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Building Background Knowledge and Supporting Vocabulary Development in ELLs/MLLs


Resources to build background and vocabulary in ELLs/MLLs, focusing on Grades 3-10 and including an introduction and background and vocabulary exemplars to accompany Expeditionary Learning and Public Consulting Group lessons.


An introduction explains the techniques used to build background and vocabulary in ELLs/MLLs.

Building Background Knowledge and Supporting Vocabulary Development: Exemplars

Background exemplars consist of text, visuals, or multimedia to prepare students for close reading of anchor text. Vocabulary exemplars consist of glossaries to support ELLs’/MLLs’ reading of anchor texts and writing about these texts.

Anchor Texts (texts marked with an asterisk have bilingual Spanish/English glossaries)

Grade 3: My Librarian is a Camel and *Peter Pan

Grade 4:  *Love That Dog and Birth of a Hauenosaunee​

Grade 5: *Esperanza Rising and *The Most Beautiful Roof

Grade 6: *Rudyard Kipling's "If" and *The Lightening Thief

Grade 7: *Long Walk to Water and *Commonwealth Address

Grade 8: *To Kill a Mockingbird and *Vietnam Wars

Grades 9-10:

  • Franklin Roosevelt's Inaugural Address and Day of Infamy Speech
  • The Palace Thief
  • Black Swan Green
  • Raleigh Was Right
  • Columbus' Journal
  • Lost in Translation​


Staff at the Center for English Language Learners at the American Institutes for Research conduct rigorous research to improve instruction and learning for English Language Learners/Multilingual Learners (ELLs/MLLs); perform evaluations of programs that involve ELLs/MLLs; and support states, districts, and schools in improving policies and programs for ELLs/MLLs. Our work is guided by the belief that ELLs/MLLs bring many strengths to learning in a second language and benefit from evidence-based assistance tailored to their diverse needs.