This is a resource book that I created for my ESOL class in which I listed over 30 strategies and resources that can be used in a classroom to accommodate English Language Learners (ELLs) at various levels of English proficiency.
Please note that in order to protect the rights and privacy of my students, I have removed their names from any examples used in this book.
I have decided to separate my resource book into four sections: teacher centered resources, student centered resources, tools for students, and culturally responsive teaching.
Teacher centered resources are important tools for ESOL teachers because they allow the teacher to structure lessons that will help ESOL students achieve success. These resources guide teachers into activities for the students as well as methods of talking and introducing concepts to students. This part is separated into those two sections. Teachers typically try to use as many student centered activities as possible to allow students to explore concepts on their own; however, some teacher centered activities are still necessary because there are concepts (e.g. math) that students will be unable to figure out on their own; if students could figure out these concepts, it would most likely take a long time.
Student centered resources are another important tool for ESOL teachers because students learn well when they create their own experiences. By allowing ESOL students to explore concepts through student centered activities, the students are creating their own learning. Many student centered resources included in this resource book involve group activities because group members can help one another succeed and they also create environments that decrease pressure and anxiety, which typically leads to an increase in student participation.
Tools for students is the another section of my resource book that can be used to foster student learning. I originally planned on having an “individual activities” section but I believe “tools for students” encompasses more concepts that will allow me to group together items that can help boost their understanding. The tools in this section are mostly graphic organizers which work well for ESOL students because these organizers allow students to organize their thinking. Students can also use pictures alongside words to further their understanding.
Culturally responsive teaching is an important aspect of school because it connects the students to each other through their cultures. By making culture an important part of the classroom, ESOL students will feel comfortable and valued in the classroom. One strategy listed in this section involves parent/teacher/school contact, which is integral to student success. By having parents work alongside teachers and administrators, students can receive the help they need to succeed.
Teacher Centered Resources
Activities for Students
For this activity, the teacher works with a group of students of a similar reading level. The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity to read with the support of the teacher. The teacher works on helping the students with various tasks such as increasing comprehension and fluency. This activity works well with ESOL students because it allows the teacher to focus on the students’ needs and work closer with individual students. One disadvantage of this activity is that the students in the group will most likely develop at different rates even though they are at the same reading level. There are also time constraints. The teacher must also balance this activity with watching over the rest of the class.
Language Focus Lessons
This strategy involves creating lessons with an emphasis on English vocabulary and the usage of this vocabulary. The teacher will guide students into using specific types of vocabulary and parts of the English language when speaking, which will help students, especially English Language Learners, refine their use of the English language. This can be used individually, with groups, or with the entire class. The only disadvantage is that this strategy is better for older students because younger students typically do not speak with a specific English format in mind. For example, if you look at the writing of a kindergartener, he or she may write out an idea but the word may be missing letters or words. Below is an example of a teacher using this strategy:
This is a great strategy that I really enjoy. For this strategy, the teacher provides the students with an object that coincides with the lesson. Typically, the teacher will try to provide the real life object but if that is unavailable, the teacher can use a model or a photography or illustration. The main purpose is to allow students to experience the object using their senses. This works well for visual learners, especially students who are in the early stages of English proficiency. For example, if a teacher is trying to explain “pencil,” he or she can show a pencil to the student(s) while saying the word and then pointing to the written word “pencil” to help students make that connection. One disadvantage is that the teacher may not always have specific items available, but if teachers work together to pool their resources, they can help each other acquire various items for this strategy.
Total Physical Response
For this activity, the teacher guides students in learning by having them move while learning words and phrases. For example, the teacher would say “stand up” and motion for the students to stand up, while standing up herself. The teacher would continue doing this and then she transition into saying “stand up” and hesitating before standing up. The teacher wants to get to the point where she can say “stand up” without any movement on her part and all of the students understand. I think this works well for English Language Learners because it helps kinesthetic and visual learners and it requires no production of the English language; student simply have to listen and understand, which typically comes before production of the English language.
This strategy involves the teacher getting his or her students excited for a lesson by sparking interest and creating curiosity about a topic. This can be done in a variety of ways but it works well with students because it helps engage them so when the actual lesson starts, the students want to learn more about the topic. For example, if you wanted to do a lesson about the solar system, you could show students the Blue’s Clue’s song about the solar system.
