ESL Accommodations

Lily Zu, Joey Bucci, and Emilie Thomas



ESL: English as a Second Language

As more immigrants are coming to the U.S., more attention needs to be placed on educating immigrant students. Obviously, language barriers in daily life are frustrating and can cause issues. This is why it is crucial to help these immigrants to learn English in the most inclusive ways possible.

Immigrant students whose first language is not English being taught side by side with native speakers can be a challenge for immigrants to learn. They are learning the same material as native speakers but their English could be inadequate. It is our duty as educators for them to make a smooth transition for students immigrating in schools here to improve their English so they don’t fall academically behind. This involves a good relationship between ESL/ELL and regular classroom teachers. As these students will spend a lot of time in regular classrooms, learning material taught in English, that their teachers are involve these students in the classroom for them to have the best chances for success and growth, both academically and personally. Embracing culture responsive pedagogy in the classroom can be effective for immigrant students to feel comfortable and have a desire to learn. Understanding is also key for teachers to have.

ESL courses are very beneficial for those who want to learn English, but only when they’re done correctly. Future teachers and current teachers need to be aware of this because of students’ probable struggles with coming to a new country in general.

It can be challenging for ESL students to learn alongside their English-speaking peers for many reasons. They are learning the same material as native speakers but their English is often inadequate, making the material inherently more difficult to learn. It is our duty as educators to help them make a smooth transition and to help them improve their English so they don’t fall behind academically. To do this, there has to be a good relationship between ESL and regular classroom teachers. Embracing culture responsive pedagogy in both ESL and regular classrooms can be and effective method for helping immigrant students to feel comfortable and have a desire to learn. Being understanding of issues that immigrant students may face is also key for teachers. Communication between teachers and between teachers and students is important but we also have to keep in mind that there is potential for miscommunication which could cause even more problems.

It is evident that many ESL students come from Spanish-speaking households and it’s possible that they’re immigrants or are undocumented. This is especially true in more urban settings in the United States. It is also important to remember the quality of ESL education that students receive has a direct effect on their likelihood of attending community college or university in the future.

Girl Using Laptop


Personally Involving Students

A good friend, Eliseo, moved to the United States when he was 14, and his English was not proficient. He began to talk about it being difficult to learn material while knowing barely any English. He also said that he kind of had to know English though because there was no other option. It almost sounded like he was thrown in with the sharks to fend for yourself. He also said, “The teacher assigned us math homework and we were to turn it in the next day. However, I didn’t do it because I didn’t know she had assigned it to us because I didn’t understand her. For not doing the homework, I received a lunch detention” (Cruz, Eliseo 2019). Although he laughs about it now, this type of thing happening can be detrimental to student’s confidence. We have to do a better job with personally involving ESL students within the classroom to ensure that these students exceed academically and can grow as a person.

Inclusion is very important to ensure academic achievement of the student, but most importantly their comfort within the classroom. From the journal article, “The Effect of Differing Types of ESL and Bilingual Education Programs on Teacher-Student Relationships,” the author Maya Smith says, “Inclusion of a student’s native language positively impacts their (the student’s) English language abilities and overall academic achievement (Smith, 2018). It is essential to tie the student’s culture within the classroom so they can relate to what is being taught and to feel comfortable and that comes from directly from the positive interaction between the student and the teacher.

A good program that dedicates its focus on teacher/faculty interaction with ESL/ELL students are ESL Pullout Programs: These programs are designed to help integrate English with the ESL students 1 or 2 hours a day with staff outside of their ESL classrooms to improve their English through building relationships. Each student is able to build a healthy relationship and creates positive interactions with at least one faculty member (Smith, 2018). There are different levels of how these programs are designed. Some students’ relationships strictly focus on school related things such as help with school work or test prep. Other relationships are enabled if the student is comfortable to share personal experiences with the faculty member about their culture and family background (Smith, 2018). This program allows faculty members to be mentors for these students. Classroom resources are an essential mechanism for personally involving ELL students within the classroom.

