English Language Learners: ELL Instructional Strategies for Middle School

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Middle school students can face both a language and knowledge gap when moving to the United States. It’s difficult to evaluate how much an English language learner (ELL) knows because they are unable to communicate what they do know. By middle school, students should easily recognize words and letter sounds, concentrating on the flow and accuracy of their reading. However, depending on the abilities of the English language learners, reviewing those concepts may be important. Improve fluency and accuracy with choral reading. Begin by previewing the passage with students and making predictions. Read the passage as the students follow. Next, ask the student to read the passage with you. Start reading the passage together and fade the voice of the teacher after several lines. The student becomes the lead reader, finishing the passage.

Provide students the opportunity to hear different accents and types of reading. Students may find it difficult to understand a new accent after hearing the same voice for several weeks, but variety is the key to improving fluency. Use CDs, movies, and guest speakers to alternate between resources.


Getting a firm grasp on vocabulary helps English language learners express themselves and their knowledge. Use word maps to help middle school students learn and understand new vocabulary words. Write the new word in the center of the page and draw a circle around the word. Draw lines from the circle and draw boxes at the end of the lines. On top of each box, write definition, synonym, antonym and sentence. Encourage students to complete the boxes for each vocabulary word.

Introduce root words to students, providing students with a list of roots and definitions. Encourage students to think of examples using the root, fitting the meaning of the word. Pick commonly used roots to study and review each week. There are numerous roots, but choose the examples most beneficial to student’s language acquisition.


Work with English language learners to improve comprehension and understanding of a passage. Better comprehension makes reading more enjoyable for readers. Explain story reenactments to students. Assign students to the role of a character and read the story. Tell the students they will play the part of the character as the story is being read. Re-read the story and let the students act- out the character parts.

Use the story’s plot to compare to personal experiences. Ask the students to find one item in the story that is similar to their life or something they have experienced. Encourage the ELL students to explain how the experiences were similar and different. This also helps students build a connection with the text.

These instructional strategies are sure to assist the ELL in your middle school classroom!