Language Experience Approach
For this strategy the student tells the teacher a story, which can be done individually, in groups or as a whole class. The teacher writes down the story and then students re-read the story. The second read can be used to practice fluency or sentence structure or a variety of other features of the English language. Students typically enjoy this strategy because they are excited about the reading since they created it. For English Language Learners, and even students in the primary grades, this strategy reinforces the idea that sounds can be transcribed into specific symbols, which when put together form words and sentences. This strategy targets basically every area of speaking, listening, writing and reading.
Bell Work/Exit Ticket
For this strategy, the teacher has students answer questions either before (bell work) or after (exit ticket) a lesson. These are great strategies for teachers to use a mini pre-tests and post-tests to determine if a lesson was effective. Bell work can connect the current lesson to the background knowledge of the student. The connection to background knowledge is important because it allows students to see the importance of the lesson. An exit ticket can determine if the student learned what was necessary during the lesson. This strategy is important because it will determine which students need more help with the lesson and if the teacher can move onto the next topic or if he or she should continue working on the current lesson. These strategies work well for English Language Learners because it ground them in the lesson and helps them show what they have learned. Exit tickets and bell work do not need to be formal assessments, nor do they necessarily need to be graded; they can simply provide important information to the teacher.
Methods of Speaking and Grouping Students
This is a strategy that many teachers typically already use in their classrooms. For this strategy, teachers adapt the way they ask questions based on the student that they call on. For example, if a teacher calls on a student with a pre-production level of English proficiency, the teacher may ask that student to point at a concept, whereas a student in the early production stage may tell; a student in the speech emergence stage could explain, and a student in the intermediate fluency stage may create something. This is a great resource for helping English Language Learners because it can be done without the students noticing and it works for many students at the same time. It also works well for any grade or age.
For this strategy, the teacher gives an example of what they want the student to do. For example, if a teacher wants the students to underline certain parts of a sentence, the teacher would show the students how to underline those parts. This works well for English Language Learners due to the visual element of the strategy. This also shows the students exactly what the teacher wants them to do, which is very helpful for students. A disadvantage of this strategy is that if the teacher talks about an action but does not model the action at the same time, English Languages Learners may be confused because there is a disconnect between the words and actions. To use the example above, if the teacher mentions underlining parts of a sentence but she does not immediately show it to the students, some students may be confused about what she wants them to do.
For this strategy, the teacher gives verbal explanations and physical demonstrations of directions and concepts. This is very similar to modeling. By doing this, the teacher will most likely lower the anxiety of English Language Learners because they know exactly what is expected of them.
Teachers use this strategy to pair students. To do this, the teacher splits the class into four groups and each group is given a number; each student in the group is given his or her own number. Then each student (based on his or her number) is given a task. For example, all ones are presenters; all twos are note-takers, etc. Teachers can use this to choose what jobs the students will get which makes it easy to separate the students so they can complete work based on their skill level. For example, students who cannot yet speak fluent English might be able to write English so they can be the note takers. This works well for English Language Learners because they are supported by their group members. Also they are typically more likely to share because there is less pressure for performing well in small group as compared to a full group discussion.
Student Centered Resources
Imaging is basically short for “imagining” because for this strategy the teacher has the students try to picture a concept. The students can then describe the image and try to match the image to real life. This is done to help foster understanding. This could work well for English Language Learners because it relies more on pictures than it does works. Students who are unable to produce spoken English are still able to picture concepts and objects and they can draw these pictures in order to convey that they understand the idea. For example, if the teacher asks the students to draw pets as an introduction to a story about pets, a student may be able to picture say, a cat, but he or she might not have the words available in English to describe the cat but a drawing would convey that the student does in fact understand what a cat is and looks like.
For this lesson, students are given a sentence of they use a sentence they wrote and they try to fix the sentence so it makes grammatical sense. For example, if a student wrote “I have a dog brown,” the teacher would write this on a sentence strip and cut out the words. The student would then have to figure out how to rearrange the words for the sentence to make sense: “I have a brown dog.” This would work well with English Language Learners because they can learn specific rules of English grammar that may be different in their native language. In the example above, the adjective comes after the noun, which is common in Spanish, but in English the adjective should go before the noun. The teacher can work with specific students or with groups or a class, depending on what the mistakes are and how common the mistakes are. For example, more students may forget to add an “-s” or “-es” to the end of a word to make it plural.
