Using Visual Aids with ELL Students

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 about the strategy of using visual aids in the classroom to help accommodate English Language Learner (ELL) students. This lesson will highlight some specific types of visual aids that teachers can consider using during their instruction.

Visual Aids in the Classroom

Imagine being an ELL student in an American public school. Your teachers, classmates, school counselors, and administration are all speaking a language that you're not familiar with. All the books in the school library are written in English, as well as your classroom textbooks and worksheets. What could your teachers do to help ensure that you can at least follow along during instructional time?

One method of accommodating for ELLs is to use visual aids during instruction. Visual aids help to make content comprehensible for ELLs. No matter what language a person speaks, a picture of a house is easily recognizable to most people. If you point to a picture of a house and say 'house,' a student is likely to make that connection and begin to acquire the language and vocabulary.

Let's take a look at some specific strategies you can use in your classroom to incorporate the use of visual aids during instructional time.


Pictures can help enhance instruction for all learners. You can use personal photos, pictures from magazines, or ones printed from the Internet.

The Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) is a strategy that uses pictures to teach vocabulary. Show students a laminated picture with a lot of details, such as a family having a picnic in the park, or a busy city street with lots of pedestrians. Ask students to name what is in the picture. As they call out the vocabulary, use a dry-erase marker to label the picture. Refer back to the pictures during instruction to help reinforce the vocabulary.

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