10 Tips to Help Your ELLs Transition into the Classroom

Hi, my name is Jill Richardson, and I have been teaching English Language Learners for about six years.  It is a joy and a privilege to help these students transition into the classroom, as well as to learn to read and write in English.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

Try these 10 tips to help your English Language Learners transition into your classroom:

1. Smile!  Remember that your students are in a new and unfamiliar setting.  They can be very afraid and uneasy.  Your body image and facial expressions can immediately put a child at ease.  Start with learning their names.  Let your students pronounce their names correctly and have your other students practice it.  Our names are so special to us, and this will be a wonderful way to set a new student at ease. You may want to have your new students bring a special item from home to share about their culture.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

2. Use many visual supports. The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” holds so true with your ELLs.  Make vocabulary word walls with pictures.  Grouping words into themes helps to make connections with ELLs.  (For example, classroom words, verbs, fruit, body parts, prepositions, etc.)

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

3. Use sentence stems with your ELLs.  This can be helpful in all four domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

4. Use graphic organizers, such as Venn diagrams, T-charts, circle maps, timelines, mind maps, etc.  English Language Learners will need support in writing.  This will best be used in a small group, pairs, or one-to-one.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

5. Use engaging activities, such as playing games, role playing, singing, making books, etc.  It is fun, it is motivating, and it helps our ELLs feel connected to the learning.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

6. Give plenty of wait time when asking your student for an answer.  When you ask a question, intentionally pause before calling on a student to answer.  This will give your new student time to process what is being asked.  I have to remind myself of this often.

7. Pre-teach vocabulary.  I love Margarita Calderon’s seven steps process of teaching vocabulary.  If you have not read her book, I highly recommend it.  Look for the section on teaching vocabulary with the seven step process.

Being a new student is hard enough, and it's so much harder when English isn't your first language and you're new to an English-speaking school! Click through to learn 10 tips to help your ELLs transition into your classroom. Helping English Language Learners adjust is very important!

8. Use peer support. If possible, pair your new student with a student in your classroom who speaks his/her native language.  It is great if you can have the student interpret at times.  If you do not, then pair them with a student who would be a helpful friend.

9. Plan lessons around a theme.  Teaching units, which are several lessons revolving around the same topic, can allow the students to connect content and communicate without having to worry so much about the language structure.  This can help provide more meaning for the students.  This works well with social studies- and science-based lessons.

10. Give your students plenty of opportunities to speak. Engage your students in academic conversations.  This is another time that sentence stems can be very useful.  Instead of asking children to raise their hand to answer a question, you may want to have them turn and talk with a partner.  Give specific feedback as you are monitoring.

Have fun trying these ten tips!

Enjoy this free game with your children:

Roll and Read Classroom Words for ELLs Freebie


Jill RichardsonJill is an ESL teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Her love is teaching reading in the primary grades.  She has been teaching for over 26 years in both private and public schools.  She has been a literacy teacher for grades K-5, an early education director, a literacy facilitator, and a classroom teacher of kindergarten, first, and second grades. You can visit Jill’s Teachers Pay Teachers store here.

Jill Richardson

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