For this activity, the teacher gives readings to students in groups. This strategy helps teach reading and research skills as well as helping comprehension and social skills. For English Language Learners, they can have support from their peers and they can be given reading material based on their level (i.e. differentiation). These students will also practice communication skills by working with their peers. If a teacher thinks that the discussions will get out of hand, the teacher can provide an accountable talk rubric. My collaborative teacher has appropriate questions and phrases on small posters in the room to guide talk: “I agree with you because …,” “I disagree with you because…,” “Can you explain that again?” etc. These question stems would be helpful for English Language Learners because they can use them as a guide during discussions.
This is one of my favorite strategies. For this strategy, the teachers give the students an assignment or a discussion question. Students are to “think” individually, then they “pair” up and discussion the assignment or question, then the students “share” out their answers. This works really well for English Language Learners because their partners can help them and they feel less pressure because they are only sharing their ideas with one person instead of the whole class. If the partner is enthusiastic about the first student’s response, the first student may feel better about sharing and his or her participation in the whole class discussion will increase. This also helps students who had trouble understanding a concept or were unable to complete an assignment. The “pairs” can also be switched from two people per group to three, four, or possibly five people per group.
Similar to “think-pair-share,” for this lesson the students read a text until they understand the text and then they write as much as they can remember about the story or they answer a question about the story without looking back at the text. English Language Learners will be supported by their peers and they can share their notes. This strategy gives students, especially English Language Learners, time to process the information. Students are placed in a low pressure situation through the small groups, which may increase participation
For this strategy, students practice situational encounters such as introducing oneself or show and tell. Students pair up or get into small groups and pretend to be in the situation. For example, an English Language Learner may understand how to say “hello” and “how are you” but they may not understand what they should say after that exchange and by practicing that situation, the student will feel better when he or she encounters that situation later on.
In this strategy, students reenact what they have just read. Another method of story reenactment involves the teacher giving the students cut-outs or pictures of a story and they have to put them in order. This strategy can help foster comprehension in students. The cut-outs or pictures of a story would work well for English Language Learners because they just have to understand the pictures instead of words. This strategy typically brings about a better understanding of cause and effect as well as better comprehension and recall students.
Choice Board or Choice Task
For this strategy, the teacher provides the student a variety of choices for completing an assignment or assessment to best meet the student’s needs. There are a variety of ways to use choice task but one method involves writing out tasks in a tic-tac-toe format; the students have to complete 3 tasks that form a winning line. See below for example.
Above is a picture of a blank tic-tac-toe game. The teacher would fill in the tic-tac-toe board with assignments for the students to complete in order to show that they have mastered a task. This works well for English Language Learners because they have a choice in their assessment, which helps decrease anxiety and pressure. An example of a choice board is below.
For this lesson, the teacher provides the students with a topic and the students write a poem. The teacher has the students choose a word, typically their names. The students write the word down vertically and then they create a poem with each word/line containing a letter from the vertical word. For example, “Nicole” could be:
Oranges in the
The letters from the vertical word are typically capitalized or bolded. The teacher can determine if students are allowed to add extra words for the poem to make sense. In the poem above, I added the words “in the” even though they were not part of the vertical word. The students can also use the letters from the middle of words in order to complete the poem.
When the acrostic poem is completed with letters in the middle of words, the letters of the vertical word should be centered so they can easily be read. Students may also write a sentence for each line of the poem
This strategy works well for English Language Learners because it allows them to explore the English language. Students can try to use words with silent letters or confusing spellings in order to help improve their spelling or vocabulary. Confusing words like “whole” and “hole” can be used in these types of poems to help students learn how to differentiate between the two words.
Tools for Students
This is a graphic organizer that is like a mini word wall. Each student gets a sheet of paper (or multiple sheets, depending on the size of the boxes) with a box for each letter of the alphabet. The students write vocabulary words (and possibly their definitions or pictures) into each box. This is a great tool for English Language Learners because it allows them to have a personalized word wall that is made in terms they can understand (pictures or words). Below is an example alphabox.
