English Language Learners

ELL at ISD for the upcoming year

The International School of Dongguan promotes an ELL program that focuses on infusing the latest English language research from Stanford University into our instruction to support language acquisition.

Teachers are trained in a graduate level course titled, Teaching English as an Additional and Academic Language (TEALL) upon being hired at ISD. Enrolling in this course, enables teachers to develop various research-based, scaffolding strategies that support language learners by using the 6 key principles for ELL Instruction. Teachers use research-based strategies to instruct students, assess the results, and plan lessons accordingly. Because of instructional collaboration and ELL methodology, teachers can support the academic language needs of individual students and provide differentiated, meaningful instruction. More information about the 6 principles from Stanford University can be found at Understanding Language: Language, Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas. http://ell.stanford.edu.

We also build in additional ELL language instruction as part of the daily schedule. Students in Grades SK-5, who are designated as either “Beginning” or “Early Intermediate” on ISD’s oral English language assessment, receive targeted English language instruction as part of their daily literacy instruction. Students in Grades 6-10, who qualify, will receive targeted English language instruction through an EAL-designated language arts and social studies class. In addition, during each session of ASA’s, at least one English language development course is offered for specifically-identified students, to provide an extra opportunity to be immersed in English. The emphasis throughout ISD is on English as the language of instruction, while still recognizing the value of other home languages among our students, especially for communication between the school and the home.

Table of Contents

Acquiring a new language

English language learners come to ISD from a variety of countries with a diverse set of experiences. They are adjusting to a new home and cultural environment, making new friends, and learning the rules, appropriate behaviors, and procedures of a new school. Simultaneously, ELL students are trying to fit in with their new surroundings and learn a new language.

The teachers of ISD know that it is critical to lower students affective filter and to create a friendly, supportive, and predictable classroom community for their students. This positive teaching environment supports the ELL students with the steps involved with language acquisition.

A. The steps involved in Language Acquisition (Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Hill & Flynn, 2006)

1. Pre-production – (0 – 1 year) The "silent period" is an important part of the language acquisition process and while the student may not be talking he or she is still learning and acquiring new vocabulary every day. ELL students need time to hear and see how the language is being used. They need time to process how the language is being used within their classroom. When the student starts to speak, we want their language to be real and purposeful and not forced or artificial. At this level, students can point to a picture in the book as the teacher says or asks: “Show me the wolf. Where is the straw house?”

2. Early production – (6 months – 1 year) At this level students begin using single words or two-word phrases, yes/no responses, names, and repetitive language patterns. At this level, students do well with yes/no questions and one- or two-word answers: “Did the brick house fall down? Who blew down the straw house?”

3. Speech emergence (1-3 years) At this level students are able to say simple sentences (e.g., “I walked home”). Students can answer “why” and “how” questions with phrases or short-sentence answers, and can also explain their answers: “Explain why the third pig built his house out of bricks.”

4. Intermediate Fluency (3-5 years) This is when students can use sentences of increasing length and complexity. Students can answer “What would happen if” and “Why do you think” questions: “Why do you think the pigs were able to outsmart the wolf?”

5. Advanced Fluency Students (5-7 years) When students can retell the story, including the main plot elements and leaving out the insignificant details. This demonstrates a near-native level of fluency.

B. How long it will take for my student to learn English?

How quickly students progress through the stages depends on many factors, including (but not limited too) level of formal education, family background, personality, motivation and cognitive ability. Most ELLs acquire adequate conversational language and informal writing skills in 2-3 years, but the academic language that is essential for high levels of achievement in the content areas will not be acquired until 4-7 years (Cummins, 1984). Language acquisition takes time and must be acquired through exposure in a variety of contexts.

What you can do to help

A. First Language

“The strongest predictor of success of second language learners is use of their first language (L1) at home” (Collier, 1995). Research has shown that if a student speaks, reads, and writes well in his or her home language, it will be easier for the student to learn a new language.


Reading to your child in English or your home language is a great way for your child to learn to love reading. Talking about reading, and having your child read to you or others in the family will help your child develop confidence, fluency, and vocabulary. Help your child start a home library and fill it with magazines, cartoons, fiction, and non-fiction books. Encourage your child to swap books with friends and give them as gifts.

