ESC Staff Spotlight

Wendy Buckey, ESL Instructor

Working with students who speak another language (or two!) at home can be both fun, and challenging! Never fear, though, because there are a plethora of resources to help you with English as a Second Language! Many free websites are available, and you can even find typical English educational pages to be of great help. When you search the internet, look for things that offer differentiated resources and cater to the visual and auditory, as well as writing, games, and activities that engage students in multiple ways. Many younger grade activities can be adapted for older learners. Real-life objects are quite helpful for new ESL students. Ask students to repeat directions in their own words. Always point/show what you are going over so they can follow your verbal instructions with physical objects that they will understand more quickly.


The following are helpful for use in teaching ELs. 

Teaching English Language Learners 

Stages of Second Language Acquisition

Parafunctional – Pre-production or the silent period.  New students just listen.  Some may not speak for weeks or months.  Don’t force them. Some will start using simple learned phrases and simple sentences.

Beginner –Students will develop a vocabulary of about 1000 words; speak in one or two-word phrases, memorized chunks, and simple sentences.  This may last about 6 months.

High Beginner–Students will develop a vocabulary of about 3000 words, use simple sentences, ask simple questions, read easy stories, and write simple sentences.

Intermediate–Now students have a 6000-word vocabulary, use more complex sentences, and ask questions.  They will still have grammar errors.

Advanced –It can take 4 – 10 years to achieve this.  Students are able to cope in the classroom but will still need help with vocabulary, idioms, writing, and content such as social studies. 

Two Types of Language     Researcher Jim Cummins differentiated between social and academic language. 

BICS – Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills
This is social language and develops in 1 – 3 years.  This is the day-to-day language needed to interact with other people.  ELLs use BICS on the playground, in the cafeteria, on the bus.  This language is context-based.

CALP – Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency
This is an academic language and takes 5- 7 years to develop.  There are general academic words and content-specific words.  Academic language is context reduced, especially in the upper grades. 

According to Cummins, students who have developed BICS but not CALP do not lack higher-order thinking ability; they simply lack the language to succeed in school.  This is especially apparent in the writings of our English Language Learners who are challenged with conventions of English writing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 


Strategies for Diverse Learners


Some Helpful ESL websites:– FREE! although it’s for younger kiddos, I encourage my lower-level ESL students (both K-12 and adult) to use the speaking/pronunciation “rules” that are reviewed (as color-coded portions of words) for guidance in how to read/speak words correctly. It’s not too “babyish” in that respect. I’ve also created a doc I send to my students’ parents to help guide them in how to use it for reading with young students. is free… it goes through all 6 levels of adult reading and listening, speaking, writing. Could be useful for middle to high schoolers, too.


ESL Library– paid-for subscription, but great for middle to high schoolers. Reading, grammar, listening, typing/writing, matching pictures and words/sentences. Individual work or use for presenting for an online class, and printing pages, as well. 


Rewordify copy/paste text here and it shows simpler words and information (and links to sources)… FREE!

Reading A-Z

Epic Books

Unite for Literacy




Read Theory

The Oxford Picture Dictionary– a great resource for learning new vocabulary in English. They come in bilingual books, as well. Online resources are available.