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Teaching English Language Learners to Read

In classrooms around the country, teachers need to teach reading to children who don’t speak English, and they haven’t been trained. Experts Diane AugustMargarita Calderón, and Fred Genesee discuss the best research-based practices for teaching English language learners.

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Program description

In classrooms around the country, teachers need to teach reading to children who don’t speak English, and they haven’t been trained. For this webcast, we brought you three members of the panel who shared their expertise as independent researchers in the area of second language acquisition.

This webcast was produced by Reading Rockets in partnership with the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), the National Education Association (NEA), the International Reading Association (IRA), and the National Association of Bilingual Education (NABE). Funding for this teleconference was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

This webcast is made possible by AFT Teachers, a division of the American Federation of Teachers, as part of a Colorín Colorado partnership between AFT and Reading Rockets.


Diane August is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Margarita Calderón is a Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR).

Fred Genesee is a Professor in the Psychology Department at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.


Delia Pompa is the Vice President of the Center for Community Educational Excellence, at the National Council of La Raza.

Watch the webcast

Discussion questions

  1. How does your school district assess language proficiency of incoming ELL students? Is social proficiency assessed differently from academic proficiency?
  2. In your own words, describe the difference between word-level skill and text-level skill attainment for ELL students. Then, describe specific things teachers can do to increase ELL students’ text-level skills.
  3. Consider a read aloud you recently used. What vocabulary or concepts were presented in the book that could cause confusion for ELL learners? What could you do to scaffold the read aloud experience that would benefit ELL learners?
  4. Compare and contrast the teaching of comprehension strategies to ELL students and to native English speakers.
  5. Create a list of teaching behaviors that could promote comprehension skill development for ELL students.