C. Connect Home Activities and School

You can help your child practice English and your home language by finding numbers and letters in your daily activities while you are with them. For example, you can practice reading or counting with your child when you are cooking, watching television, doing laundry, or playing outside. Older students can practice their skills by reading instructions or cookbooks, converting measurements and helping to add up expenses on a shopping trip. If you are going on a business trip or a vacation, estimate the distance and time to your destination. Use a map or atlas to discover the area around your trip. Show your child that writing is useful and important. They can help you write a letter ordering something, asking a question, or enquiring about the well-being of a family member. Share the responses you receive and discuss the results.

D. Look at their school work and engage them in a conversation

One of the best ways to figure out what your child is learning is to talk with your child about school. Ask your child questions about the work he or she brings home. For younger students, check their backpacks and folders to make sure you find any notes or announcements that the school sends home. Look for reports and newsletters in the email and enquire about their After School Activities.

E. Movies and Televisions

Watch movies and shows in English with Closed Caption turned on; discuss what you saw in your child’s first language or in English.

F. After School Activities

At ISD we provide after school activities for our students twice a week. Make sure your child signs up for an activity. The social interaction will support and promote their fluency.

G. Patience

Remember that your student is acquiring new vocabulary everyday; she or he is constantly making progress. Each child learns at a different rate and needs the patience and support of their parents to become successful learners.


Collier, V.P. (1995). Promoting academic success for ESL students: Understanding second language acquisition for school. Elizabeth: NJ: Bastos Book Co.

Cummins, J. (1984). Bilingualism and special education: Issues in assessment and pedagogy. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M.E. & Short, D. (2010). Making content comprehensible for elementary English learners: The SIOP model. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Hill, J. D. & Flynn, K. M. (2006). Classroom instruction that works with English language learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

ISS WLI (2012). Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from http://isswli.org/eal.

Wherry, J. (n.d.) 44 Proven ideas parents can use to help their children do better in school. The Parent Institute.

Center for Applied Linguistics: www.cal.org/

National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition: www.ncela.gwu.edu

Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence (CREDE) http://manoa.hawaii.edu/coe/crede/?p=79

ESOL on-line - http://esolonline.tki.org.nz/

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) is a professional association with a mission to ensure excellence in English language. http://www.tesol.org/

Multilingual Matters http://www.multilingual-matters.com

Language, Literacy, and Learning in content Areas http://ell.stanford.edu

An organization that keeps many educators around the world up-to-date with current research and practices. ASCD.org

Glossary of Terms

6 KEYS PRINCIPALS FOR ELL INSTRUCTION - The Understanding Language District Engagement subcommittee has released a set of six key principles to support ELLs in meeting the rigorous, grade level academic standards found in the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. The principles are meant to guide teachers, coaches, ELL specialists, curriculum leaders, school principals, and district administrators as they work to develop Common Core State Standards-aligned instruction for ELLs. These principles are applicable to any type of instruction regardless of grade, proficiency level, or program type. More information can be found at their website http://ell.stanford.edu/content/six-key-principles-ell-instruction

AFFECTIVE FILTER – This is an imaginary wall that is placed between a learner and language input. If the filter is on, the learner is blocking out input. The filter turns on when anxiety is high, self-esteem is low, or motivation is low. Hence, low anxiety classes are better for language acquisition. Another implication is that too much correction will also raise the affective filter as self-esteem in using the language drops

COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT - Describes understandable and meaningful language directed at people acquiring a second language.

CONTEXTUALIZATION - Embedding language in a context by using manipulatives, pictures, gestures, and other types of realia to make it more meaningful for students.

CORE CURRICULUM - Those subjects that a student must master in order to be promoted to the next grade or to graduate. The implication is that the curriculum for these subject areas represents a core of knowledge that all students, regardless of language proficiency, must master.

LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY - Includes mastery at specified levels of reading and writing skills as well as oral skills in a language.

REALIA - Authentic objects and sources of information used as a resource for students to develop meaning from language.

SCAFFOLDING - Instruction or support mechanisms given in such a way that they enable students to safely take risks, handle tasks involving complex language, and reach for higher goals with the help of teachers or more capable peers. Scaffolds are temporary because as the teacher observes that students are capable of handling more on their own, she/he gradually hands over responsibility to them.

