Adaptations & Accommodations for ELL Students in Reading

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn strategies for adapting materials and providing accommodations to English Language Learner (ELL) students. The lesson discusses classroom accommodations and text adaptations.

Promoting Literacy

The first step toward accommodating ELL students in reading is to promote reading! Some ways to get students reading include:

  • Create a classroom library or reading area that is rich with diverse, interesting texts.
  • Give students time to independently read high-interest texts during class.
  • Invite parents and guardians to special events that give them strategies for encouraging reading at home.

Now let's take a closer look at some ways to accommodate ELL students in classroom reading and to adapt the texts they use.

Classroom Accommodations

ELL students should be provided equitable access to the curriculum through the use of accommodations. Some accommodations to provide for ELL students in reading include reduced reading load, vocabulary instruction, pre-reading strategies, graphic organizers, and reading strategies.

Reduced Reading Load

One way to accommodate for ELL students' lack of proficiency is to reduce the reading requirement. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of effort to try to decode and comprehend unknown words in another language. Therefore, if you ask students to read a book for homework, ELL students may get through only a couple of pages, and that's okay.

Vocabulary Instruction

It's important to spend time on explicit vocabulary instruction with ELL students. Before reading, preview the text to see which vocabulary words may be essential to understanding, and take time to teach them. You can have students collaborate on word sorts or you can have them draw pictures to illustrate the words.

Pre-Reading Strategies

Engage students in pre-reading strategies to help set the stage for their reading. You can do a picture walk with students by asking them to make predictions about the text based only on the pictures.

Try to activate students' prior knowledge about the subject matter. Ask students questions about themes and topics from the text and have them elaborate on their responses. For example, prior to reading a story about friendship, ask students to discuss what makes a good friend and record their responses on the board.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers such as Venn diagrams, KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) charts, double bubble maps for comparing and contrasting, sequence maps, and others can help students establish a purpose for reading. Having a purpose helps encourage students to read actively, which enhances comprehension.

Reading Strategies

ELL and other students can benefit from a variety of approaches to reading instruction. One of the most beneficial strategies is the read aloud, in which you read aloud to students. This is often accompanied by a think aloud, in which you model your thinking process as you read to demonstrate interactive reading skills and to improve students' comprehension.

Partner reading occurs when two or more students team up to read a text aloud to one another. You can pair a native English speaker with an ELL student for maximum productivity.

Text Adaptations

Use a variety of texts to help English learners at different reading levels. Students with very limited proficiency can read books in their native language to strengthen literacy skills. Although you might think this is counterproductive, the truth is that literacy skills do transfer from one language to the next. Literacy in a child's first language is a strong predictor of success in second language acquisition.

Following are some types of adapted texts that can help English learners at different levels in learning to read English.

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