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Diversity Toolkit: English Language Learners (ELLs)

The term English Language Learner (ELL) indicates a person who is in the process of acquiring the English language and whose first language is not English. The government sometimes refers to ELL students as Limited English Proficient (LEP) students.

Found in: Teaching Strategies

Main Issues

Achievement gaps between ELLs and non-ELL students are deeply rooted, pervasive, complex, and challenging for the National Education Association affiliates and members. The good news is that NEA is actively addressing the complex issues by engaging in research and advocacy and proposing strategies that we can pursue individually and collectively to help eliminate those gaps.


Schools need the following to effectively address ELL students:

  • A research-based process for the effective teaching of ELLs
  • Curriculum design and lesson planning based on sound pedagogical principles, practices, and high standards
  • Strategic methods to employ for making grade-level materials and resources comprehensible for ELLs
  • Research-based training on theory, culture, diversity, social status, and policy of language acquisition
  • Training, technical assistance, and/or funding for programs and services for ELL students
  • Advocacy that will increase awareness as to the coalitions that support educators who work with ELLs
  • Resources that will help educators learn more about effective, differentiated teaching strategies specifically addressing ELLs.

NEA's English Language Learners: Culture, Equity & Language Training Module for Closing the Achievement Gaps is a resource with research-based and classroom-focused instructional and advocacy strategies to help educators:

  • Engage English Language Learners in academic learning and English language development
  • Recognize and build on cultural and equity assumptions and culturally relevant instruction
  • Create classroom and school environments that facilitate language learning
  • Absorb, understand and capitalize on language acquisition theory
  • Recognize language development stages and promising instructional practices for teaching in the classroom and school
  • Identify appropriate ELL instructional strategies aligned and differentiated to lessons, objectives, and goals
  • Find innovative ways to motivate ELLs to practice academic language skills that are carefully structured and require students to demonstrate growing proficiency.

For more information, contact the NEA English Language Learner Program.


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