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English language learners: Principles

English language learners need special consideration not only because they lack the language skills and knowledge (vocabulary, grammar, structures, etc.) of first language learners, they lack understanding of the embedded cultural knowledge on which interpretation often depends.

Incorporating the following seven principles into your planning will support your English language learners to learn. These principles are applicable to learning in every curriculum area.

The seven principles

1. Know your learners – their language background, their language proficiency, their experiential background

  • What do I know about my students' language skills?
  • What do I know about their prior knowledge?
  • How will I find out this information?
  • How will it affect my planning?

2. Identify the learning outcomes including the language demands of the teaching and learning

  • What language knowledge and skills do the students need to complete the task?
  • Do they know what the content and language learning outcomes are?

3. Maintain and make explicit the same learning outcomes for all the learners

  • How can I make the lesson comprehensible to all students?
  • How can I plan the learning tasks so that all the students are actively involved?
  • Do my students understand the learning outcomes?

4. Begin with context embedded tasks that make the abstract concrete

  • How can I put these concepts into a concrete context?

5. Provide multiple opportunities for authentic language use, with a focus on academic language

  • Is the language focus on key language?
  • Do I give my students many opportunities to notice and use new language?

6. Ensure a balance between receptive and productive language

  • Are students using both receptive (listening, reading) and productive (speaking, writing) language in these activities?

7. Include opportunities for monitoring and self-evaluation

  • Do I use “think alouds” to make my use of strategy transparent to students?
  • What opportunities am I providing for reflection and self-evaluation?

These principles are adapted from a set on ESOL Online.

Last updated May 22, 2018