Key Principles for ELL Instruction

There is a lot of discussion among international educators regarding the characteristics of effective instruction for English Language Learners. It is also a hot topic in our school (ISManila) where we run an inclusive program for English language learners and we strive to ensure that our program reflects the latest findings of ELL research. Therefore, we invited Dr. Virginia Rojas to work with us and to give us advice on how the improve our ESL program. Dr. Rojas introduced to us the 6 Key Principles for ELL Instruction out of the Stanford Graduate School of Education (@ELLStanford ). I personally find this guide for English Language Learning Programs invaluable and believe that every international school should re-evaluate their program and see if it is compatible with the 6 Key Principles for ELL Education.

Here is the list of the 6 Key Principles according to Dr. Rojas:

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #1: Instruction focuses on providing ELLs with opportunities to engage in discipline-specific practices which are designed to build conceptual understanding and language competence in tandem. Learning is a social process that requires teachers to intentionally design learning opportunities that integrate reading, writing, speaking, and listening with the practices of each discipline.

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #2: Instruction leverages English learners’ home language(s), cultural assets, and prior knowledge. English learners’ home language(s) and culture(s) are regarded as assets and are used by the teacher in bridging prior knowledge to new knowledge, and in making content meaningful and comprehensible.

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #3: Standards-aligned instruction for ELLs is rigorous, grade-level appropriate, and provides deliberate and appropriate scaffolds. Instruction that is rigorous and standards-aligned reflects the key shifts in ‘linguistically-rigorous’ instruction. Such shifts require that teachers provide students with opportunities to describe their reasoning, share explanations, make conjectures, justify conclusions, argue from evidence, and negotiate meaning from complex texts. Students with developing levels of English proficiency will require instruction that carefully supports their understanding and use of emerging language as they participate in these activities.

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #4: Instruction moves ELLs forward by taking into account their English proficiency level(s) and prior schooling experiences. ELLs within a single classroom can be heterogeneous in terms of home language(s) proficiency, proficiency in English, literacy levels in English and student’s home language(s), previous experiences in schools, and time in the U.S. Teachers must be attentive to these differences and design instruction accordingly.

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #5: Instruction fosters ELLs’ autonomy by equipping them with the strategies necessary to comprehend and use language in a variety of academic settings. ELLs must learn to use a broad repertoire of strategies to construct meaning from academic talk and complex text, to participate in academic discussions, and to express themselves in writing across a variety of academic situations. Tasks must be designed to ultimately foster student independence.

Key Principles for ELL Instruction #6: Diagnostic tools and formative assessment practices are employed to measure students’ content knowledge, academic language competence, and participation in disciplinary practices. These assessment practices allow teachers to monitor students’ learning so that they may adjust instruction accordingly, provide students with timely and useful feedback, and encourage students to reflect on their own thinking and learning.

You can also find them on the following site of Stanford University:

Reference: Dr. Virginia Rojas:


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