Is the ELL community seriously empty?! Tips to get it started here

Hi, I teach at a school that is about 25% immigrants in St. Cloud, MN. Here are a few things that have worked wonders for me, without requiring much out of me.

For preproductive students:

  • These students can understand much of what is given to them, but they don't speak much because they're just starting with English
  • Give them choices. They can point, or choose from a few options. Doing this will reveal a surprising amount of understanding hiding in there.
  • Asking students at this stage to produce well-formed language (or any at all) is simply premature.
  • By the time these students get to the PT's, they'll likely be able to produce language and participate.

For beginning speakers:

  • Carefully choose small groups so that supportive, patient, friendly, strong English speakers are paired with EL students.
  • Use sentence starters! Most of the time, these students can write logical answers to prompts, but they just don't know how to start.
  • Example sentence starter to provide them: "Computers on a network need addressing because _____."
  • Fill-in-the-blank sorts of practice are also valuable: "A set of rules that govern communication between computers is called a ____________."
  • Use Schoology (or other LMS) discussion forums in place of (or in addition to) in-class discussion! EL students take a long time to form language, but they have a lot to contribute. Writing on a discussion forum from home can really bring out conversation that they couldn't produce in class. Remember to provide some sentence starters in your discussion prompts. This strategy also helps to bring out your introverts.

Bottom line: There are many things in the CSP curriculum that are great for EL’s as-is (e.g. videos, constructivist philosophy or “ABC/CBV”), but if you’re serious about recruiting diversity and reaching those students, then you should take this curriculum into your own hands and offer the activities in a way that is best for your students.

Hope this is useful and not condescending. I’m sure you’ve ran into all of these strategies before–I just present them here as the ones that have given me the most mileage in this course.


P.S. ABC/CBV means Activity Before Content / Content Before Vocabulary. The idea is, students experience something first, so that when they finally see the vocabulary, they have a magnificent “aha” moment where they say, “so that’s the word for what I was doing!” It’s a great thing for all students–not just EL’s.


Hi Matt!

It is exciting to see you on here! Thanks for posting about your experience with EL students! I think those sentence starters are huge! “Good teaching” for EL students is so synonymous with “good teaching” for general ed too! I always notice students are so much more on task when I give them a sentence starter (even with non EL students).

Thanks for posting!