Thursday, May 10, 2018

Need Help Teaching Content to English Language Learners?

If you are a teacher dreaming to help English Language Learners (ELLs) to improve their academic language and content knowledge, then CALLA is here to help you.

Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) is an instructional model to meet the academic needs of English language learners based on cognitive theory and research.

Using CALLA you can guide your students in a way that they can become self-regulated learners. But how?

We all know that formal academic language learning is challenging for ELLs as they are not exposed to academic language outside of the classroom and teachers do not spend enough time on improving academic language. Don’t worry as the five steps of CALLA can solve the problem.

 The most important step of CALLA is preparation. In this step, you concentrate on the students’ proficiency and try to activate their prior knowledge. But why do we have to activate our students’ prior knowledge? The answer is simple: to facilitate learning.

Just imagine how easier it would be for students to read a text on endangered species if the teacher already showed them some pictures of animals with their names on.

Passing the first step successfully, CALLA help teachers to promote appropriate learning strategies for different tasks. Then, the students will start practicing those tasks. Finally, teachers evaluate their students’ performances and motivate them to practice more by introducing new strategies.

Is teaching learning strategies useful? There is a bunch of evidence from research over the past four decades supporting the idea that explicitly teaching various self-regulating strategies improves learning. Many of these research studies focused on highly effective readers and learners who use a variety of strategies in interactive ways.

Such readers benefit from various learning strategies that are flexible and appropriate to the task. They are also active and strategic thinkers who can transfer strategies to new tasks and settings. As English learners develop English proficiency, it is important that the language literacy and content instruction include focus on learning and practicing various strategies.

Considering all the benefits of CALLA, more schools should encourage their teachers to use this approach. But even if your principal has not told you anything about CALLA, now you know how beneficial it could be and, by reading more about it, you can start using it as soon as possible.


Chamorro, M. E. G., & Paz, L. H. B. (2017). Improving language learning strategies and performance of pre-service language teachers through a CALLA-TBLT model. Profile, 19, 101-120.

Chamot, A. U. (2004). Issues in language learning strategy research and teaching. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 1(1), 14-26.  

Chamot, A. U. (2005). The cognitive academic language learning approach (CALLA): An update. In P. A. Richard-Amato and M. A. Snow, (Eds.), Academic success for English language learners: Strategies for K-12 mainstream teachers, 87-101. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Chamot, A. U. & Robbins, J. (2005). The CALLA Model: Strategies for ELL student success. Retrieved from

Chamot, A. (2009). The CALLA handbook: implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach (2nd Ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Pearson

Chamot, A.U., & O'Malley, J.M. (1996). Implementing the cognitive academic language learning approach: issues and options. In R. Oxford (ed.), language learning strategies around the world, 167-173. Manoa: University of Hawaii Press

Echevarría, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. (2008). Making content comprehensible for English learners, the SIOP model. (3th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Nejad, B. S., & Shahrebabaki, M. M. (2015). Effects of metacognitive strategy instruction on the reading comprehension of English language learners through cognitive academic language learning approach (CALLA). International Journal of Languages’ Education and Teaching, 3(2), 133-164.

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