ELL Best Practices

Teachers can enhance language development of English Language Learners (ELL) by incorporating best practices and strategies into their daily instruction. Applying best practices for ELL students allows English Language Learners to become more comfortable participating in classroom activities. VocabularySpellingCity has gathered a list of ELL best practices and supplemental aids to help ELL students achieve English language proficiency.


ELL Student Practice Words
Click 'Continue' to play with this list or enter your own.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

an Activity


Play and Learn
Play the game using your words

Unique Challenges of Teaching English Language Learners

  • One of the most important best practices for teaching ELL students is Non-linguistic Representation – Language arts instruction may primarily involve the use of the linguistic mode of representation, such as verbal communication and reading. However, ELL students encounter language barriers, making it difficult to maneuver the English language. Therefore, non-linguistic representation is essential for improving language acquisition for ELLs. Non-linguistic modes include visual imagery, physical models, and kinesthetic activities. An example of visual imagery in a lesson would involve having students draw story elements, like characters and setting, after a read aloud. These forms of representation assist ELL students in making connections as they learn and bridge the gaps in their new language. VocabularySpellingCity offers learning activities, like FlashCards, Word Study, and Word Videos, that provide visual representations of vocabulary words.
  • Graphic Organizers – One form of non-linguistic representation is the graphic organizer, which is a key tool for instructing ELL students using best practices. Through the use of graphic organizers, ELLs are able to use images to represent, summarize and interpret text or elaborate on knowledge. These visual aids help students process information that may otherwise seem too overwhelming for those new to the English language. Word lists found on VocabularySpellingCity can help springboard a graphic organizer activity. Teachers leading a science lesson on severe weather can assign content-specific word lists to their students. Students can then use the words in a graphic organizer, like a word map, to further develop understanding.
  • Cooperative Learning – Cooperative learning involves students working in small, diverse groups to achieve learning goals. In this setting, ELLs have the opportunity to learn from their peers. ELLs can build confidence in a small group setting by contributing to discussions and sharing responsibility for tasks or assignments. A popular cooperative learning strategy is “Team Jigsaw”, where each student in a group is assigned a specific page of text to study. The student becomes an expert and shares what they learned to their peers. This Jigsaw strategy can be used with any content area, like science, math or social studies. Such activities could be extended using VocabularySpellingCity’s word lists. A native English speaker and an ELL student can be paired together to write contextually-rich sentences with content-specific terms using Sentence Writing and Paragraph Writing.
  • Similarities and Differences – Identifying similarities and differences can be done through comparing and contrasting as well as creating metaphors. This skill is specifically important for ELLs, as it requires students to categorize concepts, which can help with language and vocabulary development as it guides students from concrete to abstract vocabulary. Students can explore similarities and differences with VocabularySpellingCity. Engaging games, like Word-O-Rama, allow students to work with a specific set of comparing and contrasting words: antonyms and synonyms. ELL students can identify opposite or similar words to better build English vocabulary.

VocabularySpellingCity’s best practices for teaching ELL students can be used at most grade levels in any area. These strategies are further reinforced by our word lists, games, and other activities to make teaching ELL students engaging and fun!