What works for English language learners in the science classroom?

January 15, 2018


How do we support English Language Learners in the science classroom?




English Language Learners (ELLs) are characterized as (1) students whom native language is not English or (2) students who live and operate in an environment where English is not primarily spoken.  


Here are a few tips to support ELLs in the science classrooms:


Listening skills

Listening skills can be supported by allowing students time to clearly understand instructions. This looks like teachers explaining concepts slowly and asking students to repeat instructions to ensure comprehension.


Visualization skills

Allow students ample opportunity to visualize concepts. Pose questions using vivid language to help students use their imagination and activate prior knowledge. Visualization in the science classroom can also be introduced through graph organizers and the frequent use and explanation of charts, graphs and pictorials.


Interpersonal skills

Have students work in pairs and small groups that are differentiated by their English-speaking ability. Encourage students to speak in class, when students have the confidence to share their ideas in English it can support their overall comprehension of the language and content.


Effective use of wait time

Allowing silence in the classroom while waiting for students to respond can be intimidating, but setting time aside for students to process information is essential to their understanding of new concepts. 


Demonstration (Labs)

Laboratories and demonstrations give students the opportunity to test the concepts they learn. Reading and writing in the science lab can be reinforced through journaling, lab reports, and the acquisition and interpretation of science articles and vocabulary strategies.


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