Top 5 Favorite Resources for Teaching English Language Learners

If I could only use 5 resources when planning and teaching my English language learners, what would those be? Easy! These 5 are definitely ones that I would not want to do without...

1 - Graphic Organizers

This resource is #1 for a reason!  I almost always use graphic organizers to teach reading comprehension. I find them to be highly effective because they are not text heavy. Students read with a purpose, then complete an activity that supports that specific reading skill/strategy. No matter my students' level of reading or language proficiency, a simple graphic organizer is what I need to reinforce that skill or strategy!

I keep these graphic organizers on my desktop, and when I'm planning my lessons I can quickly pull up the organizers I need, then print and go!

Tip: When I print, I reduce the setting to 80% and then trim the sides. Students glue the graphic organizer into their reading notebooks which makes for a great collection of student work and visual reference of student progress and effort.

2 - Leveled Books for Guided Reading Instruction

I have been very lucky to work in schools that have had awesome book rooms full of guided reading sets. I hope that you have the same access to books in your school. Finding books on my students' levels is one thing, but finding relevant books, especially for my upper elementary beginning ELLs, is another. It's a challenge, for sure, but with a good book room I know that I can almost always find what I need.

Freebie! Guided Reading Lesson Plan Template

Don't have a stocked book room?  I also order several grade levels of the Scholastic News Magazines. (I think 10 magazines per grade level is the minimum order; that's what I get.) I mostly use grade levels 1, 2 & 3 with my ELLs. These are an awesome resource for differentiating. Since I use the magazines for reading instruction, students do not take them home. I keep the magazines organized by grade level and time of year, then I reuse the ones I love, year after year.

Reading instruction is a big part of my day, so having access to leveled reading materials is a must!

3 - KIM Strategy for Vocabulary Development

This is my favorite vocabulary building strategy because it works! And, my students enjoy doing, win!!

When I need to front load new vocabulary, or explicitly teach content vocabulary, this is my go-to strategy/activity. Whether it's during a guided reading lesson, direct vocabulary instruction, or instructing content areas this strategy is low prep AND high yield. Another win-win!  To read a post devoted to this Vocabulary Building Strategy, click HERE.

When I introduce the strategy, I start with an anchor chart. This one happens to be for math.

I also model it on the board and have them copy the example in their  notebooks. I want to make sure they understand this procedure because we will be using this strategy frequently throughout the year.

The KIM strategy can be incorporated into students' notebooks...

Math Notebook
Science Notebook
and modified to meet the needs of students. I modified the strategy for my newcomers in the photo below. They are learning basic vocabulary and are not ready for the "I" in KIM, so I have them do KMS, Key Word, Memory Clue and Sentence for now.
Monthly Themed Vocabulary for Newcomers

The strategy can also be used in a booklet format. I often use this Vocabulary Book resource when teaching a content area unit. For example, Geometry, Soil, Animal Adaptations, etc. Students complete the vocabulary book using the KIM format. It's also a good study tool prior to a unit assessment.

 Tip: Vocabulary practice using the K.I.M. Strategy also makes for a quick and easy literacy center!

4 - Words Their Way for Word Study

For ELLs, learning spelling patterns in English is important. I especially like this resource because I can differentiate it according to the needs of my students. I assess what they already know, as far as consonants, short and long vowels, word families, digraphs, etc., then systematically work through the sorts to build their knowledge of sounds and spelling patterns. A bonus with this resource is that it's another exposure to new vocabulary! Each Monday my students receive their list of words, each day of the week they have various activities to do with their words, then Friday we finish up with a quick spelling quiz.

To start, I set up their notebooks with their weekly Word Study Activities. We do this together the first week or two, so that I know that they understand what's expected.

FREEBIE - Weekly Word Study Activities

This is a word sort that my newcomers might be working on.

And this is a sort that my intermediate ELLs might be working on. After I copy the page, I'll cut the page so that they have about 15 new words per week. My advanced ELLs might have 18 to 20 words.

Once my students understand their weekly activities, these Word Study Activities become independent activities during the week while in Reader's Workshop. Students are responsible for completing the weekly work and learning their words. I set them up on Monday with their new words, then quiz them on Friday. It's up to them to do the work Tuesday through Thursday.

5 - Vocabulary Mini Office

This is a MUST have for my newcomers! When they arrive, this is the first resource I give them. It's basic vocabulary that students use everyday. The Vocabulary Mini Office is kept at their desk to use during independent work time. Whether during Writer's Workshop, Reading or Vocabulary practice, it provides them with access to everyday vocabulary.  

My newcomers love this resource and they use it often.  For my older newcomers I put the pages inside their reading folder. When they practice their writing, they can easily find the vocabulary they need.

Vocabulary Mini Office

As a teacher of English Language Learners, these are the 5 must haves for me. When I plan my lessons, these are the first resources that I grab. They make my instruction consistent, effective and meaningful. Yes, there are other resources that I would not want to do without, and perhaps that would make for a follow up post, but if I could only have 5 resources, these would be them!

I'd love to know what your favorites are!

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  1. Thank you for sharing these! I love your blog. I am an ESOl teacher and am so glad to have found your resources. Thank you for posting and sharing!

  2. Thank you, Elizabeth, I really appreciate your kind words. From one ESOL teacher to another;)