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6 Strategies to Support ELLs in Science


Practical Ideas that would also work in other content areas:

English and Science Content


Education Connections

Education Connections Tuesday’s Tip: Supporting EL learners in science instruction

Forum: Tuesday’s Tips (Education Connections)

Erik Halvorson

Education Connections

How do you prepare all students to learn and participate in your science lessons and units? What tools, strategies, and methods do you use to make sure all learners are supported and encouraged during science learning?

For EL students, science courses often have the advantage of offering hands-on learning opportunities, observations, and real-life examples. Yet science learning also poses special challenges for ELs, especially when it comes to vocabulary learning, terminology use, and classroom confidence. Reviewing critical terminology and modeling the scientific questioning process before a lesson can be an essential first step to helping students engage with the material and the steps of scientific inquiry.  It is also important to consider how lessons require students to interact through writing, as well as through sharing in small and large groups, and to make sure that students are supported throughout lessons and feel confident to share out during the lesson, even as they continue to develop their academic English language skills.

For some ways to ensure your science lessons address the needs of all students, including English learners, take a look at these resources from Colorín Colorado.

Or, to see how one instructor carefully tailors her science lessons to the needs of her EL students, check out this short video from the Teaching Channel.

ELT: Using Primary Sources for Background Building


Education Connections Tuesday’s Tip

Erik Halvorson  Education Connections

What strategies and techniques do you use in your classroom to help all students develop their background knowledge and interact with primary source documents?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) recommend that students be able to work with a diverse background of complex texts, both primary and secondary, in order to engage with curriculum through a variety of viewpoints, as well as to practice using text-based evidence to develop and support ideas and claims. The CCSS specifically require that lessons in History/Social Studies, Science, and technical subjects introduce students to the outside voices and views of primary source documents.

While finding primary source documents can seem overwhelming, the Library of Congress offers a great primary source analysis tool specifically to help instructors search and gather primary sources for their classroom instruction. The primary source database comes with sheets and guides for how to analyze different types of media, as well as sets and pre-grouped samples of primary sources by subject matter.

For EL students, primary sources can be extremely beneficial in in providing background knowledge that might not be available through textbooks or secondary source texts. Primary sources that are not text-based—for example, photos, films, paintings, music, maps, and cartoons—can help EL students across all English levels to access engaging non-linguistic insights and strengthen background knowledge.

For more ideas on how to include and incorporate primary sources in your classroom to help all students engage with lessons, take a look at this sample lesson plan.

Or, for another look at how to use primary sources with your EL students, try this short activity from

Downloadable Whitepaper Academic Language and Academic Achievement


The importance of academic language cannot be overstated.  Read more here:  WP-LexiaLearning–Academic_Language.

Dr. Broady’s New YouTube Channel and ELT Training


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Lesson Planning and Beyond: Academic Vocabulary Resources


“When I write in English, I can’t express myself as well as I do in Spanish/Korean/Japanese.” Most writing instructors hear this statement at least once during their teaching career. A lack of vocabulary is indeed one of the most challenging aspects of writing that our students encounter. This problem becomes even more perceptible in academic writing, as students try to develop their academic writing style by using a range of academic and descriptive language and making stylistic choices appropriate for various academic genres. I frequently hear students saying: “I want to sound more academic,” “My writing is so primitive,” and “How can I use more academic words?”

Many of the resources that students can use to enrich their academic vocabulary repertoire are freely accessible online. Today I’d like to introduce only a few of those resources.

1. Using English for Academic Purposes
It’s a great website for learning/teaching English for academic purposes. The vocabulary section includes: academic word list (AWL), general service list (GSL), and a list of less frequent words; exercises; and information on learning and vocabulary building skills.

2. Visual Thesaurus
The program creates semantic maps of words and provides audio support, color-coded meanings that indicate parts of speech, and multiple definitions included for each vocabulary item.

3. Academic Vocabulary Gapmaker
This program creates gap-fill exercises in a written text using the AWL.

4. Academic Vocabulary Highlighter
This program identifies academic words in a written text using the AWL. Students can use this program to evaluate their own writing.

5. Professional Word Web
This website features words that frequently occur in business and financial texts, legal documents, social work papers, and engineering reports. The words are given in context, and for each word the website provides the meaning, pronunciation, and additional examples.

6. Vocabulary Spelling City
This website creates a number of activities from the list of your own words. Some of the activities include a spelling test, word search, audio word search, and word unscramble.

7. Vocabulary Materials at Centre for Independent Language Learning
This vocabulary section, developed by Hong Kong Polytechnic University, contains a variety of activities, word lists, worksheets, as well as concordances for AWL and GSL.

8. AWL Exercises
This website has gap-fill exercises to learn and review 570 word families of academic words divided into 10 sublists. The format of the exercises allows students to get immediate feedback on their answers.

9. My Vocabulary
It’s a helpful website with morphology-based activities, as well as exercises for practicing SAT and GRE vocabulary.

10. Michigan State University Vocabulary Resources
This section of the university website contains, among other tools, a list of Greek and Latin roots and affixes with their meanings and examples. Great for preparing for GRE.

11. The Academic Word List at UoP
This resource is designed for students: a list of suggestions on how to learn vocabulary, and exercises for selective lists from the AWL.

12. TOEFL Vocabulary Quizzes
Multiple-choice quizzes for TOEFL vocabulary—can be used in class and for independent learning.

13. Words in Context
The website provides a comprehensive collection of words used in published literature. Some subject areas include the life sciences, medicine, engineering, mathematics, computer science, business, and law.

14. Word Info
A dictionary of words of Greek and Latin origin. The website also includes vocabulary quizzes.

15. Vocabulary on TV411
The vocabulary section on this website provides instructions on how to use root words and affixes and includes different activities. Great for teaching morphology and the AWL.

What resources for developing academic vocabulary do you recommend to your students?

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