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Robert Marzano's 6 Strategies for Teaching Academic Vocabulary for ELLs

Language Instruction guru Robert Marzano proposes the purposeful teaching of one vocabulary word per week in every content class with ELLs. While specifically helpful to ELLs it can be beneficial to all struggling students who have limited content background knowledge. (That is not to exclude the use of others but one word in which all 6 strategies would be applied). The 6 strategies are:

Step 1 (ESL): Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term (along with a nonlinguistic representation).
Step 2 (ESL): Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words in their own language.
Step 3 (ESL): Ask students to construct a picture, symbol or graphic representing the term or phrase. Students should create their own representation and not copy yours from Step 1.
Step 4 (ESL): Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their notebook. Allow students to use their native language as much as possible.
Step 5 (ESL): Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another. Pair students of the same language together.
Step 6 (ESL): Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with terms. Pair students of the same language together.

A typical instructional cycle might look like this:
Introduce: Step 1 and 2
Brief Recognition Game: Step 6
Create Nonlinguistic:
Step 3
Step 4-5
End of week Vocabulary Game: Step 6

Share good news and provide feedback to parents of Vietnamese and Spanish ESL students

Providing Feedback and Recognizing Effort serve as two major ways we can support our ELLs. Communicating successes with parents is particularly challenging. We
came across one method of doing so at Chambersburg Area High School and wanted to share it with you. Each letter has positive classroom comments in English and
or Vietnamese. Fill it out and send it mail it home to the parents or consider using it to have a "conversation" with your student.

How should ELL students be assessed?

Consider PDE's target goals for ELL students in areas of listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

Any target skill can be a means of assessing your content

Whose Student is She?

Recently published in the Spring 2010 edition of Teaching Tolerance Magazine, "Whose Student Is She?" focuses on the implementation of Sheltered Instruction of content in grade-level classrooms such as we have been implementing this year. It includes a nice instructional checklist for teachers to consider as they design and/or implement a lesson.

Content Writing Strategies to Support ELLs

Sometimes it is great to know that our own ELL training aligns very well with what is being recommended by other groups. Here is an ASCD video supporting the use of three column vocabularydevelopment graphic organizers: word/definition/visual rep. I have seen numerous teachers of ELL students at MT incorporate this very strategy, or a similar model.

Error Correction, or, "When and How Should I Correct ELL Pronunciation Errors in Class?":

Research regarding the question of whether to correct the reading/pronunciation mistakes of an emerging reader have been found to apply to ELLs in the classroom as well. It is recommended that when teachers provide feedback they should:
  • Ignore miscues that do no change the text's meaning
  • Show delay in making the correction, it allows the student an opportunity to self-correct
  • begin with a focus on "meaning construction"
  • practice the correct response with the student several times before moving on
(Rasinki, T.V. & Hoffman, J. V. (2003). Oral Reading in the school literacy curriculum. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(4), 510-522.

Academic Vocabulary Tools

The Academic Vocabulary Games website has vocabulary tools and lists by subject. They include lists and premade flashcards that could be of assistance for teachers in planning or in assessment of ELL students. Scroll down to find the secondary vocabulary tools.

Quick Links to Help with Vocabulary Development

1. Use GoogleTranslate to allow students to translate English words into Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, and other languages. It will translate basic words, phrases, and larger pieces of text. While I might not use it for a novel, it is excellent for vocabulary development and addressing main ideas.

2. Another excellent tool for vocabulary development is Wordsift. Type a word into wordsift and it provides synonyms along with pictures. Place larger pieces of text into wordsift and it allows you to see frequency of usage of words, along with synonyms, in the passage.

How can our ELL strategies address different stages of learning?


The chart below is adapted from the Oregon Department of Education publication The English Language Learners’ Program Guide (n.d.). Each of the five stages of second language acquisition is linked to appropriate and specific instructional strategies. Similar resources can be found at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory website.

Stage I
Early Production
Stage II
Speech Emergence
Stage III
Intermediate /Advanced Proficiency
Stages IV & V
Use of visual aids and gestures
Engage students in charades and linguistic guessing games
Conduct group discussions
Sponsor student panel discussions on the thematic topics*
Slow speech emphasizing key words
Do role-playing activities
Use skits for dramatic interaction
Have students identify a social issue and defend their position*
Do not force oral production
Present open-ended sentences
Have student fill out forms and applications*
Promote critical analysis and evaluation of pertinent issues
Write key words on the board with students copying them as they are presented
Promote open dialogues
Assign writing compositions
Assign writing tasks that involve writing, rewriting, editing, critiquing written examples*
Use pictures and manipulatives to help illustrate concepts
Conduct student interviews with the guidelines written out
Have students write descriptions of visuals and props
Encourage critical interpretation of stories, legends, and poetry*
Use multimedia language role models
Use charts, tables, graphs, and other conceptual visuals
Use music, TV, and radio with class activities
Have students design questions, directions, and activities for others to follow
Use interactive dialogue journals
Use newspaper ads and other mainstream materials to encourage language interaction*
Show filmstrips and videos with cooperative groups scripting the visuals
Encourage appropriate story telling
Encourage learning within their first language
Encourage partner and trio readings
Encourage solo readings with interactive comprehension checks*

What can be done to assist vocabulary growth?

ELLs lack many of the basic words that native speakers know, so just teaching the vocabulary words that are suggested in the reading materials you are using will not be sufficient. Here are some of the many types of words that need to be explicitly taught:
  • words that are crucial for understanding a text;
  • words that are encountered in a wide variety of contexts;
  • frequently used words that contain word parts (roots, prefixes, suffixes) that can help students analyze other unknown words;
  • words with multiple meanings, whether spelled differently (homophones such as to, two, and too) or spelled the same (such as a dining room table and a multiplication table);
  • figurative language and idiomatic expressions;
  • academic words that indicate relationships among other words (such as because, therefore, and since to indicate cause and effect).
What Does Research Tell Us About Teaching Reading to English Language Learners? By: Suzanne Irujo(2007)

Want to translate something quickly for a student?

Type or copy/paste your text into the top box and click translate. Clicking on the speaker above the bottom box will open a new window where the text will be spoke in several different languages.

Powered by Google Translator


Vocabulary Tool for drawing connections to a students native language.