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3 Ways I Help My English Learners Make Connections

Yvonne Gray
Mar 13, 2023

Our school district is home to more than 1,600 English Learners who have monolingual families from all over the world. That’s 20 percent higher than the national average for a district of our size! So our classrooms are truly a celebration of the diversity that makes our community strong. Our English Learners speak a range of languages, have diverse school experiences, differing levels of proficiency in their native languages, and bring vital perspectives, culture, and experiences to our schools. 

As a longtime teacher, I’ve learned how to best serve the individual academic needs of our English Learners. I’ve developed many strategies to help them learn grade level content and develop English language proficiency at the same time. 

Before Newsela and the widespread use of digital resources, I printed out pictures, made posters, and picked up books in the library to bring text to life for my students. If a picture is worth a thousand words, to the English Learners I’ve taught, they’re worth a million. Now I have all of these resources available at my fingertips. Multimedia and visual sources allow students to have many entry points into the content we’re learning. Here are a few ways I incorporate multimedia sources to build content knowledge for my English Learners: 

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  1. Launch lessons with videos to engage students  

Videos bring the language to life for all learners with images and narration that build academic vocabulary.

My students love having a video that takes the topic and lays it out in a concise way to help them understand. Videos might be used as an introduction to a topic, a review, or in the middle of a unit. For example, this video, All About Coral supports an exploration of the science behind coral with engaging visuals and diagrams. All videos on Newsela have comprehension questions built in, captions, and transcripts that help students follow along and stay engaged. 

2. Use infographics to support students' comprehension of concepts

By providing an image, graphic, or chart that is based on a previously taught lesson, students build confidence in their knowledge. Multimedia learning offers an advantage as it utilizes the brain's capacity to link verbal and visual representations of information. This leads to a more profound comprehension, which aids in the transfer of knowledge to different circumstances.

Here is an example of an infographic on Abiotic and Biotic Components of an Ecosystem that I used in a 5th grade classroom to cement the understanding of the concept. The infographic could also be used as an introduction to the concept to build background knowledge, to reinforce the idea, serve as a supplement to a text, or a review of materials. You can use the Newsela search tool  to find an infographic to suit your lesson.

3. Allow students to explain what they’re learning with write prompts 

Customize write prompts on infographics or other visuals like charts and graphics to encourage students to share what they have learned, whether that's new vocabulary or broader concepts.

When I use an infographic from the Infographic Collection I can edit the write prompt to add sentence frames or language patterns to support English Learners in composing their responses. The great thing about this is that I can assign one writing prompt to all students or I can customize the prompts for small groups of learners. The types of graphics available range from timelines to Venn diagrams, data tables, graphs, and charts. These resources are an excellent way to assess students' comprehension of the concepts with the writing prompts; I appreciate that I can edit the prompt based on my lesson focus and to meet all learners.


My lessons have transformed since the days of poorly drawn pictures and scavenging for library books. Digital resources have made such a difference in my demonstration lessons because I am able to give students more than just a text. Ensuring all students with differing levels of ability, English proficiency, and understanding receive the instruction they need to thrive is no easy task. I’m grateful for the adaptability of digital and online resources to help bring more accessibility into the classroom and create an environment where everyone is getting the support they need and deserve. 

Explore all Newsela's resources for English Learners today!

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