Thing 21: Supporting English Language Learners

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Lesson originally developed by guest Instructor Diana Wendell, Director of the Orange-Ulster BOCES School Library System. Note that it was originally developed with a focus on school library support for ELL students. Additional material has been added to broaden the focus for all educators.


Students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) make up approximately 5 million students across the United States.  Nearly one in ten public school students are ELLs.  Not surprisingly, Spanish is the largest language spoken according to a 2015-16 report New York State English Language Learners Home Languages 2015-2016 report. Spanish is followed by Chinese, Arabic, and Bengali.  In 2017-18, there are an estimated 236,765 English language learners in New York’s 674 major school districts.

A February 23, 2017 National Public Radio (NPR) story reported “from 2000 to 2014, the growth of the ELL population was greatest in Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.  Based on the most recent data available, NPR found that no matter where they go to school, most ELLs are struggling because they have little or no access to quality instruction tailored to their needs.” (Source: English Language Learners: How Your State Is Doing)

School librarians can play an important role in making a difference in the lives of ELLs.  Be intentional; reflect on your practice.  As the above noted statistics demonstrate, this is not an issue of importance to just New York, Texas and the southwest of the U.S.  This learning opportunity will provide practical suggestions for revamping a school library program to support this large and growing population.




  • – Explore to find books about different cultures; videos by authors and illustrators from many nationalities.
  • Teen Health & Wellness – This Rosen database translates into over 50 languages. Students can create public service announcement videos and submit to the database. (If you don’t have a subscription, you can request a trial.
  • Fall 2018_ESL509 – A Diigo link sharing group created to share resources with and ESL course.
  • Automatic Captions in Google Slides – When you present in Google Slides, you can turn on automatic captions to display the speaker’s words in real time at the bottom of the screen. This feature is available in U.S. English only, using Chrome on a computer. Helpful not only for ELL, but also for those with hearing impairments. 
  • 7 Technology Tools for Newcomer ELLs – Great post with ideas for using tools you may already be using with your non-ELL students.
  • Tech Tools to Support English Learners’ Literacy and Language Development – Similar to the previous article, tech tools and ideas for using them with ELL learners.
  • Edshelf ESL tools – As always, Edshelf is a great resource for edtech resources. This link takes you to all the ESL resources that educators have shared on edshelf.
  • Gale and Britannica resources for ENL. There are two pages of resources here. On the left side of the page, you’ll see “Resources Available for All Schools” and “Check with your school librarian to see if you can access these or others” Lots of language learning resources. (ENL = English as a New Language) 


Some suggestions for learning activities for this lesson. As always, do what interests you the most.

  • After exploring the readings and resources, what new ideas might you implement to support ELL?
  • Explore the Gale and Britannica resources for ENL and any other relevant databases available through your school/school library system.  Which resources could you use in your school? How would you use them?
  • Librarians and ELL teachers: you could create a page on your website highlighting resources for ELLs.
  • View some related EdWeb webinars. (You can receive NYS CTLE credits for viewing them.)
  • Classroom Teachers: Connect with your schools ELL educators or your school librarian and discuss how you could collaborate to provide support the ELL students in your classes.
  • Communicating with your principal:  Write a one-page summary to your principal about how you are going to enhance your library program with services to ELLs (this could include updating resources, tweaking or creating a makerspace that is friendly to ELLs or other ideas.)

Your blog post:

  • Reflect on the readings and resources you explored.
  • Write up what activities you pursued.
  • Include links to any material you created.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to your Google Classroom, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

6 thoughts on “Thing 21: Supporting English Language Learners

    • Oh, that sounds great! Thanks Carol – stealing your description. 🙂
      “ABC Mouse – Free for educators (up to 40 students). Home accounts can be purchased. Spanish interface and over 800 activities in Spanish available. Teachers create their own accounts.” Educator sign up page:

  1. Game to support knowledge of vocabulary – they show you several words you guess the category.

    Matching words that are opposites

    Language arts Games

    Grammar – Fragments

    Idiom games

    NEWS ELA This is a great tool for building vocabulary and they have a lot of culturally relevant stories.

    recommended by sarah remelt

  2. Hi! For those who are looking for ESL accredited schools, they may use our database with 500+ ESL schools in the US alone which can be found here We’ve shown the schools using a map-driven interface so prospective students and teachers can easily see which schools are in which areas of town. There are no fees involved for students or schools, and students who are interested in a school just get in touch with the school directly.  

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