What Does It Take to Create an ELL Friendly Environment? - ASCD
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July 30, 2018

What Does It Take to Create an ELL Friendly Environment?

    Instructional Strategies
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      English Language Learning (ELL) students all come from different cultures and have different backgrounds. They come together in a classroom to learn English, but the blend of the cultures they represent may stand in the way of effective teaching and learning.

      According to the U.S. Department of Education, the number of ELL students in the U.S. has exceeded 4 million students. These students have various cultural backgrounds, so in order to make the learning process successful, teaching process should ensure the full immersion of each student into a new English-speaking culture.

      For all of the ELL students, new language and culture are unknown and confusing, that is why it is crucially important to provide them with the learning environment that is as friendly and engaging as possible.

      But what does it take to create a great ELL friendly environment? Let’s find out.

      1. Increase Peer Interaction

      Measurable goal: Students will demonstrate their improved speaking skills in the classroom setting at least three or four times a week.

      Practicing speaking skills is crucial, as this skill will directly influence the ability of the students to communicate with the English-speaking natives. That is why it is absolutely necessary to increase verbal interaction in the classroom setting, preferably by engaging students to work in groups, setting up dialogs or group discussions.

      For the teacher, it is crucial to remember how to balance Teacher Talk Time (TTT) and Student Talk Time (STT). TTT should not exceed 30% of the class time, while STT should comprise 80% of the lesson time. Students should be given more independence in terms of communication with their peers in the classroom setting but with minimal instructions and guidance from a teacher.

      Classroom speaking tasks should include new concepts, but the accent should be made on the information that students have already learned. When it comes to vocabulary, the proportion of the new words to the familiar words should be 60% to 50%. Students should always receive support from the teacher during speaking tasks.

      1. Read Aloud

      Measurable goal: Students will improve their listening comprehension skills as measured by their ability to listen to and understand their English-speaking peers and adults.

      Professors at the Center for Teaching at the University of Iowa single out the following benefits of reading aloud that help teachers create a friendly environment for the ELL students:

      • Developing critical thinking skills. As students listen to the text and perceive the information presented verbally, they get a chance to analyze this information and make inferences. And by doing post-reading tasks, they get a chance to express their opinion and exchange thoughts with their peers and the teacher.

      • Developing adaptive expertise. By reading aloud, the teacher not only helps students develop critical thinking skills but also ensures the acquisition of meaningful knowledge, as opposed to just memorizing the information.

      • Teaching students how to separate primary and secondary information. “By using intonation, logical stress and expression, teachers show students how to accentuate more important information as opposed to auxiliary information”, says Linda Sykes, a former ELL teacher and a Talent Acquisition manager at Proessaywriting.

      But one of the most important benefits for creating an ELL-friendly environment is that reading aloud facilitates narrative absorption, which is a state when the listeners are so absorbed in the story that they forget their surroundings and become fully engaged. This not only creates a feeling of belonging but also benefits a more active and deeper learning.

      1. Increase Parent Involvement

      Measurable goal: The teacher will contact the parents of ELL students on the weekly basis to provide information about their results and invite them to participate in school events.

      Schools always encourage parents to participate in school activities as well as in the academic activities with their children. However, it is sometimes hard to engage parents as they often are unavailable, preoccupied with their work engagements or other family activities.

      But involving parents is crucial to a child’s academic success. A study by A.T. Henderson and N. Berla has shown that parental involvement improves student achievement and that the more parents participate in their child’s school life, the better academic achievements become.

      What you can do as an ELL teacher is writing an email to the parents of your children every Friday or Saturday with the report about the achievements of their children. You can make a general report about the activities and achievements you’ve reached during the classes. But if a student has some academic struggles, it’s better to inform a parent directly in a private conversation.

      Also, try to provide possible solutions for a problem and give your advice on how a parent can facilitate the academic achievements of a child. If you build a trusting relationship with the parents, your children will be more eager to come to your class and the general atmosphere will be more friendly and engaging.


      Creating an ELL-friendly environment is crucial for the successful learning process and language acquisition. The classroom environment should benefit children and help them become completely immersed in the English-speaking culture. Hopefully, these tips will help you and your ELLs achieve academic success.

      Diana Clark once gave up her educator career for something she always dreamed about – writing. Diana is a freelance writer at A-writer. She discovers the world of digital nomads and believes that someday people will become location independent.

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