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English Language Learners Programs

Program models in schools vary depending on staff availability and school-wide resources. Across the United States, most schools use the below 5 English language learner programs to teach English language learners. Some models are more effective than others and vary from district to district and sometimes from school to school.

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The type of program design used in a school makes a huge difference. What is done within programs and services is what provides English learner students the necessary English language skills. Skills that students must acquire in a timely manner to reach academic standards.

The following is a list of the most commonly used ELL programs in elementary schools. The list focuses on pull-out, push-in, co-teaching, dual language immersion, and transitional bilingual.

Pull-Out Instruction

The pull-out model is the most often used teaching model by schools. In this model, students receive 20 to 45 minutes a session of pull-out instruction. The instruction focuses on direct language instruction in the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

ESL teachers, paraprofessionals, or tutors use a school or commercial language curriculum to teach areas of need for the students. Some pull-out models use a language curriculum that aligns with the English language development standards. A language curriculum allows the teacher to address language specific needs when students are grouped based on language proficiency levels.

Instructional time

To determine the pull-out instructional time, the ELL and classroom teachers agree to a specific time of the day. A time that won’t impact content area learning. It is never recommended to pull-out a student during content area learning time. The pull-out model has shown to be the less effective model of instruction for English language learners.

Push-in Model

The push-in model has become very famous over the last years. This English language learner program model provides immediate intervention and instruction in the classroom. A well prepared ESL teacher uses the English language development standards to align language needs to content area learning.

This connection facilitates language and content growth simultaneously. This English language learning model allows the ESL teacher to serve more students and more easily advocate for student needs. Push-in is known to be more effective than the push-in instructional model.

Instructional time

In this model, the ESL and classroom teachers agree on a specific time to serve students in the classroom. Most push-in instruction happens during reading and writing instructional time, such as English language arts. Some co-planning may be necessary among the ESL and classroom teachers. This allows the ESL teacher to prepare to teach language skills that provide access to content.

Co-teaching Model

Co-teaching is the most effective teaching model for English language learners. During co-teaching, the ESL and classroom teacher co-plan as partners to teach listening, speaking, reading, and writing. During content area teaching, the ESL teacher implements small group instruction with some students. The instruction is based on the student’s academic and language needs. Pre-planning is essential for this teaching model to be effective.

Over time and as the teachers get comfortable with each other, planning time may reduce or become more strategic and specific. A well-prepared ESL teacher uses the English language development standard to align language needs to content area standards. This connection facilitates language and content growth simultaneously.

Instructional time

Co-teaching happens during core content area learning. The ESL and content area teachers both teach the same content. They both focus on teaching language and content. Some times in small groups and sometimes partner teaching in front of the class. This English language learning program model allows the ESL teacher to serve more students and more easily advocate for student needs.

Dual Language Immersion Model

Dual language program models are the ideal bilingual education instructional models for English language learners. Most dual-language programs are often only available in certain languages. This is because this teaching model requires a lot more resources. In this model, students learn English and other language simultaneously.

For example, they learn math and social studies in Spanish, along with Spanish language arts. English language learners are successful in these programs. The goal is for students to master their native language and English simultaneously. Immersion programs are an excellent option for newcomer students. Newcomers experience a smoother transition when they can continue learning in their native language while they acquire English.

Instructional time

Dual language immersion programs have a unique way of teaching languages. Instruction of both languages happens throughout the day. Some schools teach core content and specials such as art or music classes in both languages. Others just focus on core content are in both languages.

Transitional Bilingual

Most transitional bilingual programs focus on providing content and language instruction in the student’s native language. This normally happens during the first years of a student’s school. Once a student acquires “enough English” they transition to another instructional model. Such one of the top three models mentioned above.

Instructional time

Transitional bilingual models are available in elementary and secondary schools. Students receive instruction during the day for part of the day in their native language. Some schools choose to offer bilingual instruction all day for the first years of school.


Parents of English language learners should inquire about the instructional services provided to their children when they arrive at a US school. Discuss with your child ESL teacher to inquire about the educational programs the school uses to service your English language learner.

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