Over the past few months, I’ve published two series of guest posts from teachers of English Language Learners: one on teaching math, and the other on ELLs and Special Needs.

I recently put out a call for guests posts from ELL teachers of science, and will be adding them to The Best Resources For Teaching The Next Generation Science Standards To English Language Learners.

Elana Rabinowitz write the first one: GUEST POST: SCIENCE & ELLS

Jacqueline Zacarias wrote the second one: GUEST POST: MAKING ELLS FEEL WELCOME IN SCIENCE CLASS


Today’s post is written by Elizabeth Reach…


Elizabeth Reach teaches middle-school science. She earned a masters of science degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Scranton, summa cum laude, and a bachelor’s degree in Middle Level Education 4-8 with concentration in science, English language arts, and reading and general science 7-12 from Alvernia University, magna cum laude.  You can read her blog here.


I was so excited to start a new position where I could not only teach science, but also continue with STEM.  I knew I would have a large population of ELLs.  I did not know every student would have this classification.  Still, I held to my philosophy that STEM is for EVERYONE!

Everyone can STEM, but it might look a little different for students who are also learning the English language.  Although it’s only been 3 weeks since I started my new position, I have learned a lot!

Levels of Proficiency & Can Do Descriptors

Naturally, I looked at the data first: proficiency levels 1 to 4.6.  The Can Do Descriptors guided planning and stretched my skills.


Managing a classroom of 30 middle level students who do not understand most of what I say is not a good formula for behavior management. Stations would be the key to minimize behavior problems, allowing me to work with small groups.  In the two days since this idea came to mind, I came up with the following stations:

  1. Moby Max/Study Island (automated computer programs)
  2. Manipulatives
  3. Writing about an Image
  4. Reading: assigning students articles on their independent reading level and on topic from Readworks and Newsela
  5. A few other stations are still in the works and will be announced on my blog in the future.


Visual aids are important to help learn new vocabulary for any student, especially ELLs.  Additionally, as my students learn new vocabulary, I am creating illustrated word walls.

Resources Specific to ELLs

One of the best resources I found for teaching science to ELLs is ColorinColorado.  There are a lot of articles and other information specific to teaching science to ELLs.

Build Relationships

Building relationships is key for any classroom, it just looks a little different.  Three things I have done to help build relationships while we are still working to build English language:

  • Every student has a different greeting. A different handshake, fist bump, elbow bump, head nod, something different.
  • I ask them about their culture. It might be related to family, food, Spanish words.
  • I started 2x10s. I talk 2 minutes a day, 10 days in a row, starting with the most challenging students.  You can read more about it here on my blog.


Moving Forward

There is a saying: “First do what’s necessary, then do what’s possible.  Soon, you’ll be doing the impossible.”  These five areas are what is necessary for my students to be successful in science class.   STEM is possible and coming up next!   Please check out my blog, Reachthescienceteach.com, to follow my journey!