Environmental Modifications for English Language Learners

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

The environment, not just the content, must be carefully considered when teaching English language learners (ELLs). Read this lesson to learn about environmental modifications you can make to ensure language learning success for your ELLs.

What Is an Effective Learning Environment?

The first thing we need to go over is the meaning of an effective learning environment. An effective learning environment is one in which students can:

  • Understand both the purpose and the elements of the content being taught.
  • Feel supported as they learn, ask questions, and practice new skills.
  • Find relevance in the content being taught by connecting to it personally, socially, culturally, and academically.
  • Make content comprehensible, and retain it as enduring knowledge.

Today's classrooms offer a diverse blend of students, including those to whom English is not their first language. When teaching English language learners (ELLs), it is important to modify your learning environment to ensure effective language learning is taking place.

This lesson will provide a list of modifications you can implement into your classroom to help support your ELLs as they go through the language development process. Let's get started.

Environmental Modifications

Environmental modifications can be anything from changes in seating arrangements to the different ways you deliver a lesson. It basically means modifying the environment or the way you present information so students are able to successfully transition through the English language developmental process. The easier it is for your ELLs to understand what you are presenting, the smoother the process will be.


This is something that should be done in every classroom with ELLs. Label every object in the classroom that your students will need to know. This helps students better understand their surroundings, as well as assist in faster acquisition of classroom vocabulary.

  • Label the classroom furniture and supplies.
  • Put all students' names on desks and personal items.
  • Label technological equipment and materials.
  • Label supplemental and sorting materials (inbox, outbox, lunch basket, homework basket).

By labeling classroom supplies, texts, and furniture, directions and class instructions will be easier since you will be able to easily identify what you want the students to use.

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