Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms:


Teaching English language to students who’s English is not their first language is very necessary to help them develop the language skills that they can apply in the rest of their studies and for interaction with others. A special strategy for instilling the linguistic skills to English Language Learners (ELLs) is essential for any teacher carrying out the practice. This essay will describe some of the essential instructional strategies for ELL classrooms that would help the teachers to scaffold content and language learning for English Language Learners, suggesting helpful considerations in delivering the linguistic skills to the students.

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP).

The phrase “sheltered instruction” is used here to refer to the instructional practices that assist teachers in making content more available and understandable by the English language learners. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol is based on research and has been tested in the field and it helps English language teachers to become more effective in connecting language and content in their teaching thereby advancing their professionalism and boosting their capabilities to apply distinct degrees of proficiency in their classrooms, (Peregoy, S. & Boyle, 2008).

The SIOP lesson-planning guideline has 30 components applicable to any curriculum for learners of any age or degree of English proficiency. The strategy utilizes a systematic approach of all the components to scaffold content and language tutoring that presents the help that ELLs, including those who have emerged from a special course, requires to prosper in mainstream classrooms. They are however some components that are more common and this essay will look at those, (Krashen, 1981).

Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms

Components of SIOP Lesson-Planning Scheme:

1. Language Objectives:

Clearly structured language objectives are required in an SIOP checklist. The main aim of writing the language objectives and making them available to the English language learners is to present a focus for a resolute instruction and learning. Having a well defined language objective helps the teacher to identify language structures, forms purposes which they require in teaching and modeling and in setting realistic speculations for their English language students. Besides, the approach also helps the native English-speaking learners who experience academic language problems to reach a solution.

2. Content Objectives:

In the SIOP strategy, the English language teacher has to understand and describe

Well the content objectives to be included in the English language lesson. This may comprise of common stories, current affairs or any other issue that can be incorporated in the class work to help the English learners understand and achieve the set language objectives. This may include discussing a novel context that has been read in class before.

3. Explicitly Linking Concepts to Learners’ Experiences:

When planning English language lessons, the teachers should put into consideration the learner’s experiences and backgrounds. It is important to create a connection between the previous learning and new concepts or ideas to help the students have a smooth understanding

Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms

of the English language. To avoid having unwarranted postulations regarding the learners’ past learning, background and experiences, it is crucial to formulate a general classroom experience as the basis for the teaching. The SIOP requires that the English language teacher should assist the learners in making conscious connections between their experiences and the text being dealt with in the lesson. Before and after readings, the learners are made to reply to prompts that aid in their linking of their experiences to those of the protagonist or the text theme. Having instructional conversations to accompany the prompts avail oral language practice for English language learners and helps in broadening their conceptual frameworks for comprehension. Combining both the instructional conversation and the literature log improves the comprehension for the English language learners.

There are several steps to be followed when developing an explicit link of concepts to the learners’ background.

Step 1. Creating Pre-reading and Post-reading Questions or Prompts:

For the pre-reading questions or prompt, a general probe about the learners’ experiences which might be the same to that of the main characters is conducted. This may include questions such as, “Have ever had a threatening dream? How did you react?” For the post-reading questions or probe, a more specific approach is used to ask how the learners’ experience was like or different from that of the characters. Questions such as, “Have you ever dreamt being eaten by a lion?” may be asked. The first prompt is made in such a way that the learners give a response either individually, as groups or orally through the teacher or a group representative, (Susan Wallace, n.d.).

Step 2. Subject Review:

Here the context is briefly reviewed stressing on the learners’ reactions in a think-aloud format. The method of following story events is reviewed and a note of the incidences when the events resemble or differ from the experiences addressed in the class. The learners listen or read the text in pairs or groups, (Presseisen, 1995).

Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms

Step 3. Second Literature Log Question/Prompts:

The second literature log question or prompt is introduced and a response is modeled. The teacher should give the learners time to write or discuss the prompt. The second instructional conversation is brought in where the learners chat about the similarities and differences between their backgrounds and those of the characters. Picture books with less text are used for non-readers or language beginners of any age. The learners are given the option to respond in their first language, the more proficient learners give their responses to prompts focusing on the setting rather than on characters.

4. Emphasis of Key Vocabularies:

To facilitate proper learning of English language, use of adequate vocabularies is required in the lesson-planning check list. An effective vocabulary development initiative should consist the following components; a) intentional word choice for words representing new ideas, b) direct teaching in word meaning and in approaches for learning new words, c) extensive introduction to new words and chances to apply new words through deep reading, intentional word-based events and continuous review, and d) a system to assist the learners in tracking new vocabularies. To enhance the vocabulary development, the English teacher may present word definitions, and form a non-linguistic illustration of the word through think-aloud approaches to help the learners mark key features of the visual and how they relate to the new word. The learners may write or air their own definition of the term, and form their own non-linguistic illustration of the word. A focus on the visual to improve or revise elements as the learners broaden their understanding of the idea may be adapted, (Echevarria, et al, 2008).

5. Speech Selection for Learners’ Level of Proficiency:

In creating the lesson plan for the ELLs class, the teacher should consider the level of English

Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms

proficiency in selecting the speech to use for instruction. Simple language should be used for beginners of English language classes while standard or moderate speech may be suitable for more proficient learners. The teachers should analyze the quality and the quantity of their instructional language by having someone record their lessons and then evaluate the language for words, verbal habits and structures that may not be clear to ELLs, (Echevarria et al, 2008).

6. Assessment:

The English language teacher should allocate for assessments in lesson plan for the ELL classes. Assessments may be conducted daily or weekly to evaluate the students’ progress in their development of writing skills, reading skills, listening and speaking in English and understanding of new vocabularies. The assessment may be inform of written class tests, group oral contributions and homework. Testing the students helps the teacher to gauge the extent to which the language objectives has been delivered successfully to the learners and hence know where to revise the instruction and to which students to give more emphasis, (Susan Wallace, n.d.).


English language learners (ELLs) require to be led in well structured and planned lessons to help them acquire the English language skills necessary for their daily lives and for academic applications. The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) provides an effective strategy for lesson planning. It covers guidelines on language objectives, language contents, key vocabularies and feedback collection.

Instructional Strategies for ELL Classrooms


Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, J. (2008). Making Content Comprehensible For English Learners (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education. (Chapters 3 and 4)

Peregoy, S. & Boyle, O. (2008). Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL: A Resource Book for

K-12 Teachers (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. (Chapters 7 and 8)

Krashen, S. D. (1981) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. http://w

Retrieved on 27th Feb, 2010

Presseisen, B. Z. (1995). Critical Issue: Building on Prior Knowledge and Meaningful Student Contexts/cultures.

Retrieved on 27th Feb, 2010

The SIOP Institute. (n.d.) Retrieved on 27th Feb, 2010

Susan Wallace (n.d.). Effective Instructional Strategies for English Language Learners in Mainstream Classrooms, Retrieved on 27th Feb, 2010