NCELA – Toolkit

NCELA, the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, is a great website with a wide variety of resources for ELA, including demographics/state data, resources, news, and upcoming research and grant information. Their website is They also have “Fast Facts” pages with a lot of information/data broken down into 1-2 page documents.

Specifically, their ELA toolkit is very valuable, available for download at The toolkit’s content includes:

  • Chapter 1: Tools and Resources for Identifying All English Learner Students
  • Chapter 2: Tools and Resources for Providing English Learners with a Language Assistance Program
  • Chapter 3: Tools and Resources for Staffing and Supporting an English Learner Program
  • Chapter 4: Tools and Resources for Providing English Learners Meaningful Access to Core Curricular and Extracurricular Programs
  • Chapter 5: Tools and Resources for Creating an Inclusive Environment for and Avoiding the Unnecessary Segregation of English Learners
  • Chapter 6: Tools and Resources for Addressing English Learners with Disabilities
  • Chapter 7: Tools and Resources for Serving English Learners Who Opt Out of EL Programs
  • Chapter 8: Tools and Resources for Monitoring and Exiting English Learners from EL Programs and Services
  • Chapter 9: Tools and Resources for Evaluating the Effectiveness of a District’s EL Program
  • Chapter 10: Tools and Resources for Ensuring Meaningful Communication with Limited English Proficient Parents

It has examples of home language surveys in multiple languages, specific tools and checklists under many of the chapters, recommendations, annotated resources, and much, much more – definitely a valuable resource!


Research-Based “Generic” Modifications for ELLs

This post has been copied from The Missouri EBI Network’s ELL page ( It is a summary of “generic” modifications that can be used by any teacher in any classroom, all of which are based on research to best assist English language learners.

Research-Based “Generic” Modifications Using Only English

 Predictable and consistent classroom management routines, aided by diagrams, lists, and easy-to-read schedules on the board or on charts, to which the teacher refers frequently.

 Graphic organizers that make content and the relationships among concepts and different lesson elements visually explicit.

 Additional opportunities for practice during the school day, after school, or for homework.

 Redundant key information (e.g., visual cues, pictures, and physical gestures) about lesson content and classroom procedures.

 Identifying, highlighting, and clarifying difficult words and passages within texts to facilitate comprehension and, more generally, greatly emphasizing vocabulary development.

 Helping students consolidate text knowledge by having the teacher, other students, and ELLs themselves summarize and paraphrase.

 Giving students extra practice in reading words, sentences, and stories to build automaticity and fluency.

 Providing opportunities for extended interactions with teacher and peers.

 Adjusting instruction (teacher vocabulary, rate of speech, sentence complexity, and expectations for student language production) according to students’ oral English proficiency.

 Targeting both content and English language objectives in every lesson.

 Use of reading materials that take into account students’ personal experiences, including relevant aspects of their cultural background, which aids their reading comprehension (although proficiency in the language of the text has a stronger influence on comprehension than familiarity with passage content).

Source: Goldenberg, C. (2010). Improving achievement for English learners: Conclusions from recent reviews and emerging research. In Li, G. & Edwards, P. A. (Eds.). Best Practices in ELL Instruction (15-43). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Apps for Vocabulary Acquisition

One of the most important aspect of English Language Learning is acquiring the vocabulary necessary to understand and speak the language. Unfortunately, vocabulary development is an ongoing process, and time, practice, and exposure are the best ways to develop vocabulary. Other than encouraging ELLs to continue practicing their speech aloud and interact with their peers, which can be crucial, teachers can also use technology to promote vocabulary acquisition. Specifically, the following iPad applications can be used as supplemental instruction tools during a differentiation time, or as recommendations to parents:

