Models of Programs to Teach English Language Learners

Models of Programs to Teach English Language Learners

Children of families where English is not the household’s primary language make up an ever-growing percentage of students within U.S. schools. Language minority students are present in schools throughout the nation, not only those located in major cities or areas close to border areas.  Every school must be equipped to face the challenges of an ever-growing student population, with most students who aren’t skilled in English.

The efficacy of different programs for minority language students remains a subject of debate. There are a variety of motives to argue for the superiority of a particular program over another in specific circumstances. There is a myriad of effective programs. A lot of information about them you may find on Study Crumb. Still, the decision to choose should be made at a local level following careful consideration of the needs of the students involved as well as all the available resources.

ESL program models

ESL programs (instead of bilingual ones) are more likely to be utilized in areas where the minority population is exceptionally diverse and consists of various languages. ESL programs can accommodate students of different language backgrounds within the same class, and teachers are not required to be fluent in their students’ native language(s).

 ESL pull-out

This is usually utilized in elementary schools. Students can spend a portion of their daily school hours in the regular classrooms, but they are taken out for a particular part of the day to be taught English as an additional language.

 ESL class period

It is typically utilized in middle school settings. Children receive ESL instruction in classes and usually receive credit for the course. Students can be placed in groups for education based on their stage in English proficiency. 

The ESL resource center

This is a variation on the pull-out model, bringing students from multiple classes or schools. The resource center houses ESL equipment and staff in one place and is usually managed by a full-time ESL teacher at the very least.


Bilingual program models

Each bilingual program model uses the students’ native and English language for instruction. They can be suitable for districts with abundant students of the same background. Students in bilingual programs are divided by their native language, and the teachers must be fluent in English and the student’s native language.

Early-exit bilingual programs

They are designed to assist students in developing the English skills needed to perform in a mainstream English-only school. These programs offer some beginning instruction in the students’ native language, principally to help them learn reading and writing, but also to help with clarification. Teaching in the primary language is gradually phased out, and most students are being mainstreamed by the time they reach the second or first grade. 

Late-exit programs

They differ from early exit programs “primarily in the amount and duration that English is used for instruction as well as the length of time students are to participate in each program.” Students remain in late-exit programs throughout elementary school and continue to receive 40% or more of their instruction in their first language, even when they have been reclassified as fluent-English-proficient. 

 Two-way bilingual programs

Also known as bilingual developmental programs, they group students who are a minority in a unique language background within the same classroom as students who are majority-language (English-speaking) learners. In ideal circumstances, there should be an approximately 50/50 ratio between minority language students and majority students. Instruction is given in both English as well as the minority language. Students act as native-speaker role examples to their fellow students. Bilingual classes that are two-way can be taught by one teacher who is fluent in both languages or two teachers, of which one is bilingual.


Other models for programs

Some programs offer teaching in the language of their native, nor explicit instruction for ESL. But, education is tailored to the demands of students not fluent in English.

 Protected English as well as content-based programs

Students who are minority languages with different backgrounds in classes where teachers employ English to provide the language of instruction for instructing students in content areas by changing their language to meet the proficiency level of students. They can also use gestures and visual aids to aid students in comprehending. While acquiring English is among the main goals of sheltered English and content-based courses, instruction is focused on content rather than the language. 

Programs for structured immersion

These programs use English, and there isn’t explicitly ESL instruction. Like protected English and content-based classes, English is taught using specific content areas. Structured teachers can communicate in their students’ native language and hold bilingual education or ESL teaching certificates. The use of the students’ native language is limited to a clarification of English instruction. Most children are mainstreamed by two or three years.


Programs that successfully promote the academic performance of minorities include the ones that help students to improve their intellectual abilities while they learn English. The best program organization is one that is tailored to meet the linguistic, academic, and affective needs of students; provides language minority students with the instruction necessary to allow them to progress through school at a rate commensurate with their native-English-speaking peers; and makes the best use of district and community resources.

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