Accommodations for ELL Students in Science

Instructor: Cynthia Roberson

Cynthia has been an English Language Arts, ELL and Writing educator for over a decade on a secondary and collegiate level. She has a Master's degree in Secondary Education.

Did you know that even if students speaks English fluently, they may still need accommodations in some classes. This lesson will focus on practice accommodations for ELL students to be successful in the science content area.

ELL Students and Science

Earth science, biology and physics, oh my! Solar systems, life cycles and periodical tables can all seem like a foreign language to a native English speaker, so imagine how difficult it can be for someone who's an English language leaner (ELL). Due to the high frequency of academic vocabulary, accommodations for ELL students are necessary in order to help them successfully learn and retain much of the information taught in a science course. Using the following accommodations are certain to help ELL students do well in any science class.

Speech-to-Text Software for Lectures

In many science classrooms, teachers do a great deal of direct instruction before students work independently. An ELL student will not only understand very little of what is being said, but will require more time translating what they hear into their own language before translating back into English for proper comprehension. A speech-to-text device will ensure that all information shared by the instructor is recorded. The student can use that recording later to study, look up unfamiliar terms and close any gaps in their learning that may have occurred during the class. This accommodation can be offered to all ELL students even though some may not choose to use it.

Speech-to-text software is often available at many learning institutions but may also be found pre-loaded onto many computer systems.

Printed Notes with Translations

Instead of giving ELL students long passages to read or expecting them to take notes during class, give them printed copies of the notes they need for a particular chapter, skill, or procedure. These notes should contain the necessary translations of key terms into their native language. Releasing students from the expectation of having to take notes allows them to focus fully on the content being delivered while working to comprehend what they are reading or hearing.

For instance, if the current chapter is on the life cycle of a butterfly, give them a visual infographic of the life cycle. The infographic should inclde the key terms 'egg,' 'larva,' and 'pupa' as well as the translation of the ELL students alongside those key terms. This can also be done ahead of time for front loading of key information to facilitate better comprehension and class participation.

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