adapt a strategy for ESL

Click on your class activity type below to see ways to adapt for your ESL/ELL students:

Introducing new vocabulary or terms

Giving weekly quizzes

Asking students to do seatwork in class

Presenting a lesson with cultural components

Teaching a lesson in current events

Giving students one idiomatic or slang expression to learn per day

Playing games and using puzzles

Recalling information

Spelling tests

Having students read literature

Teaching a lesson that is dependent on prior knowledge

Requiring students to do research

Having students use dictionaries

Using movies in class

Having the students do free writing or journaling

Reviewing

Asking students if they have questions

Oral recitations

Determining student progress by monitoring their in-class responses

If you plan to teach
using this type of activity:

Adapt for your ESL/ELL students by:

Introducing new vocabulary or terms as you show diagrams or examples in a traditional “lecture” or teacher-centered format

Providing a copy of your teaching notes, especially the terms, in advance.

  • If you prepare materials on the computer, expand your notes to leave space for them to add their own notes. You can delete information that is strictly for your teaching use, such as materials lists, question prompts, etc. 
  • The same materials would possibly help your Learning Support students, if you have any.
  • Be SURE to do a SAVE AS and rename the file as "Adapted Student notes for..." or you will be very angry with yourself! Keep the file for future years.
  • Consider offering a graphic organizer version of the notes. Create one using one of these online tools and save them as part of your online account. As the year goes on, you can wean students by offering partially completed ones (remove some of the terms or definitions) before you print or share electronically. Students build notetaking skills as their language improves.

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Giving weekly quizzes to check for understanding of new terms

Show the student how to make vocabulary flash cards, online, interactive study aids, or “paper” study aids for himself/herself. Younger students may need to have these prepared for them. Perhaps have students to work in teams t0 create the study aids. Help them prep for test/quiz formats.

  • Try any of the Study Aid Creators from the TeachersFirst Edge.
  • Allow students to generate individualized lists of terms, since they may need to learn words that are already familiar to their classmates. Use a tool such as Wordsift for them to copy/paste passages of text and “pull out” the important terms to learn.
  • Generate simple lists of terms and definitions using Easy Define
  • Use LearnClick, a simple tool to create “fill in the blank” quizzes from a passage of text, both for practice and assessment of the students’ grasp of the terms. Students can create their own as a study aid.
  •  An online flash card maker like Study Shuffle or others listed at the Edge will save your flash cards for you to re-use next year.
  • Flash Card Machine will create flash cards sets that can be used online or use their printer-friendly format to print on paper. Thousands of sets are already made and shared by other teachers. You can also upload sets to mobile devices.
  • Give your students practice tests before the real ones, so they can get used to the quiz/test format. You may want to offer online quizzes using a tool such as Quipper.


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Having students read literature

Letting them hear it being read.

Using ESL support materials when reading original literature to avoid having to recreate the wheel.

  • If you use Awesome Stories , each feature article is divided into “Story Chapter Links” and highlighted vocabulary clicks to photographs and articles with more information about the word. Topics offered include history, culture, literature, disasters, and media.

Selecting literature that is on an appropriate ESL level while still discussing some of the same themes or topics. TeachersFirst’s CurriConnects lists offer ESL levels and Lexiles for books around a given theme, such as Immigrants and Immigration.

Using stories and movies or stories and TV together:

  • PBS Kids Stories offers online folktales, additional activities, related books, songs, and games that add to PBS’ Between the Lions series.
  • Drew’s Script-o-rama Movie Scripts offers scripts students can follow along with a film. Look for literature alternatives that your ELL students can “follow.”
  • Look for annotated online versions of literature, such as TeachersFirst’s Interactive Raven, complete with definitions of the more challenging words.

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Asking students to do seatwork in class

Giving limited English speakers more time to complete assignments.
Bookmarking online picture dictionaries on classroom computers for them to use:

Providing online dictionaries that use differing approaches to assisting students with vocabulary, parts of speech, pronunciation, etc.:

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Teaching a lesson that is dependent on prior knowledge

Breaking materials down into very small steps. You will know that you have reached the correct level of breakdown when you begin to see comprehension.

Being patient and NEVER ASSUMING ESL STUDENTS KNOW SOMETHING!

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Presenting a lesson with cultural components (i.e. holidays, elections, vacation spots, humor, etc.)

Examining your lesson carefully to determine what cultural facts will have to be taught to people who haven’t grown up in the US; this may include history, vocabulary, slang, sports jargon etc.
Providing extra information and review sheets for international students. See the study aid suggestions in the “weekly quizzes” section.

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Requiring students to do research and paraphrasing original materials, making attributions of sources

Explaining the concept of plagiarism clearly and with examples. Copying is sometimes viewed as quoting the words of knowledgeable people in other cultures and is not considered wrong.
See Avoiding Plagiarism and You Note it, You Quote it. (Both of these may require some assistance with the text for less able readers of English.)

Checking the Readability Test Tool before suggesting web sites for your ELL students. Remember that pages with more images will help them understand.

Offer the Lingro tool for students reading web pages so they can click for definitions of unknown words as they research.

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Having students use dictionaries or thesauri

Encouraging students to use English-English dictionaries in class, but mention they may use foreign language dictionaries at home and while preparing homework assignments. Offer visual alternatives such as Snappy Words.

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Teaching a lesson in current events

Making use of special newspapers, radio broadcasts whose simplified language and support materials are appropriate for ESL students or where material is presented visually:

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Using movies in class

Using special ESL sources that offer vocabulary support and review activities for special movie viewers:
The English Learner Movie Guides

Using movies and/or audio versions of written materials allows ESL students another way to get at meaning. One possibility is using complete movie scripts.

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Giving students one idiomatic or slang expression to learn per day

Using online resources that explain idiomatic language in terms ESL students can understand:

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Having the students do free writing or journaling

Reading ESL students' journals and responding to their content without correcting grammar errors.  Students will rapidly improve the quantity and quality of their writing and eventually self-correct their grammar. Sticky notes are an easy way to leave a quick comment.

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Playing games and using puzzles to reinforce curriculum content

Utilizing some of the many ESL resources that include games and other fun approaches to learning. Games can help with content review, vocabulary development, spelling, etc.

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Reviewing previously taught material in an interesting manner

Using joking frequently as a way to say the same thing in a slightly different way. Students want to learn what is funny in the U.S. Humor varies from culture to culture and your ESL students want to know why certain things are funny so they can join in with the fun.
See Using Humour in the Second Language Classroom and Using Humor in the ESL Classroom for techniques and a full explanation.

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Recalling information

Using music to help recall information in any subject. Songs are easy for ESL students to remember, and they promote speaking with a more flawless accent.

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Asking students if they have questions about the material you’ve presented in class or in readings

Helping ESL students use correct question format by restating their questions to you in correct grammatical form. Have them try English Question Words.

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Determining student progress by monitoring their in-class responses

Using frequent positive reinforcement even for very small improvements and very brief comments. 

  • Students may not be used to such attention from the classroom teacher and will take a while to respond positively to it.
  • Limited English speakers may need to be prodded to answer orally and may respond much more slowly than eager American students.

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Having students do oral recitations or put on a play

Helping your limited English speakers improve their pronunciation so they will be more understandable:

 

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Giving spelling tests

Using spelling words in sentences or stories so that limited English speaking students will have a context for the words; more meaning will lead to more retention.

Have students practice by writing their words in sentences, then play their sentences out loud using a tool such as Oddcast Text to Speech to “hear” them for the spelling test.

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