7 Misconceptions About English Language Learners

Misconceptions English language learner

It’s a novel experience – the start of a new school year – fresh faces, a new atmosphere, and off-course brand-new challenge.

Students come to school with unique learning needs.  A major challenge, that every teacher faces, is how to support the English language learners (ELLs) in their class. These students come to school with different levels of English skills, and many with limited English language proficiency.

One needs to develop rigorous and well-differentiated classroom instruction to teach students with limited English language skills. Although it is not an easy task, several assumptions on part of teachers could hamper the everyday learning experience of the English language learners in their class.

Here we list the seven most established misconceptions about the English language learners that affect your teaching style.


7 Misconceptions about English language learners


  1. For success, ELLs need to adapt to the new culture.

What students already know is extremely important. Sustained learning springs from building over their prior knowledge. Instead of trying to mend into the new culture, ELL students need to be able to connect their classroom experience with their prior knowledge.


  1. Using English in the class and using native language at home can cause language disorders.

The fact is- being bilingual is an asset. Learning two different languages at an early age can strengthen cognitive skills, and it aids academic growth too.

In addition to that, it’s imperative that parents use the language that they are most fluent in. It should be respected and encouraged by the teacher.


  1. Students should avoid using their native language at school

What’s truly important is active participation. If use of native language helps increase student participation in classroom activities, then teachers should encourage English language learners to use their native language.


  1. Structured immersion is the best way to develop English skills

Research points that students in bilingual classes, where they are instructed in their native language, can acquire English-skills equivalent to those learning in English-only programs.  Moreover, use of native language helps ELL students keep up with their peers in terms of their grade-work.


  1. ELLs should be taught to read in English from the beginning.

The idea behind this assumption is that students need to master spoken English as quickly as possible to support the learning of subject-matter content. However, studies suggest that the students, who first learn to read in their native language, become more successful readers.


  1. If ELL students can speak English fluently they have acquired the necessary English skills

Mastery of social language does not mean that the student has acquired the necessary complex academic language skills (CALPS.) Mainstreaming student based on their oral skills may hinder their future academic progress. Such students may face problems with reading and writing due to gaps in their vocabulary and syntactic knowledge.


  1. Good instruction works for all students

English language Learners require additional instructional support. Their level of literacy in their native language and the demands of the academic language greatly influence their capacity to comprehend a text. Teachers should always remember that one size doesn’t fit all.


US schools are a great mixture of students from diverse backgrounds, and varied levels of English literacy; it’s important – for teachers – to create a balance between academic-content and student-needs. It’s important that teachers with ELL students in their class differentiate their instruction to meet their needs. However, it is equally important that do it without lowering their expectations from their students.

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