Independent Classroom Activities for Newcomers

There are certain times during the school day, particularly during Language Arts, when students are working independently to build their reading and writing skills. I often get asked, "What can my newcomers work on during independent class time?" Let me start by saying, newcomers, or beginning English learners, should always be included in classroom lessons and instruction, and the lessons and activities should always have language scaffolds in place so that even our beginners are learning and participating alongside everyone else. They should never be put on a computer just to be "doing something." With that said, let's talk about some meaningful activities our newcomers could work on independently. Here are my top suggestions for independent activities to build language with newcomers during independent class time.

Building Sight Word Knowledge with Beginning English Learners

Focusing on sight word knowledge with beginning English learners is a great way to build literacy and language skills. 

Teach Compare and Contrast with Short Films

Short films are highly effective tools when teaching comprehension skills, especially with English language learners. Most short films are wordless. This allows students to grasp the concept being taught without initially relying on their reading or listening skills. If the concept is first taught visually, THEN through language (listening, speaking, reading and writing), students can more readily apply their understanding, in this case with the skill of compare and contrast. This results in students participating in the language building activities with increased confidence. 

MORE Favorite Resources for Teaching English Learners!

When I was a brand new teacher, I thought the quality of my teaching was ultimately tied to the quality of my resources, so I spent hours searching for great materials. I believed that if I had quality resources, ones that my students enjoyed and were engaged with, then that would make me a good teacher. Well, I still believe that having quality resources is extremely important, but over the years I've also come to realize that being a good teacher is SO much more than the tools in my toolbox. Everyday has a million moving parts that need our constant attention, focus, knowledge and skills of best practice. So even though I now believe that being a good teacher is more than the quality of my teaching materials, knowing that I have a good variety of  kid tested and teacher approved resources at my fingertips allows me the time and energy to focus on other aspects of my teaching day.

Setting Language Goals with English Language Learners

Do you set academic goals with your students? What about language goals for your English learners? I compare goal setting with creating a road map. We are at point A and need to get to Point B. So, we identify and target an area of need, then systematically work towards improving that area, tracking progress along the way. For students, this "road map" provides purpose. They know WHAT they need to do AND identify specific steps for getting there. Let's look at how setting specific language goals can help get ELs to the next level in their language acquisition journey.

Modified Guided Reading for ELLs: Strategies that Support Language

Guided reading is an important component of a balanced literacy program. It is when individualized reading instruction is provided to a small group of students. The group size is typically between 4 to 6 students, and each lesson is approximately 20 minutes. The teacher meets with each group several times a week, and provides targeted instruction on reading skills and comprehension strategies.

3 Weekly ESL Activities that Do Not Require Planning Time

Let's face it, when planning weekly lessons, having a few "go-to" activities on deck can make the task of planning much easier. These are not just "fillers," but tried and true activities that are meaningful, fun and effective at building language. Here are three weekly language building activities that do NOT require planning time.