Science & ELA Content Poster - Khan

Interventions to Promote Science & English Skills in ELLs

Lee, O., & Buxton, C. A. (2013). Integrating Science And English Proficiency For English Language Learners. Theory Into Practice, 52(1), 36-42. doi:10.1080/07351690.2013.743772
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This research article addresses the multiple forms of literacy skills ELLs need to possess in order to do well in Science. These skills include listening, speaking, reading, writing, and the ability to examine and understand graphs and various forms of textual data. Lee and Buxton (2013) believe that the goal of US educators is to help ELLS learn academic content while developing oral and written skills in English.

Moreover, they offer strategies to execute such learning in five specific domains:
1. Literacy Strategies for All Students
2. Language Support Strategies for ELLs
3. Discourse Strategies with ELLS
4. Home Language Support
& 5. Home Culture Connections

Strategies & Recommendations

1. Literacy Strategies for All Students

According to Lee and Buxton (2013) Science teachers should provide their students with hands-on activities because they are less demanding of language ability and it fosters language acquisition through authentic communication in relation to scientific content. Furthermore, this process promotes the ability for ELLs to communicate their understanding of the content through a variety of formats such as gestural, oral, pictorial, graphic, and textual methods. When introducing new vocabulary, teachers should introduce them in the beginning of the lesson and encourage students to practice the new words through reteaching, writing, and highlighting terms and definitions.

2. & 3. Language Support and Discourse Strategies for ELLs

The authors suggests that effective teachers should recognize the language proficiency levels of their ELLs and be capable of adjusting their instruction accordingly. Some examples include using clear enunciation and longer periods of wait time. These teachers also provide students with multiple modes of explanations of the same concepts by using synonyms, paraphrasing, repeating main ideas, and/or elaborating on student responses. Lee and Buxton (2013) recommend that teachers use language scaffolding techniques in order to build student's conceptual understanding and discourse capabilities.

For instance, when a student responds with "It is foggy," the teachers asks the student to clarify what "it" is, and the student responds with "water vapor" (Lee & Buxton, 2013, p. 39)

4. Home Language Support

According to Lee and Buxton (2013) teachers of Science need to build upon and make use of student's home language in order to support Science learning in English. Teachers can encourage bilingual students to assist less English proficient ELLs, and even go as far as allowing them to write about Science ideas or experiments in their native tongues. Furthermore, in order to assist with language acquisition, Lee and Buxton encourage teachers to introduce scientific vocabulary in ELLs home languages as well as in English. They believe that this strategy serves to activate student prior knowledge and assists them in learning new concepts and words in English.

5. Home Culture Connections

According to Lee and Buxton (2013), connecting science content to ELLs culture can be a difficult process. However, it can be done. Lee and Buxton recommend that science teachers identify various cultural groups their students are a part of, and they propose teachers to invite family-members with knowledge of various non-Western herbal medicines to come speak to students. Moreover, teachers need to be concerned with how some students might be more or less familiar with participation norms. For example, some students are often immersed in cross-talk, where they talk simultaneously while others are speaking. This is accepted in some cultures, but may appear bad and disrespectful in others, specifically the norms accepted in traditional American schools.


Ultimately, when provided with effective instructional strategies that teach both content and English proficiency, ELLs have shown the capability of demonstrating growth in both realms. According to Lee and Buxton (2013), ELLs should be provided with a rigorous academic curriculum aligned with up-to-date practices as defined by national and state content standards. Having personally worked in the past with ELL students in a cross-curricular environment, I myself have seen their ability to do well in multiple content settings once they understand what is expected of them. Their growth flourishes ten-fold once teachers modify their instruction and modes to learning to assist with second language acquisition.

Referring to the strategies listed above, which ones will you incorporate in teaching ELLs and why? What suggestions or changes would you make?