  • EnglishFirst High Flyers (2nd Edition) (link)
    • “The highly anticipated sequel to the #1 free education app in over 50 countries has arrived! Kids will master 1000 essential English words through hours of fun, engaging activities.”
    • Uses audio flash cards, colorful graphics, games, and different types of quizzes
    • Earn rewards through a star system and earning new characters
    • Free
    • provides more information on EnglishFirst
  • KidsVocab – MindSnacks (link)
    • KidsVocab uses games to promote understanding, rather than memorizing, new vocabulary words. Each lesson teaches spelling, usage, and pronunciation along with the words themselves based on a theme. The curriculum was based on common-core standards.
    • There are 9 different games to reduce repetition
    • Primarily for ages 7-12
    • There is frequent and immediate positive reinforcement, along with significant repetition and an engaging interface.
    • This application used to be free, but is now 1.99 for the full version (25 lessons).
  • Futuba (link)
    • 1-4 player game for kids
    • Primarily ages 4-8
    • Simple, fun way to learn English words -images come onto the playing area and players have to match the image to the word
    • Teachers can also create their own content and upload it to the app, if students need work with specific words
    • Competition can be fun and motivating, though it is important that pairs/groups aren’t imbalanced, making it less fun

Another list of apps can be found at This site gives a brief description of the app and its price.

Source (in addition to each app’s iTunes page): 

CasaNotes – Teacher-Parent Notes in Spanish

If you have a significant number of students who live in a home where the primary language is Spanish, it is our ethical duty to send notes home that are understandable to the parents.

CasaNotes – for Spanish-speaking families:

  • This website has basic templates of a variety of different types of notes, including field trip permission forms, a progress report, homework, “well done” aka praise, contracts, parent-teacher conferences, and more.
  • Each report can be easily printed in English and Spanish.
  • One flaw of the site is that though the specific content is editable (e.g. dates, times), the overall template is not.
  • I would recommend this resource for teachers who may not have a lot of time to create the individualized notes they would want.


This is my example of a note to send home for parent-teacher conferences. I was able to make this note in less than a minute – how’s that for  efficiency? This website is ideal for teachers with a large Spanish-speaking population but not a lot of time. I was unable to find any resources for other languages – if you read this any have any other advice, I would love to hear it! Otherwise, GoogleTranslate may be the best option, though their translations can often be inaccurate.

Online Resources for ELLs

There are many websites and online resources that have been developed to assist English Language Learners in developing their vocabulary, grammar, and reading rules. EduTopia has created one long list of resources, available at: A TeachThought post (link here: also includes “50 incredibly useful links for learning and teaching the english language,” and may provide a more lengthy list to start. !ColorinColorado! ( also provides a lot of resources aggregated into one place, focused primarily on Spanish-speaking families.

Here are two websites that I specifically reviewed:

  • WordBuilder –
    • This website is essentially an online game
    • Choose a grade level, then a unit, then play.
    • Each unit includes verbal instructions, a topic/rule (e.g. “All the words have the a sound in apple. The a sound in these words is spelled a.”), and a key word list (e.g. an, bad, can, cat, had, ran) to begin the lesson.
    • A student listens to the sentence and then has to find the sounds to create the missing word. The game is fairly intuitive and the instructions are available at any time, along with a hint, and immediate reinforcement for their answers. Students can also time their game if they want.
  • ESLfast –
    • This website includes 100 stories at various levels, from Children English/Start Reading through Intermediate Levels, with plenty in between
    • Most importantly, each story can be read aloud (there is a recording) and then includes a link to GoogleTranslate, to the vocabulary in the story, to a Cloze (a fill-in sheet), and a dictation page (to practice typing what is said).
    • Overall, it is a decent, simple website that has a lot of good content. However, its boring/barebones appearance makes it less engaging – I  think I would recommend this more as a resource for finding simple, easy stories that are age appropriate.

Ohio-Specific Guidelines for ELLs

The Ohio Department of Education has provided a web-based guide to Teaching English Language Learners at This website is probably the ideal starting point for practitioners in Ohio who are new to working with ELLs, as it is easy-to-read and includes a lot of great information, including:

  • Identification of ELLs
  • Stages of language acquisition
  • Types of language – BICS and CALP
  • Basic Strategies
  • and other tips and information

This post also includes links on the site to:


ColorínColorado also has a list of Ohio Resources available from its page, as well as the other 49 states. Honestly, I can’t recommend ColorínColorado enough as a starting point, it is very well-developed and has a ton of resources.