Cindy to open her mouth and at least start speaking English, so she would be able to move to the next stage, in my opinion, her case of being a really low ELL student also has something to do with her personality.
  2. For Ellie Jiang, the first strategy I use would be offering extra challenging activities to expand her vocabulary and content knowledge about human body systems. The second strategy I would adopt is using graphic organizers and thinking maps and check to make sure the student is filling them in with details(Robertson & Ford, 2009). Challenge the student to add more detailed information. (e.g. ask students to do a mind map about 11 body systems, but Ellie will have to add more details to each system.)
  3. For the early production stage, the first strategy I would adopt will be using visuals and models to help students understand vocabulary about human body system. For low level students, pictures and figures are better than words. The second strategy I will use would be having students work in pairs or small groups to discuss a problem(Robertson & Ford, 2009). Have literate students write short sentences or words in graphic organizers, because most of my students came from Chinese public education system which focuses a lot on tests and exams, so usually my students have better writing and reading skills than listening and speaking skills, having them writing down words or and sentences about human body system and discussing will help them enhance their understanding and also speaking skills.
  4. For the speech emergent stage, the first strategy will be providing visuals when introducing new vocabulary or concept about human body system and make connections with student’s background knowledge as much as possible(Robertson & Ford, 2009), because even for the speech emergent students, sometimes the terms used in biology for human body system description would still be difficult to understand, visual support is always helpful in learning. The second strategy will be introducing charts and graphs by using easily understood information such as school cafeteria food analysis, because charts and graphs are very helpful for organizing concepts about human body systems for starting level ELL students.

Extra resources for teaching science to ELL students:


Reference: Robertson, K., & Ford, K. (2009, October 1). Comments. Retrieved December 27, 2016, from


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