Designing lessons for English Language Learners (ELL) students presents teachers with a dual challenge: Students must gain the language skills they need to progress in school and in life, but they also must continue to learn the other lessons that their peers are mastering. How can you, as a teacher, reach both of these important goals with your ELL students? Here are five sample lessons plans designed with both goals in mind to help get you started.
My Own Dictionary: This project can be tailored for ELL students of almost any age. Start with a template or from scratch using a spiral notebook, a composition book or even several sheets of blank paper stapled together and let your students design their own private dictionary. Have them label each page with a letter of the alphabet and write the words they’re trying to learn under the appropriate letter. They can add definitions and even make their own illustrations.
This project not only reinforces the new word and language skills your students are picking up, but helps them reach other important learning goals as well, such as writing clearly, alphabetizing, and even understanding how to use the dictionary.
New Word Treasure Hunt: This lesson plan will help reinforce the learning your ELL students do in class. By starting them on a treasure hunt for the words they’re struggling with, you will keep them learning long after they have left your classroom for the day. Start by designing a “treasure box.” This can be a shoe box decorated like a pirate’s chest or even an outline sketched on a poster board. Allow your students to color the chest and festoon it with glue-on jewels. Then, throughout the day, when your students come across words that they are struggling to understand, add that word to their “treasure list.” For the rest of the day they can hunt for the words from their list. Maybe they’ll see one in the newspaper. Maybe they’ll catch sight of another on a billboard. When they locate a word, they get to put it — written on a slip of paper — in their own treasure box.
Writing the words on their treasure list, looking for them throughout the day, and writing them again to put in their chest are all activities that will reinforce the shape, sound and even context of those words for your students.
Journaling: A journal is a great place for ELL students to practice both writing and reading skills. You can make journaling a part of every day by having all of your students spend 15 minutes or so with their journals at the start of the day. It’s also a great way to integrate ELL students into the everyday activities of your classroom. Because everyone will be working on their journals at the same time, your English language learners will not feel singled out. In an article on “Colorin Colorado,” Sharon Eghigian also suggests giving your ELL students writing prompts to help them get started.
New Word Bingo: Bingo is an easy game to learn and play, which makes it great for reinforcing newly learned words. You can make your own game pieces by writing words randomly in the game board squares. To play, you simply hold up pictures that match the words. Students who have the pictured word on their cards get to place a game token on the appropriate square. The game boards can be set up with the words your students are learning, and new words can be added at any time.
Game Day: Games are engaging; that’s what makes them so fun. Use that engagement as a learning opportunity. Choose one day a month and make it game day. Have a variety of games available then divide your students into groups and let them play. With carefully chosen games, your students will be learning without even knowing it. Consider having available such games as Quibble, Scrabble, and Bananagrams. Choose the “junior” versions of these games so they will be more accessible to your ELL students. Online games are also available at non-profit websites like ReadWriteThink and PBSKids.
These simple lessons for ELL students will help you start your English language students on their exciting, lifelong journey of learning a whole new language.