Friday, July 10, 2009

Using Link Banks to support the English Language Learner

Originally published in March 2009 as a T4 (Tanny's Tuesday Tech Tip)

Did you know there are more than 5 million English Language Learners in American schools? Nationwide, one in every ten students is an ELL student.
Research tells us that all language learners have the same 2 critical needs, regardless of what language they speak. First of all, ELL’s need to become fluent speakers who can read & write English. Secondly, they need access to the same core curriculum as everyone else.

Here’s the top 10 ELL ranking, sequenced by # of speakers:
1. Spanish
2. Vietnamese
3. Hmong
4. Cantonese
5. Korean
6. Haitian Creole
7. Arabic
8. Russian
9. Tagalog
10. Navajo

A note about the acronyms: According to Dr. Stephen Cary from the University of San Francisco, LES/NES (Limited/Non-English Speaking) or LEP/NEP (Limited/Non-English Proficient) emphasizes what students lack instead of what they’re learning. ESL (English as a Second Language) refers to a certain kind of instruction, not a particular kind of student. The ELL (English Language Learner) acronym has gradually become dominant in local, state, and federal documents. Cary reminds us, however, that ELL could apply to all of us, however, since we never stop perfecting our abilities to read & write in English! (Working with English Language Learners, 2nd edition, Heinemann, 2007)

I’ve visited several West Clermont classrooms this year where the teacher expressed anxiety regarding the ELL student(s) in her/his classroom. WC teachers want to provide the best instruction possible to these students, but in many instances have not yet had the training they need. The following topic-specific list emphasizes free, web-based resources to help the classroom teacher quickly find strategies, lesson ideas, and ELL information. Directories such as these are known as link banks. Link banks are a big time saver for busy folks like us.

ELL Link Banks

I Love Languages
With over 200 languages represented here, this site provides hundreds of links to language learning resources.

Word Champ
Some WC high school teachers use this site. You can learn a language and get help from people around the world. Create online homework and activities for all ages and languages.

Isabel’s ESL Site
For the past 12 years, ESL teacher Isabel Perez Torres has maintained this amazing site. You’ll find language practice ideas, testing prompts, songs, games, and more.

ELL FYI: Ohio TESOL is a professional organization that has been around for 30 years. TESOL, or “Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages”, provides learning opportunities and resources to its members. For more information, visit

Online Reading to Improve Your Practice

• Educational Leadership’s ELL issue:

• Chapter 4 from Cary’s book, Working With English Language Learners:

Ahehee! Gracias! Cam on em! Shukran! Thank you!


1 comment:

  1. ALL learners, including native English language speakers, are continuing to learn "academic English." According to researcher Jim Cummins, Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, & listening related to content area material. Academic language acquisition isn't just the understanding of content area vocabulary. It includes skills such as comparing, classifying, synthesizing, evaluating, and inferring. This can take 5-7 years for ELLs to develop. (Doesn't this describe our work with ALL students?)

    In contrast, basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) are language skills needed in social situations..."playground language." It usually takes only 6 months - 2 years to develop. If you want to learn more about BICS & CALP check out this link:

    As the world is shrinking, we find ourselves working with students from all over the globe. We become learners ourselves in interacting with ELLs in the classroom. No matter what your experience or comfort level, just remember one thing..."Although there are hundreds of languages in the world, a smile speaks them all.” (author unknown)