Who are English Language Learners?

English Language Learners

  • may have a first language other than English
  • may use English in a non-standard form
  • may use a dialect of English
  • have a parent or caregiver who uses a language other than English
  • is learning English and another language simultaneously
  • may be immigrants, refugees, fee-paying International students, or children of parents with a work visa.
  • may have been born in Canada, and raised in a household that uses a language other than English.
  • are not students who have been enrolled in a French Immersion program

Important Information:

English Language Learners are affected by many kinds of experiences.  The best-case scenario is a learner who comes from a family that has chosen to move to Canada for a new experience.  Even in this situation, the child may be affected by leaving family and friends.  In the most extreme situations, students have been in refugee camps, and they have experienced extraordinary violence and uncertainty.  All  English Language Learners bring their personal experiences to our schools, where they also have to learn new routines, new customs, learn a new language, and make new friends.

Planning for your ELLs:


Comprehensible input Input is the information you give your ELLs.  If we are aiming at a quick and full understanding of a topic, we might have it translated and ready for the student during learning time.  “Comprehensible input” is giving ELLs learning resources that are slightly above their current ability to understand content in English.

Comprehensible input provides learning challenge that are rigorous, yet attainable.

Visuals Using visuals when presenting information provides ELLs with a wealth of information.  Visuals can help ELLs predict what the lesson is about, access background knowledge, and learn more about a topic.  Visuals are essential for language learning, and helpful for everybody in the class.

Comox Valley Visual Supports Collection 

Use of first language Maintaining cognitive development in the first language is essential for learning additional languages.  If we ignore the first language, we are ignoring everything the child has learned prior to arriving at school in Canada.

Students with lower proficiency benefit greatly from reading in their first language.  If you are planning a novel study, try to obtain a copy in the ELLs’ first language.  If you can’t do this, find a novel or picture book with a similar theme that is written in the first language of your student.

Context (English learning should be connected to what is being taught in the classroom) People acquire language more successfully if they are learning in context.  If you are teaching a unit on the cardiovascular system, your ELL needs an adapted version of that lesson, rather than a worksheet about something that is totally off topic.


Visuals Representing knowledge through drawings, diagrams, and graphic organizers is beneficial for ELLs.  It allows these students to show key concepts, and the connections between information, ideas and opinions.

Comox Valley Visual Supports Collection 

Use of first language Encourage students with limited proficiency to write or record their words in their first language.  This allows the student to produce work at the same rate and quality as other students.  It is a way to show thinking and maintain confidence.  Parents and ELL teachers can help you interpret the meaning of the work.
Background info Assessing background knowledge provides the teacher with a first step.  For example, if a student is able to label the parts of the cardiovascular system in their first language, your first step is to teach the English words for those parts.  In addition, you might teach some functional words such as pump, flow, exchange, etc.
Consider multiple intelligences as a way to represent Like all students, many ELLs enjoy using art/drama to convey the meaning of vocabulary, stories, and academic concepts.  Others enjoy more concrete, individual activities.

Tip Sheets or Strategies or Resources:

Accessing Language

ELL students can benefit from tools that support their ability to understand what they hear and read.

Tools for Understanding Language in Videos – Tip Sheet 

Speech to Text (also known as speech recognition, voice recognition and voice to text) is the process of converting spoken words into text on a device. The student speaks into a microphone and the device creates a text file of the words they have spoken. This tool supports written output and expression. https://learn71.ca/inclusion-resources/assistive-technology-accessibility/speech-to-text/

Text to Speech tools read text out loud on web pages or text documents in programs or apps. The rate, voices and volume can be controlled within the tools to make the text easier to understand. https://learn71.ca/inclusion-resources/assistive-technology-accessibility/text-to-speech/

Using Translation Tools – Tip Sheet

PowerPoint Captions and Live Tip Sheet

Accessing Reading

Our goal is to provide students with interesting and relevant content while they are learning to read in English.

Reading Strategies

    • Allow students to read the text in their first language before reading in English
    • Provide texts with more visuals
    • Read the text more than once
    • Read a simpler version of the text

Webinar Recording: Supporting the Unique Needs of ELLs – Read&Write

Online Reading Resources

Online Reading Resources for ELL Students

Library books – High Interest/Low Vocabulary Books may be helpful for some students.  

https://sd71.follettdestiny.ca/ 1. Go to the library search page, 2. select Resource Lists, 3. Public Lists, 4. LRC Hi-Lo Novels

List of Hi-Lo Books by Joan Pearce Booklist-Joan-High-Low

Readability –https://readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-formula-tests.php

Our students are accessing many online resources, this website allows you to determine the approximate reading level of a website or any digital text. Just copy and paste in text (minimum 100 words) to check the reading level.