This strategy is also called a “wordle.” For this strategy, a teacher hands out a passage with missing words as a fill in the blank worksheet. The size of the cloze (a few sentences, a paragraph, or a full page) depends on the grade level of the student. Typically, there is a word bank for the cloze; however, the teacher does not necessarily have to include a word band. It should be noted; however, that if a teacher fails to include a word bank, there is a higher chance that students will put in the wrong answer, especially if teachers do not make the missing word obvious. For example, if the cloze was “Sasha has a ____ dog,” there are many words that could fit in the box: “Sasha has a black dog,” “Sasha has a small dog,” etc.
Teachers can adjust the cloze to match their students’ needs. For example, some students may receive a cloze without a word bank or with more blanks, while another student may have pictures that go along with the cloze.
Below is an example cloze that I wrote:
A concept map is a diagram that depicts the relationships between concepts. For example, types of pets are dogs, cats, fish, etc. This can be helpful to English Language Learners because it requires minimal language and it can even contain pictures. Below is an example of a concept map:
This is another graphic organizer. Story maps are used typically in the primary grades to help students understand a story by tracking elements of the story such as characters, events, setting, etc. This can help English Language Learners because they can use pictures to depict the elements of the story. An example story map can be found below:
A data chart is a graphic organizer for reporting knowledge for researching. It works well with a KWL (What do I know? What do I want to know? What have I learned?) Students would complete the “know” and “want to know” parts of a KWL and then students would use questions from the “want to know” in order to figure out information to fill out in their data chart. This strategy works well for English Language Learners because it allows them to organize their information in an easier method of understanding.
Similar to a data chart, a t-chart organizes information into a graphic organizer for students. T-charts work well for cause and effect problems, problem/solution charts, etc. They work well for English Language Learners because, like data charts, they help organize information into a more readable, organized, and understandable form. Students can also add pictures to the chart to foster understanding. Below is an example of a t-chart:
I stayed up late.
I was tired.
I forgot to set my alarm.
I woke up late.
I woke up late.
I missed the bus.
This is a good tool for students because it allows them to research words that they do not know. This tool would work well along with an alphaboxes worksheet because it would allow the student to learn a new word and then record the information in a place they can easily access it. This tool works well for English Language Learners because it allows them to learn at their own pace and figure out words that they struggle with. A disadvantage of this tool is that students must know how to use a dictionary. Also, if students struggle with reading and/or understanding the English language, they may struggle with using a dictionary.
This is a graphic organizer that works well for students because it organizes students’ background knowledge (K for “what I already Know?”), their questions (“What do I Want to know?”), and their learning (“What have I Learned?”) in on one graphic organizer. This tool would work well in a variety of lesson plans to assess what learning has occurred. The “want to know” section of the KWL is also good for planning lessons around what students are interested in. A teacher can also look at the “know” portion of the chart and clear up any misconceptions that students may have. An example KWL can be seen below.
Want to know
What have I learned?
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Translated Letters to Parents
Contact between parents and school is extremely important. When parents, teachers, and administrators are on the same page, students can be encouraged to succeed by all those groups of people. But sending letters home is not enough. Encouraging parents to participate in school can be difficult if a letter is only sent home in English. By sending letters home in the parent’s native language, teachers can help the parents understand and respond appropriately. When the entire school campus works to get parents involved, the school functions well. Below is an example of a letter sent home to parents to encourage them to come to school if they would like to learn English. These posters were used at the elementary school that I am currently (in my firm term) interning at and they are placed throughout the school to guide parents to the correct room.
Joining Hands Project
There was a school wide art project at the elementary school that I am volunteering at where the students made hand prints and filled out information about their culture. Depending on the grade level of the students, they would either trace their own hand or use premade hands and put information about themselves on each finger of the hand. Below are two examples. I have removed the student’s names using Microsoft Paint in order to protect their privacy.
For the pinky finger, the students wrote where they are from. Next, they wrote what language they speak on the ring finger. Then the students wrote their favorite food on the middle finger. The index finger contained the favorite color of the student. Finally, the thumb contained activities that the student enjoyed.
Once all of the students in a classroom completed the hand project, the teacher would take the hands to the classroom door. It was really great to see all of the hand prints around the school. This is a great project for English Language Learners because it can help them make connections to other students and see who else speaks their native language or likes the same things. These ideas can help students make friends by reducing the anxiety associated with starting up a brand new conversation and instead focusing on similar interests. For example, students who like movies can discuss which types of movies they like. This information can also be used for a classroom project in which students work together based on similar interests.