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion

To know a student better to understand their academic and personal needs it is important to get to them well as their teacher.A good ice-breaker activity for the beginning of the year is a “Get to know you Bingo” in-class activity.  Handing out a sheet to each student in the class that has different characteristics about themselves and others that may pertain to them. This is a great icebreaker activity that allows kids to get to know others in the classroom and may lead to building relationships within and outside the classroom. This helps gain confidence and trust for the students in the classroom for a better chance for them to open up to their teachers. Another in-class resource that is efficient for academic and personal growth for ELL students is writing their own personal student journals. These reflection journals about student’s days at school to their family allows them to improve their English through writing. However, some of their parents do not respond to English or are unable to read English, so the students are allowed to integrate their native language within the writing to feel connected to their prior knowledge of their native language (Duran, 2016). It is important for the students to know that it is still okay to use Spanish, but for their growth they need to implement English so that they can improve and grow as a student. This can also be a vital material for students to use to write to their parents that do not live with them in the United States, it ensures that they keep in contact with one another.

Students with Their Teacher


Tips for Teaching ESL Students

There are many things that a teacher could do to accommodate Spanish-speaking students to learn English in an academic setting. Here are some tips:

Visual Aids: When learning a new language, students often struggle with spoken language. At this time, using visual aids are very crucial. When it is possible, teachers should always have the instructions/directions written on the board or present it with technology in front of the class. If a concept or instructions are too hard to describe, use diagrams or pictures to support (Gonzalez).

Encourage Group Work: Students engage more when they have more chances to talk to their peers in a classroom. Because of this, teachers should encourage group work, especially in small groups, instead of having teachers themselves talking in front of the class all the time. By doing so, students are encouraged to speak English with their peers and solve problems/issues together (Gonzalez).

Honor the “Silent Period”: Many immigrated students who come from cultures that are outside of the U.S. want to speak perfect English, they might feel uncomfortable if they are forced to speak when they are not ready yet. While teachers should encourage them to practice English in class, if they are not comfortable speaking aloud, do not force them to do so (Gonzalez).

Allowance of the Native Language: It is evident that having students pre-write in their native language before they write in English contribute to higher quality writing (Yigzaw). Therefore, if students are not comfortable talking in English, allow them to use their native language for words they are unfamiliar with (Gonzalez).

Culturally Unique Vocabulary: When immigrated students learn English in the United States, cultural differences might also be a big barrier. Therefore, while using culturally unique vocab to better accommodate language learning, use videos to show uniqueness in western culture as well (Gonzalez).

Sentence Frames: Teachers should use partially completed sentences in class to show students the correct way of forming sentences. For example, a teacher could say in class like “I disagree with what ______ said because ______” (Gonzalez).

Community-School Partnerships: Community-school partnerships stress the importance of the benefit of integrating the community and family engagement within the student’s culture. Students that are educated in these types of schools have improved the overall well-being of not only the student but their family and the families are able to obtain access to social and health services (Herrera 22, 2016). Studies have been found that these schools have worked to create a positive school environment for students (Herrera 22, 2016). This community school partnership allows for everyone to come together and work as a team, the students, faculty, community, and the parents.

Parental Involvement: To build a foundation of success for the ESL student, or any student, parental involvement is essential to their academic success. Often for minority students there can be a lack of parental involvement, which can deteriorate the opportunity of success for the student. The teacher needs to focus and build a relationship with their student’s parents to make sure that they are involved in their child’s academic well-being. Parental engagement is a key factor for a boost in academic achievement (Herrera 37, 2016).

Role of Literature: The use of literature endows students to read the text and be able to express themselves through the language that they are reading (in this case English) (Llach 8). The use of literature allows the student to think and reflect critically about the language which then allows them to dissect the meaning and message, which will lead them to the path of gaining good communication skills amongst their peers (Llach 8). Implementing reading as a teaching method allows ELL students to learn new vocabulary, sentence structure, spelling, and attributes to better listening comprehension (Llach 10). Infiltrating literature for students to learn a new language gives them a better linguistic approach and their proficiency in English increases tremendously (Llach 10).

