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!

  2. What a great website. I just happened upon it today. I am creating a PD on Demand sort of website for the teachers in our school district. I would really be interested in using some of your materials.

    Do you mind sharing your materials? May I link to some of your articles and infographic for our teachers to read as part of a learning module?

    I really love your infographics, and am intrigued with your series on the WiDA Essential Actions.

    Thank you for your hard work!

    1. Hi, Deborah. Absolutely. I created the resource for this exact purpose. Feel free to link, download, and share away. Please let me know if you need further assistance. I wish you and your staff a wonderful summer and success in the coming school year.

  3. Great website, I’m currently in a triad teaching EAL using the writers workshop and readers workshop. I’d love any resources on how to teach ELs using following these texts.

    I have found reading your website inspiring!

    Keep the posts going!

  4. Dear Tan,
    I love the resources you have posted on your website. I teach MS EAL and am interested in possible ways to evaluate how using different co-teaching models supports differentiation in the Humanities class. Do you have any tips you could share? Thoughts?


    1. Hi, JUlie.

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment. Co-teaching naturally differentiates learning for students. I find that most of my ELs need more support in understanding the content because the content teachers are still developing their skills at making content comprehensible. After the content teacher teaches content to the entire group, I might pull a small group of students to re-teach the content using comprehensible English. For example, after Mr. Adam gave instructions for a lab experiment, I pulled a group of ELs to go through each step of the process with them instead of telling them all the steps at a time. The guided inquire scaffolds learning for our ELs.

      Another way to think about co-teaching is that it differentiates that way we work with content teachers. Most of the time, I am floating around helping all students. However, there are some teachers that I am very comfortable with leading instruction when using technology. Co-teaching differentiates my collaboration.

      I hope this helps.

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