Strategies to Reach and Teach English Language Learners

Do you struggle to find research-based strategies to help with meeting your English Language Learners’ (ELs) needs? Do you pull your hair out trying to figure out the "why" to your questions? The "Strategies to Reach and Teach English Language Learners" webinar series may have the answers you need. 

This professional education series will provide you with the basic knowledge, reason, and strategies on how to understand ELs and engage them in your teaching. The series includes 6 sessions, covering the basic needs of ELs from different backgrounds and the impact of their socio-cultural and linguistic characteristics on ELs’ school performance. The series will also emphasize the importance of teacher relationship building with ELs’ parents/guardians as well as how to integrate all the learned knowledge into EL teaching, learning, and accurate assessment.

More important, the series will encourage participants to try out a SIOP Lesson Plan in their own classroom and bring their insights and inspirations back to share with others. Finally, the series will introduce a potential grant opportunity for minority teachers, paraprofessionals, and school aids to gain the following:

  • ESL endorsement 
  • Teaching Certificate or renewal of teaching certificate.  

Audience, Session Schedule and Registration

This series is best for EL teachers, EL paraprofessionals/school aids, general education teachers, and school administers. The series consists of six sessions total. Educators who register for the series are expected to join every session. The schedule and registration button for the series is below.

Session 1

Learning About ELs and Their Needs

Participants will get an overview of defining characteristics of ELs and EL sub-groups, including migrant’s unstable life experiences; immigrants’ willingness and unwillingness to come to the U.S.; refugee students’ trauma experiences; international exchange students’ curiosity and eagerness to learn; and native-born from low-income students’ vocabulary exposure and comprehension. Participants will review video clips showing various life situations of each subgroup and identify/assess the learning needs of ELs in each sub-group.  

Date and Time Thursday, January 21, from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.


Session 2

Understanding ELs’ Socio-Cultural Backgrounds to Foster a Safe Learning Environment

In this session, participants will learn the fundamentals of ELs’ Socio-Cultural backgrounds, examples of the patterns of such backgrounds and their impacts on teaching/learning, and teacher-student as well as student-student relationship building. This session will provide understanding and strategies for participate to create/foster a comfortable learning environment for ELs.

Date and Time: Thursday, February 4, from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Session 3

Utilizing ELs’ Home Language to Accelerate EL School Achievement

In this session, participants will learn how to identify ELs’ English language patterns, understand the interference of their ELs’ home language with their English academic language development, and listen to stories about teacher assumptions regarding students’ home language usage in the classroom. Participants will reflect upon pre-assumptions and bias against non-standard English as well as learn to engage in self-reflection to challenge their personal assumptions. They'll also learn how to utilize ELs’ home language patterns to accelerate school learning.

Date and Time: Thursday, February 18, from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.


Session 4

Building Relationship with ELs’ Parents and Community Organizations

In Session 4, participants will learn the patterns of parental expectations and how those align with their school involvement. EL parents’ stories will be shared to support this learning. Teachers will develop awareness of the importance of building relationship with ELs’ parents/guardians. Stories of how community EL service organizations support schools through tutoring, summer camp, etc. will be shared to increase participants’ understanding of how this home relationship building and support impacts EL student learning.     

Date and Time: Thursday, March 4, from 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.


Session 5

EL Assessment and Lesson Planning

Participants will learn tools, including WIDA, to assess ELs’ English language proficiency, cognitive development, social interaction patterns, and how to use the assessment data to do their SIOP lesson planning. This session will also focus on research-based strategies and resources to differentiate instructions and assessments based on ELs’ learning needs with application to all students. Finally, the session will lay out GVSU ESL Endorsement Program structure and application process for participants, including a potential grant opportunity for minority participants. 

Date and Time: Thursday, March 25, from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Session 6

Inspiring Others to Actively Engage ELs

In the final session, participants will bring their feedback, insights, and lessons learned from implementing the SIOP Lesson Plan they created during Session Five. Participants’ reflective contributions to the discussions will inspire one another to actively engage ELs in their classrooms. This is also the time for participants to ask any further questions that they may have on both SIOP lesson planning, delivery, and GVSU ESL Endorsement Program, its application processes and procedures.

Date and Time: Thursday, April 15, from 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.


Facilitator Details

Headshot of Dr. Rui Niu-Cooper

Dr. Rui Niu-Cooper

Introducing Dr. Rui Niu-Cooper

Dr. Rui Niu-Cooper is an inspiring Associate Professor of Education and the Director of TESOL and ESL programs at Grand Valley State University. Born and raised in China, Dr. Niu-Cooper received her university education in China, Canada, and the United States. She earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Teacher Education, with concentrations in English as a Second Language, English as a Foreign Language, and Foreign Language teaching.

Dr. Niu-Cooper has won multiple awards throughout her career. In 2016, Dr. Niu-Cooper won a $2.53 million U.S. federal grant to train ESL teachers. She has provided training to ESL and Bilingual teachers at Holland Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public School, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, and Godwin Heights Public Schools. She also offered systematic ESL teacher professional development for Grand Rapids Public Schools and the Mid-Michigan consortium. Dr. Niu-Cooper has presented at numerous national conferences, including the American Educational Research Association and the National Literacy Association. She is also a published author within several academic journals.

Dr. Niu-Cooper is dedicated to supporting the needs of our EL student population by building the skills and knowledge of the professionals serving this special population.  

SCECH Availability

Up to 10 SCECHs can be earned during the series, 1.5 or 2 for every session you attend. Details about earning SCECHs will be available in the registration confirmation emails.


Please contact Jayme Lesperance ( if you have any questions about this series.