What is Empowering ELLs?

toolbox-1Empowering ELLs* (English language learners) is a resource center for English as an Additional Language (EAL*) educators who want to empower their ELs to achieve English proficiency, develop thinking skills, and possess effective social skills.  

On this site, you will find articles related to English language instruction supported by research and field-tested in my classroom and in those of content teachers with whom I work.

What will readers learn?

The resource center contains articles about EAL instructional practices that support ELs’ language development. Each article has an infograph that synthesizes the essential information from the article. The goal of these resources is to share strategies with educators who work with ELs.

At times, my resources can be used across various content area, while at other times, are more relevant for just EAL teachers.  I know that many of you are busy and do not have time to sift through the literature, books, articles, and videos and cannot attend conferences. It is my job to curate these resources for you.


Where does the content come from?


I have learned many of my teaching models and theories from books and peer-reviewed articles. As I brought these practices to class, my students’ responses either reinforced, invalidated, or forced me to modify them.  In addition, I have attended trade conferences to learn and network with other EAL educators who are striving to improve the learning experiences of ELs.


How readers can use this blog?

what-worksRead the articles and download the infograph, watch the videos, and leave comments.  Try the practices in your classroom.  Keep what works, modify what needs to change, discard anything that doesn’t fit your practice.

What I share with you works with my students, but they might need to be modeled to fit your particular context.  What needs to remain are the principles that inform the practices.   

Why I do this?


As an EL myself, I know personally the pain of people not understanding what I so desperately wanted to share.  I also know the joy of connecting with someone because of the words I say. Language is the center of relationships.  I want to share strategies to help students persevere through those challenging moments and experience more language victories.  

What’s my experience?

Education: B.A. in Sociology and Spanish from Dickinson College

M.A.Ed from the American College of Education specializing in Language Acquisition Instruction

Public school experience:  I began teaching with the Greater New Orleans Corp of Teach For America in 2007 and spent a year working in Philadelphia. My public school experience ranges from middle school to high school English Language Arts.

Private school experience:  I worked at a language school in China and am currently working at Vientiane International School, an International Baccalaureate World School, where I am the head of the EAL department for the secondary school. My role is to develop ELs’ language skills and support teachers in making content accessible to them.

* I prefer using English learners (ELs) in my articles because it is easier to read than “E-L-Ls”

* I use EAL because English might NOT be a second language for students, so the name honors this reality.

About Page Photo

Tan teaching ELs how to select a library book.

Article Name
Promoting ELL strategies that work - how to develop English proficiency, thinking & social skills. A helpful infograph is included with every article.
Publisher Name
Empowering ELLs
Publisher Logo


  1. Hi Tan,

    This is Javier Bahilo, originally from Spain, I am currently working as LA Department Coordinator and MYP English Language & DP English B teacher at Beijing BISS International School, China. I am also a EL myself. If you speak Spanish, we have a few things in common!

    One of my PEP goals this year is to enhance my teaching methods as far as reading is concerned. Sharing this with a former colleague she tole me about your blog and I am astonished at the quality of your posts. They are quite informative and, for someone who is eager to learn, even after 24 years of teaching experience under his belt, they are a great source of inspiration. I just love the infographics, not to mention the bathroom briefs. Do you really post them so that your colleagues can actually seen them? Congratulations on your blog. It is also quite surprising that I do similar things than you do but, being honest, I did not know I was just doing them.

    Since I have also got my own blog, I would like to ask for your permission to add yours as a widget or in one of my top menus. I believe I should contribute to spread the word about the great ideas you post. I also planning to write a new post on reading techniques and, if you don’t mind, I would like to mention your ideas within the post itself.

    Looking forward to your reply


    1. “Nhi-hao”, Javier. Gracias para tu mensaje! Yo estudié en Málaga por un año, pero había un tiempo largo que yo hablor español. De dondé eres?

      We have many things in common, Javier! I also work at an IB school, Vientiane International School and worked in Shengyang, China for a year.

      Yes, please feel free to use the ideas and suggestions as needed. Can you please link back to my site using a widget? Feel free to download and upload my resources as needed. It’s great to see people advocating for ELs and sharing ways to support their learning. How did your colleague know about my site? Please thank her for her reference. Technology has made the world so small and intimate!

      Would you share your blog with me? With 24 years of experience, I know that I can learn from you as well, Javier! Are you on Twitter? I’d love to follow and learn from your Tweets. I’m @TanELLclassroom.

      Yes, I do actually post the Bathroom Briefs in the faculty bathrooms, even in the Primary school. The goal is to give the teachers mini-strategies to help all learners use language, not just the ELs. They have been getting great reviews from the staff. I once saw the Lao language teacher take a picture with his iPad. Then I shared the link with him because it’s awkward to take pictures in the bathroom.

      In closing, I’m humbled by your praise, Javier. Your kind words make the HOURS of work meaningful. Gracias por “hacer” mi día, Javier!

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