Mainstream Classroom Training: The number of immigrant students is rising and there is a need for these students to be properly taught for them to receive the best education possible. Students have their ESL classrooms but with inclusive-based education they will spend a good amount of time in mainstream classrooms. It is important for the mainstream teachers to know how to properly teach these students so that they don’t fall behind. This is very plausible, because most mainstream teachers do not have any prior training or education on how to teach ESL students. These trainings and workshops foster inclusion, culturally involved pedagogy, engagement of prior knowledge, and student identity (David 23, 2018). It is important for the teacher to accept their students’ identity and culture that they come to school with and for them not to lose it or it could affect their school work and character. Embracing their culture and identity will lead to academic achievement.

Student Using Laptop


Resources Available for Students

Technology: As we are now in twenty-first century, technology is a big part of our life and it is widely used in the educational field as well. Mobile-assisted language learning is a very user-centered resources that students could use in the classroom and at home as well. Mobile language learning applications are usually very personalized and could accommodate each individual better to learn.

Bilingual Books: It is evident that students learn better when two languages are present together. Hence, having students read and learn from bilingual books might be useful for Spanish speaking students to learn English. One form of bilingual book is full-text translation book, that is having full texts in Spanish and English on the same page. Another form is embedded text book, that is having one language with a second language sprinkled through in the texts. For example, an introduction is given in English but some words in the paragraph are in Spanish. Wordless books are another form that is picture-based and only a few words are present. Lastly, concept bilingual books focus on one concept of the language, such as counting.


Resources Available for Educators

It is important for teachers to realize the common errors that Spanish-speaking students would make during the learning stage. Here is a list of common errors that specifically Spanish-speaking students make (Moore).

The Twenty Most Frequent ELL Errors

It is also extremely important for teachers to be aware of effects their teaching could have on student mental health. It is important to remember that students might already be struggling with money, health, food insecurity, or other things on top of school and not being able to speak English fluently, especially with students who are undocumented or have family that is undocumented. 

Workshops for Mainstream Teachers: These workshops work to educate teachers on getting to know each student individually. This can include their name, age, country of origin, getting to know their cultural background which may be different from the teacher’s (David 27). These workshops are intended for mainstream classroom teachers and during the workshop it is vital to break down into small groups where teachers can collaborate their ideas, challenges, and concerns on how to teach ESL students in their classroom (David 35). Ideas given to teachers for them to provide the student with comfort and welcome is to pronounce their names correctly by learning and asking questions if they are unsure instead of botching it and make the student feel uneasy (David 36). If the student is new to the school and does not speak English comfortably, if another student in the class speaks their native language they should be put by them for the first couple of weeks in case the student has any questions. This will also give the student a sense of awareness that may not have been present before (David 37). Another great tool for when the student joins the mainstream classroom is to set up an in person or phone interview with their parents (David 37). A teacher/parent interview will help the teacher get to know the student’s strengths and weaknesses better.



Every Student Succeeds Act

Every Student Succeeds Act (2015). This law guarantees the state to stress the importance of family engagement and for parents to play a significant role in their student’s education and school improvement (Herrera 35, 2016).

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Lau vs Nichols (1974). This case established ESL instruction for second language learners in schools (Gibson 2016).

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Key Words

Bilingual – Someone who is able to speak two languages.

Latino/a – Someone of Latin American descent living in the U.S.

Hispanic – Someone related to people of Spanish-speaking descent.

Immigrant – Person who migrates to another country.

Undocumented – Lacking proper immigration or working papers.

ESL – Education of English as a second language.

Hyperdocumentation – The effort to accrue awards, accolades, and academic degrees in order to compensate for being undocumented.

English Language Development – Exercises within the classroom that can help help bridge the achievement gap between native English speakers and ESL students.

Vocabulary Building –  Certain vocabulary instruction that has proven to be efficient in ESL (pictorial, fill-in the blank, storytelling, and contextual vocab) (Gibson, 2016).

Two Students Playing Together

Spanish English Cognates – English and Spanish words that are spelled and morphologically similar from their latin root.

Inclusion – Integrating the ESL student’s culture within the classroom so they can relate to what is being taught and to feel comfortable in the classroom.

ESL Pullout Programs – Programs designed to integrate English for 1 or 2 hours a day through building relationships outside of ESL classrooms.



Works Cited

Cruz, Eliseo. Personal interview, 26 October 2019.


Duran , Leah. “Revisiting Family Message Journals: Audience and Biliteracy Development in a First-Grade ESL Classroom.” May 2016.

Gibson, Charles. “Bridging English Language Learner Achievement Gaps through Effective Vocabulary Development Strategies.” English Language Teaching, vol. 9, no. 9, Apr. 2016, p. 134., doi:10.5539/elt.v9n9p134.

Gonzalez, Jennifer. “12 Ways to Support English Learners in the Mainstream Classroom.” Cultof Pedagogy, 21 Sept. 2018,   mainstream-classroom/.

Herrera , Christopher. “Bilingual Education : a History of Family and Community Involvement in Schools.” 2016.

Ibacache, Kathia. “Useof Language-Learning Apps as a Tool for Foreign Language Acquisition           by Academic Libraries Employees.” Information Technology & Libraries,vol. 38, no. 3, Sept. 2019, pp. 22–33. EBSCOhost, doi:10.6017/ital.v38i3.11077.

Llach, Mª Pilar Agustín. “Teaching Language Through Literature: The Waste Land in the ESL Classroom.” ODISEA. Revista De Estudios Ingleses, no. 8, 2017, doi:10.25115/odisea.v0i8.90.

Smith, Maya W. (2018). The Effect of Differing Types of ESL and Bilingual Education Programs on Teacher-Student Relationships. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,

Jeffers, Dawn.“Bilingual Books For ESL Students … and Beyond.” Children & Libraries: The   Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, vol. 7, no. 3, Winter 2009, pp.        38–39. EBSCOhost,

Lems, Kristin. Using Music in the Adult ESL Classroom. National-Louis University, 2001.

Moore, Fernie Baca, and Robert J. Marzano. “Common Errors of Spanish Speakers Learning       English.” Research in the Teaching of English, vol. 13, no. 2, 1979, pp. 161–167. JSTOR,

Yigzaw, A. (2012). Impact of L1 use in L2 English writing classes (http:/ Ethiopian Journal of Education and Sciences, 8(1), 11-27.

González-Ramos, Gladys, and Manny J. González. “Mental Health Care of Hispanic Immigrant Children: A School-Based Approach.” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Services, 1 Aug. 2005, doi:10.1300/J191v3n01_03.

Pacheco, Mariana. “Learning In/Through Everyday Resistance: A Cultural-Historical Perspective on Community Resources and Curriculum.” Sage Journals, vol. 41, no. 4, 1 May 2012, pp. 121-32, doi:10.3102/0013189X12442982.

Razfar, Aria, and Jenny Simon. “Course-Taking Patterns of Latino ESL Students: Mobility and Mainstreaming in Urban Community Colleges in the United States.” TESOL Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 4, Dec. 2011, pp. 595-627, doi:10.5054/tq.2011.268060.

Reyes, Iliana, and Patricia Azuara. “Emergent Biliteracy in Young Mexican Immigrant Children.” Reading Research Quarterly, 1 Oct. 2008, doi:10.1598/RRQ.43.4.4.

Andrews, Micah. “Mexican Students’ Identities in Their Language Use at a U.S. High Schoo.” Bilingual Research Journal, vol. 36, no. 1, 24 May 2013, doi:10.1080/15235882.2013.778920.

Chang, Aurora. “Undocumented to Hyperdocumented.”, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2011, harvard-educational-review-volume-81-number-3/herarticle/ a-jornada-of-protection,-papers,-and-phd-status_83.