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These ESL Lesson Plans Are Encouraging and Fun for Students
Make it fun to make it memorable. That is an essential rule for teachers whose classes include learners of English as a second language. Instruction that accommodates ESL learners is good for all students.
Excellent ESL lessons are designed to introduce and reinforce learning in many engaging ways, including:
• Singing and chanting that provides meaningful repetition of information
• Presenting lots of visuals and having students drawing pictures to demonstrate understanding
• Encouraging students to aid each other through think-pair-share techniques
• Offering hands-on experiences and
• Adding meaningful movement and interaction to wake up brains and bodies.
Cross-curricular, thematic units are an efficient way to strengthen understanding of English by helping students connect learning in a number of subjects. A good example is Leslie Tretault’s butterfly unit for first and second grade on our website. Although the primary focus of Tretault’s unit plan is science, the lessons also touch on language arts, math and visual arts.
The unit opens with a teacher read-aloud and whole-group discussion of Eric Carle’s picture book about metamorphosis, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. By first or second grade, this powerfully visual and simply worded book is familiar to most primary students. Here, it anchors a unit that is visual, verbal, hands-on and social.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar helps to activate student memories of what they already know about caterpillars and butterflies. While building scientific knowledge of butterfly eating habits, the first lesson also emphasizes the primary language-arts skill of separating fact from fiction. Following the discussion, students draw pictures of foods in the story and label them “fact” or “fantasy.”
In the next lesson, which focuses on metamorphosis, Tretault begins collecting student comments about what they know and want to learn on a three-column KWL chart. At the end of the unit they will fill in the last column with a summary of what they learned. Reiteration of learning reinforces vocabulary as well as concepts for ESL students.
Tretault makes the mathematical idea and scientific fact of butterfly symmetry come alive by giving each student a blank paper butterfly folded in half. Opening their butterflies, they each paint a pattern on one wing and then press the two wings together. As students unfold their butterflies, discoveries and discussion of symmetry also unfold.
Singing and rhythmic chants are fun and effective ways to reinforce key learning in all subjects, particularly at the elementary level. Sandra Jones, a primary teacher in Pennsylvania, shares simple language arts songs on her Mrs. Jones’ Classroom website. One example is “The Short Aa Song,” sung to the tune of “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” It builds vocabulary while strengthening use of the short “a” in words such as apple, astronaut and alphabet.
Chants are reiterative poems that don’t involve music. Sarah Claborn, an elementary teacher from Texas, shares a math chant about place value at her In Grade Two website. Students use their arms and entire bodies to mimic the 10-by-10 flats, 1-by-10 longs and single cubes of base-10 blocks as they chant about hundreds, tens and ones.
Art and Affective Education
Historically, the arts have provided a voice for social change. The DoSomething.org website shares a variety of lessons focused on stopping school violence in junior and senior high.
ESL students often enjoy the universal communication of visual arts. DoSomething offers two- and three-dimensional art lessons, including one involving war-related paintings by Spanish artists Francisco de Goya and Pablo Picasso.
The art focus of the lesson concerns the artists’ use of shapes and composition. The lesson concludes with a discussion of how students can use strong diagonal lines in their own works to communicate feelings of “safety versus fear.”
Movement and Immersion
Ask ESL students to identify their favorite subject, and many will say it is physical education. Movement is relaxing and can facilitate learning by putting students at ease. PE is highly interactive, so it supports growth of social conversation skills as well as cooperation and good sportsmanship.
Students from kindergarten through sixth grade can enjoy PE teacher Ellis Cole’s multi-activity lesson called “Olympic Opening Ceremonies.” It includes curling with beanbags, racing a luge-lie course on scooters and speed skating in stocking feet on construction-paper skates. Anything that immerses ESL students with mainstream classmates and gets them all giggling deserves Olympic gold.