Thing 35: Supporting English Language Learners

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Lesson developed by guest Instructor Diana Wendell, Director of the Orange-Ulster BOCES School Library System.


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.

There is also a severe shortage of certified ENL (English as a New Language) teachers across the United States. (The term ESL (English as a Second Language) has been replaced by ENL.  This was done because some of these students speak more than two languages.)

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.



  • Teach Diverse Books – (Dec 2016) This short webinar focuses on resources that reflect global perspectives to include in their literacy work.
  •  Instructional Uses to Support ESL/ELL – (October 2017) Another short webinar focusing on strengthen collaborative support of English Language Learners and their families using the resources and tools at
  • Promoting Inclusion, Social Equity, and Diversity in Your Library – “The school library (and librarian) have a history of being a safe place for kids to go and feel welcomed by plentiful knowledge, resources and atmosphere. As our environment continues to change politically, racially, economically and in terms of gender acceptance, how can you ensure your library promotes a sense of equality for everyone? You’ll hear firsthand ways you can better serve all communities, including:  LGBTQ, Economically challenged, Racially and religiously diverse, English Language Learners, Developmentally challenged.”
    • Speakers: K.C. Boyd – Lead Librarian East St. Louis (IL) School District,  Michelle Martin – Beverly Cleary Professor of Children and Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington, Craig Seasholes – Teacher-Librarian Seattle Public Schools, Seattle, WA, and author Lynda Mullaly Hunt.


  • – 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.)


Some suggestions for learning activities for this lesson.

  • Review the School Librarians Can Support English Language Learners and  read 10 Ways to Support ELLs in the School Library. 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?
  • Create a page on your library website or OPAC highlighting resources for ELLs.
  • 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 the Google Classroom assignment page, 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.

5 thoughts on “Thing 35: 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

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