Advice for New EL Teachers:

5 Tips for Teachers Who Are Just Beginning their Journey with English Learners

By Guest Blogger and EL Expert Joylynn Nesbitt


October is Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month! We’re celebrating the achievements of bilingual children across the country, and the dedication of the educators who teach them.


  1. Do not rely on electronic translators (i.e. Google Translate) at the beginning of the year. Getting into the habit of using these types of translators with students who are struggling with English gives them the idea that they can rely on Google translate for the rest of the year. They will not feel the need to learn the English vocabulary if an electronic translator is available.
  2. Use visuals and multimedia with every lesson in order to explain new vocabulary. Be sure to prepare for these visuals ahead of time. When you are stressing a word or concept, you must have a picture or action to go with it. The students will connect the visual with the vocabulary word and learn quickly.
  3. Start a content word wall at the beginning of the year. Create a list of words for each unit and leave the word wall up all year long. The students will continually see these words as you refer back to them and visualize the content words when they are not in your classroom.
  4. Never underestimate the value of a children’s book as a mentor text. Students can learn the content vocabulary through a book like Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. Sometimes students need to use easier books and stories they understand to help them understand more difficult content vocabulary. Students with a lower English proficiency can learn the high level content vocabulary.
  5. Whether the students are speaking or writing, they need to get into the habit of using complete sentences. You, as the teacher, should use complete sentences to model what proper language in a content area should sound like. Beginner and advanced students alike should practice using the language in complete sentences with your content vocabulary.

My name is JoyLynn Nesbitt, I am married and have two beautiful daughters. I am from Warsaw, Indiana. After graduating from college and traveling to Thailand, I moved to San Antonio, Texas to get my Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Texas at San Antonio. I have experience teaching all levels of the English language and a wide variety of students. Presently, I am working in a middle school in the Northside district of San Antonio. I have a large role in the EL population at the middle school and am becoming more involved in the EL program at the district level too.


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