ELL Interventions, Strategies & Best Practices

Instructor: Rebecca Bradshaw

Rebecca Bradshaw has a Master of Arts in Teaching and has experience teaching ELA, ESL, and high school CTE courses.

As a teacher of English language learners (ELL), you're responsible for meeting your students' social, emotional, and educational needs in the classroom. In this lesson, we'll explore interventions, strategies, and best practices to meet these needs.

Meeting the Needs of ELL students

The office just called to let you know a new student just enrolled and is heading to your classroom. As you open the door, you see a mother and daughter walking down the hallway. They approach the door, and you notice the mom has tears in her eyes. You extend your hand and introduce yourself. The mom responds by simply pointing to her daughter and stating her name. Immediately you understand what is going on...they don't know any English! What are you going to do? How will you be able to help the student? Where do you even begin?

Fortunately, there are many easily incorporated interventions, strategies, and best practices that will meet the needs of our English language learners. One of the easiest to incorporate is gestures. To comfort the mom despite her own panic, you smile, say thank you for walking her down, and give her a thumbs up. You gently motion with your hand for the student to come in the classroom, walk her to her desk, and introduce her to the student sitting beside her.

As you begin addressing the entire class, you pick up a student's pencil and notebook and quietly turn to the new student. The student immediately responds by opening her backpack and taking out a pencil and paper. You ask the class for a thumbs up to show that they are ready to begin. Within a few seconds, thumbs are raised around the room. The new student scans the class and raises her thumb also. Immediately, you began to feel a sense of relief.


One of the best interventions for ELL students is small group instruction or partnered activities. Small groups provide a safe environment for the student. ELL students are more inclined to speak and participate in this type of setting because partnered activities allow the ELL student more opportunities to speak and to hear responses from peers. ELL students need these opportunities to verbalize responses before they are capable of internalizing the information, and these both provide a safe place for this to occur.

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