SCHEMAS - Clusters of meanings that are interconnected. Schema building is when new information is woven into pre-existing structures of meaning so that students see the connection through a variety of activities.

SDAIE - Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English refers to the teaching of grade-level subject matter in English specifically designed for speakers of other languages.

SIOP - The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol Model is a research-based and validated instructional model that has proven effective in addressing the academic needs of English learners throughout the United States.

Resources for Parents

The International School of Dongguan ELL Department provides this list of websites as a service to the families of our ELL students.

DISCLAIMER: The International School of Dongguan is not responsible for the content and information contained on the websites.

Free English Video Lessons

Online Dictionary/Thesaurus (http://www.merriam-webster.com/) Try this online resource, if you need to look up a word. It includes pronunciation symbols and an audio feature so you can hear the correct pronunciation of words.

Dave’s ESL Cafe (http://www.eslcafe.com/) useful resource for phrasal verbs, quizzes, a hint of the day, etc.

Dolch Word (http://www.dolchword.net) free sight word games

ESL Games (http://www.eslgamesworld.com) fun learning games

Reading is Fundamental (http://www.rif.org) a website dedicated to reading. Includes free apps for iPhone and articles.

Little Fingers Games (http://www.littlefingers.com/games/games1.html) fun learning games

Oxford Owl (http://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/reading-owl/reading) Find pre-reading and beginning reading help for the very youngest readers through the pre-teen years

Learn Direct (http://www.wheredidtherivergo.co.uk/storybook) Create your own books for reading on the computer or printing, and test your reading skills with this interactive site.

Starfall (http://www.starfall.com/) Beginning Reading Readiness Resource

Reading Bear (http://www.readingbear.org) Free phonics and vocabulary games

Activities for ESL students (http://a4esl.org) Quizzes, tests, exercises and puzzles to help you learn English as a Second Language

Mark’s English School Games (http://www.marks-english-school.com/games.html) Interactive Learning games

Fun English Games (http://www.funenglishgames.com/activities.html) Free English resources on-line

ESL Games + (http://www.eslgamesplus.com) games for learning English

Colorín Colorado is produced by Reading Rockets — an educational service of WETA, the flagship public broadcasting station in the States (http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/53808/) A bilingual (Spanish and English) site for families and educators of English Language Learners. A comprehensive site that has ELL topics from A-Z, on-line subscriptions, activities and much more.

Learning A-Z - https://www.learninga-z.com

Quizlet - https://quizlet.com/

BrainPop ESL - https://esl.brainpop.com/

A helpful website to learn and practice English Grammar (punctuations, Conjunctions, Adjectives, Verbs, etc) http://www.englishgrammar.org/
Another grammar website, practices follow each topic http://www.englishgrammarsecrets.com/
Site to check your grammar and practice grammar activities http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/

Suggested Readings

Research has shown that students who do not read outside of school have academic losses and those students who do read outside of school have academic gains.

Suggested Readings

Suggested Source Books for Practice

A list of source books for students to practice various literacy skills.

Suggested Source Books

Apps for devices

Kidspiration Maps - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kidspiration-maps/id675321195?mt=8

Inspiration Maps - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/inspiration-maps-vpp/id510173686?mt=8

Story Buddy 2 - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/storybuddy-2/id505856601?mt=8

Spellosaur - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/spellosaur/id461007342?mt=8

Quizlet - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quizlet-flashcards-study-tools/id546473125?mt=8

Phrasal Verb Machine is an educational app that helps a student to learn phrasal verbs

Graphic Organizers

Various graphic organizers for children to use when reading or watching movies

Story Map
Story Map 1
Story Map 2
Story Map 3
Story Map With Theme
Vocabulary Map
Plot Map
Book Critique
Flow Chart
Summary Writing


Children should continue to practice their writing when they are on school breaks. One of the best ways to keep them writing is by starting a daily journal.

Dialectical Journal 1
Dialectical Journal 2
Printable Writing Paper
Journal Prompts
Writing Page with Picture Box
Summer Writing Journal Cover

Reading Log

Students should read everyday. Here is a log for them to keep track of their reading and to hold them accountable.

Reading Log With Summary

Tier 2 Words

These high-frequency words are vocabulary that will be used in all classrooms.
Understanding and knowing these words will enable you to build
your vocabulary when they appear in various contexts and topics.

Tier 2 Words

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