Differentiated Instruction: English Language Learners

Thirteen ways you can address the individual needs of your ELL students using the Storia eReading App

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

English language learners (ELLs) face major academic challenges as they work to acquire conversational language skills, as well as the more formal academic language they need to learn content in English.

When teaching ELL students, it is important to remember that just like native speakers, ELL students bring a wealth of background experiences into your classroom and have a range of learning style preferences and cultural backgrounds, all of which should be considered when planning their reading instruction.


Who Are ELL Students?


English language learners:

  • Are trying to acquire English language proficiency, while in English-speaking classrooms. Your goal will be to help them master the English language, while enabling them to maintain their native language and culture. 
  • Are trying to gain knowledge and experiences in the four domains of language learning:  listening, speaking, reading, and writing
  • Will learn to use English in social interactions, both formally and informally. In this context, students need abundant opportunities to interact with proficient English speakers in a range of settings. By facilitating these interactions around meaningful topics, you will help students gain exposure to a wide vocabulary and a range of topics they might not come across naturally.
  • Need to learn, and practice using, content-specific language so they can successfully learn, communicate, and extend academic content-area learning. Encourage your English language learners to familiarize themselves with Storia’s large nonfiction collection.
  • Benefit from lessons rich with visual aids and nonlinguistic cues. Storia picture books (especially nonfiction picture books) projected for the entire class to see can add a visual context to a content lesson.
  • Benefit from model readings and hearing the English language read with fluency. Storia's read-to-me feature is a great way for students to hear the English language read fluently while they follow along, viewing both the text and art.
  • Need to relate what they learn in English to what they already know in their native languages. Storia e-book enrichments can help build background for students. The video feature at the end of some Storia e-books will be especially meaningful for building background area knowledge.


Teacher Chat
“When my ELL students are using Storia to learn to read in English, I prepare a selection of shorter picture e-books to make those first experiences easier. I highlight just one or two words on the page that correspond with the noun in the illustration. So if the illustration focuses on a dog and a ball, I highlight these two words to help my students match the words with the illustrative image.”


Using Storia With English Language Learners

When working with English language learners, it is important to keep in mind that each of your students is in a different stage of language acquisition. 

Here are some ways you can address the individual needs of your students, from lower to higher levels of English language fluency.

  • Turn your Storia device into a listening center by attaching a pair of headphones or by allowing the audio storytelling feature to be played aloud. Independently, in partnerships, or in small groups, students can tap on the audio feature in Storia picture books and listen to the story. Students can use the read-to-me feature to hear a fluent read of the book.
  • Model fluent reading. While listening to a story being read aloud, readers can track each word as it is highlighted. In this way, students make sound-symbol correlations between the words and audio pronunciations.
  • Utilize graphic organizers. After listening to a Storia book, students can draw pictures illustrating the beginning, middle, and end of the book on a graphic organizer. You can use the Primary Reading Response: Summarizing a Story (PDF) graphic organizer or have students use the "Sequencing" enrichment activity in their e-books.
  • Organize your students into reading partnerships. While reading aloud to one another, they can exercise their decoding skills to figure out unfamiliar words. Then they can check their decoding by hearing the word pronounced using the pronunciation feature in the Storia dictionary. Show them how to simply tap on the word to hear it read aloud.
  • Encourage your reading partners to access the Storia enrichment activities, which are indicated by a lightning bolt icon.  As students work together on the Storia activities, they gain practice with their social and content language.
  • Students can further build their vocabulary using the infer-and-define strategy in which students infer the meaning of an unknown word and then clarify it by using the Storia dictionary.  Students can add their newly acquired words into their personal dictionaries.  You can also distribute the Word Meaning Web Vocabulary Organizer (PDF)  or the Infer and Define New Vocabulary Words (PDF) graphic organizers to reinforce newly learned vocabulary.
  • Use guided reading.  As you work with your ELL students to teach and model reading strategies, encourage them to use the Storia tools and features to practice language acquisition. Teach them to use the Storia notes tool to record their response to text, to jot down new words, or to write down questions about the text. Ensure that the students use Storia’s audio pronunciations, which are accessible by tapping on a word. 
  • Use conferencing, explicit modeling, and think-alouds to guide ELL students in thinking critically about the texts they read. Use the Storia highlighting, note-taking, and dictionary tools to supplement your strategy instruction.
  • Enter a few inferential questions in the Storia notes section of your students' text to encourage critical thinking about the text. Seeing these preview questions before they read will provide students with a reading focus and will require them to analyze the text and synthesize information as they read.   
  • Encourage evaluation. Students are working toward synthesizing and evaluating information and responding to reading through writing.  Use this time to guide students in evaluating their own opinions based on the text. Keep an eye on the reading report data — including the e-books they've read and how many and which words they’ve looked up — to monitor your students’ reading activities.


Teacher Chat
“In my classroom, I built in extra days of e-reading with Storia for my ELL students.  After close and careful monitoring, I noticed that these readers needed additional time to master the sight words and comprehension activities for the texts they were reading.  With extra time, they could listen to and reread the text several times to practice their reading fluency and ensure a greater understanding of the text.”


Downloadable e-reading resources: These graphic organizers can be used with English language learners: Primary Reading Response: Summarizing a Story (PDF)Word Meaning Web Vocabulary Organizer (PDF), and Infer and Define New Vocabulary Words (PDF).

Using Storia’s Enrichment Activities With ELL Students

Many of the activities in the enriched Storia e-books lend themselves to supporting language development for English language learners. In these books, the activity directions are read aloud. This provides an opportunity for ELL students to work on their receptive language skills, as well as being a point of entry into the activities.

Here are three enrichment activities that will particularly support your ELL students.

Word Match Activity

Students are prompted to match words to pictures. As each word is dragged beneath an image, the word is read aloud to the student. You can encourage your students to repeat the word aloud for oral language practice.

Multiple Choice With Pictures

Students are prompted to answer a comprehension question by touching the correct illustration. This activity helps students develop simple comprehension responses and encourages them to delve deeper into the meaning of the story.

Touch the Page

Students are prompted to touch an image on the page that answers the question that is read aloud. This activity will help students learn content vocabulary and encourage them to use visual information to build understanding.