5 Things EL Educators Can Learn from the Girl Scouts

5 Things El Educators Can Learn Thumb

When she was a Girl Scout and a young English learner, Sylvia Acevedo didn't know that she would one day serve as interim CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. But it's the lessons she learned as a Scout that empowered her to become a leader and an inspiration to other young English learners.

Here are 5 things Acevedo believes EL educators can learn from the Girl Scouts of the USA:

Lesson 1: Make new friends, but keep the old. Just like the song says, one is silver and the other is gold. When teaching EL students, it is paramount to encourage them to keep their "old friend," their native language. During this critical learning time, students must continue to develop and foster their native language while also building up their English skills. We want to encourage English learners to recognize the value of bilingualism and to never forget where they came from.

Lesson 2: Encourage teamwork. Girl Scouts rely on their troop for support, companionship, and inspiration. As an EL educator, your "troop" is comprised of fellow educators, both in your district and around the country, who face the same challenges you do in the classroom each day. Reach out to them to create a support network—perhaps they can inspire you with new ideas and variations on how to foster learning and collaboration among EL students. Then, encourage fellow EL students to practice teamwork in a similar way, building a "troop" with their fellow classmates to work through obstacles and develop a sense of community.

Lesson 3: Set goals. We all continue to learn more about the English language each and every day, which can seem overwhelming to someone who feels like they're trying to get caught up. Use student data and achievement benchmarks to establish relevant and actionable goals for your EL students. Nothing feels better than a goal that's been met (or a patch earned)!

Lesson 4: Take action. Follow the Girl Scout model of Take Action Plans, which help girls practice new skills and make an impact on their community. Encourage your EL students to turn learning into practice by facilitating action-oriented opportunities for using their English language skills.

Lesson 5: Have fun. Everyone likes to have fun—it's the interactive lessons in school we remember most. EL students will better integrate the vocabulary they learned while having fun, so it's important to make lessons enjoyable and relevant to the vocabulary. Acevedo shares that she will always remember the German phrases for "throw the ball" and "catch the ball," because her German teacher taught these phrases to the class out on the playground in the natural environment where the phrases would be used.

We hope many of our EL educator readers will join us this month at the TESOL 2017 International Convention in Seattle to meet Sylvia Acevedo in person and learn more about supporting our English learners.

Join us at the International TESOL Convention!




HMH Booth Activities

Attend one of our in-booth presentations and spin-to-win Girl Scout Cookies and other great prizes!

Wednesday, 3/22


Thursday, 3/23


Friday, 3/24


Booth #901 in the TESOL Exhibit Hall

Sylvia Acevedo's Conference Session

Multicultural Capital: Connecting People, Families and Work in the 21st Century

Friday, 3/24


Grand Ballroom C, Main Bldg, 2nd Floor Sheraton Seattle

Milk & Cookie Social with Sylvia Acevedo

Enjoy a 15-minute presentation about Engaging EL Families, followed by a meet & greet with complimentary Girl Scout cookies and milk.

Click here to RSVP!

Friday, 3/24


Booth #901 in the TESOL Exhibit Hall

In addition to her role as interim CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Sylvia Acevedo is a co-author of the HMH Family Engagement program, which helps schools incorporate many of these best practices for engaging English learners and their families.

HMH educational programs also support English Learners! Please visit and to learn more about how these programs can support your students.

Related Reading

Teacher and student working together hero WF1972889

Jennifer Corujo
Shaped Editor

teacher and students in the classroom

Dr. Amy Endo
Education Research Director, Supplemental & Intervention Language & Literacy