Originally posted on by Diane Staehr Fenner

What to Do When Curricular Materials for ELLs Are Not Available

Where to look for additional ELL resources to support Common Core-aligned lessons

So, now that you’ve hopefully read my last blog post and learned about suggestions for where to go to find CCSS-aligned high-quality instructional resources for ELLs, what can you do if you’re still in need of resources that will support you as you work with ELLs? Below I provide some tips and suggestions that I’ve compiled as a result of working with teachers of ELLs in several states.

  • Create a district library of resources. Our group has been collaborating with educators of ELLs through professional development in several school districts this year. Some of the best discussions occur when school librarians are invited to the table. Often, librarians have deep knowledge of home language and ELL-appropriate books and materials that are available to ELLs. And, while librarians at separate schools may have some home language resources at their fingertips, when librarians and teachers collaborate at the district level, they can expand their offerings to create a district lending library of home language and ELL-appropriate resources. Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, for example, has developed an extensive ESOL lending library over the past three decades that contains more than 100,000 hard copy volumes. The books are searchable by students’ proficiency level and content area topics as well as subject, title, and author. Any school can borrow books, and it has proven to be a cost-effective system for sharing supplemental books throughout the district.
  • Share resources across your state. Along those lines, I have presented at state conferences in which certain districts have taken an advocacy role and have developed high-quality resources such as curriculum frameworks and unit plans that are geared toward supporting ELLs. However, it’s quite seldom that one district seems to know what their neighboring district is doing in terms of resources for ELLs. It would be very helpful for districts to have a way to share the great work they’re doing in supporting their ELLs with the rest of the districts in their state – or beyond.
  • Consider local resources for home language support. If you’re considering creating your own home language resources and materials for ELLs, you may have some unexpected resources at your fingertips. If there’s a college or university nearby, there may be bilingual native speakers of some of your ELLs’ languages, especially low incidence languages. Other community resources you could draw from to provide home language support include local businesses and places of worship. In addition, the foreign language department in your school or district might be a source of home language resources or know where to go to find additional resources.
  • Use web-based translations with caution. If you’re searching for a home language text, first try searching for that text’s title in the translated version. For example, if you’re searching for a German translation of Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” try entering the actual German title “Die Leiden des jungen Werthers” instead of the English name. I have had better luck finding high quality translations using this method. If you do end up using online translation resources to create translated texts in your ELLs’ home languages (if they’re literate in their home languages), proceed with caution, as these translations tend to contain inaccuracies, and they must never be used to translate text from works of literature.


I hope this 4-part blog post series has been useful in providing information on key topics related to implementing the Common Core State Standards with ELLs. Although stakeholders who support ELLs’ education (including teachers, administrators, teachers’ unions, professional associations, organizations, universities, and publishers) have made great strides in creating materials that support ELLs, we still have a long way to go. It’s encouraging to see teacher-created materials fill some of the gaps that still exist.

Diane Staehr Fenner