The Basics

ELLs need to know the basics of English before they can excel, let alone function, in ELA class where they are required to produce written “works of art”.

The foundation of the ENL curriculum follows the grade-level ELA Standards, but an ELL’s academic instructional plan and daily lesson need to be scaffolded up to current grade level (e.g. 6th grade) from where that ELL is in English (e.g. 4th grade reading). Using an example from Science, this might mean searching for texts explaining condensation at the 4th grade level or in that ELL’s language for a few lessons.
Best Practice is to practice Speaking, Writing, Reading, and Listening.

Phonemic Awareness

Letter sounds are the basis of language acquisition. An ELL cannot say letters correctly unless s/he hears them. 
Practicing minimal pairs will focus sounds, either at the beginning, middle or end of words:
  • bat – cat
  • man – men
  • vat – van

New Words Acquistion

All ELLs need to continue to learn new words, both academic and social, from everywhere: books, class, the world outside.
Learning and using New Words. That is it. These words are classified as:
  • Tier I: everyday words (school, pencil, and, but, or..)
  • Tier II: cross-content words (measure, observe, therefore…)
  • Tier III: content words (personification, conical prism, constitutional…)


Know their home language structure to understand any errors appearing in written and spoken language.
You do not need to learn Arabic or Spanish (although it is helpful). The grammatical structure will at least give you some clues to errors in English.
  • adjectives in Arabic follow nouns
  • only 5 vowel sounds exist in Spanish
As much as possible (hopefully more than that), actively seek texts that reflect the diversity of our student population. Students need to be able to engage in reading about protagonists that are similar to them in cultural background. This includes characters from Harlem, the Bronx, New York, as well as from West Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Caribbean. 
This is a link to such a list (co-compiled by me, Mr. Lim, in a focus group on Multicultural Literacy by NYC Men Teach). Your contribution of your favorite text to this open source document is welcome!
Other sources include the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. Note: You can get a teacher’s library card that comes with special borrowing privileges to provide the right texts for your classes.