Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version


Document Type



THE NEBRASKA EDUCATOR, VOLUME 5 (2020), pp 216-237.

ISSN 2375-6853

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.ne011


© 2020 University of Nebraska


Educating English Language Learners (ELLs) is a rapidly growing need in K-12 schools. While often viewed as a homogeneous group, in reality this population is varied in terms of prior knowledge, access to formal education, age, and native language. Despite these differences, students must be taught first social, and then academic, English in order for them to be successful in their classes and graduate. While in previous decades, ELLs were isolated from the mainstream population, common education practices now integrate them into their grade-level classes. However, while working with this high-need population, mainstream content-area teachers often lack the time, professional knowledge, and/or resources to adequately help. This literature review, focusing primarily on resources for content-area teachers in grades 7-12 from a variety of settings, examines the challenges they face and how some of those challenges can be mitigated. Primarily, the problem must be acknowledged while support is given to teachers to plan and modify their lessons to help older learners who are at basic English proficiency levels. Additionally, students’ prior knowledge and experiences must be incorporated into lessons, especially when making connections and in recognizing the funds of knowledge students have. An overreaching problem in the field, however, is that studying how to help older learner ELLs is an area that is drastically lacking, and there is definitely room for more focused research on this topic.