How To Teach ELL Students In History Class

Bryn Bonino
4 min readJan 8, 2019

Once upon a time, I spent a few years teaching Spanish-speaking immigrant students U.S. history. Most of them had immigrated to Miami at the age of 15 or 16, and while they were learning their first words of English, they were also enrolled in my bilingual U.S. history class. My Spanish-speaking skills and reliance on teaching with images and class discussions allowed us all to get through the year successfully. But there are many more strategies to teach ELLs in a history class, and that’s what the following paragraphs will explore.

Preview And Review Key Vocabulary

If you have ever taken a beginning language class, you know that communication is almost completely vocabulary-based. This is why it is so important for ELL students to have a chance to preview important vocabulary, work through the vocabulary in use, and review the vocabulary. When students are still learning a language, every new word they learn increases their ability to communicate outside of the classroom. In my own experience, when students realized how much my class was helping them in their real life, they were extremely appreciative.

Connect Content To What Is In The News

Immigrant students are not only learning a new language, they are also learning about a new culture and society. That is why tying the content of your history class to what is currently happening helps to reinforce the learning that takes place in your class. You can also relate what is going on in your class to the history of your students’ own countries. I realized that my students had immigrated at an age when they would have been enrolled in an in-depth class to learn about their own country. Connecting current events allowed them a chance to visit the histories of their own countries while studying the content of my class. If you are not sure what to teach about each students’ country, you can have your students supply the current events.

Allow Students To Write A Narrative

History is full of so many narratives and stories that students read about a summarize. But if ELL students are given a space to write a micro-story in their own words, this can be a valuable opportunity for them to apply what they are…

Bryn Bonino

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