ESL vs ELL: What’s the Difference?


ESL vs ELLWe live in a diverse world and, specifically, in a country with a wide range of cultures, backgrounds, and languages. Unsurprisingly, that diversity is reflected in the makeup of public-school classes. In fact, most veteran teachers have probably encountered an ELL student at some point before. But what’s the difference between an ESL vs ELL student? And should it matter to K-12 educators? To answer the first question, ESL stands for English as a Second Language, and ELL for English Language Learner. And the distinction is important for teachers to appreciate. Here’s why:

ESL Programs

Many ELL students will take ESL classes in addition to their “regular” schoolwork. ESL programs are backed by the government and designed to help children from foreign countries adapt to life in the United States, and, naturally, learn English. Adults may also take certain ESL courses to gain workplace literacy. Only a certified TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructor teaches ESL classes. However, it’s often a wise idea for K-12 educators to touch base with their students’ TESOL teachers from time to time. Determining how a student is progressing with their ESL work can give K-12 teachers an idea of how best to engage with them.

ELL Students

The term "ELL student" refers to any child enrolled in grades K-12 who isn't currently fluent in English. This can refer to students who are learning English as a second language, but then again it might not. No two ELL students are exactly alike, and it’s critical for teachers to understand how to effectively communicate with both ELL and ESL students. It’s also worth noting here that according to research from the National Council of Teachers of English, ELL students are the fastest growing segment of student population –– particularly in high school.

Tips for Engaging with ELL Students

If a teacher has never interacted with an ELL student in the classroom before, they may not know the best way to proceed. And this goes double for teachers who don’t speak a second language themselves. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways teachers can connect with ELL students, and ensure that they do everything in their power to assist their education. First, visuals and interactive resources can go a long way toward helping ELL students grasp abstract concepts typically reserved for lectures. Second, by keeping their assignments diverse (arts and crafts projects, group work, reading tasks, written reports) teachers can promote an ELL student’s developing language skills. And lastly, any activities that encourage participation and interaction while in the classroom –– like tossing the Qball around during a discussion, for instance –– can prove massively beneficial to ELL students.

Final Thoughts

Teachers working with all age groups and skill levels can use the Qball to boost interest and encourage collaboration. This innovative tool is perfect for small group work or school-wide assemblies –– and best of all, kids love it! Click here to get a Qball for your classroom today!

Share This Post: