Planning for English Language Learners / by Tyler Wood

Next month, I plan on teaching a fourth grade lesson on volcanoes. The dream scenario is that every student in your class is on the same exact level and learns at the same exact pace, however, we know that is a just a dream. Teaching ELL students means that this is even farther from the truth because these students come from different cultures, native languages, and levels of English proficiency among other things. I will take a look at four students from four different stages of second language acquisition.

Kenny is in the early production stage of language acquisition. He does not speak much, but when called upon he will shyly read or respond in short answers. My strategies for this student include using a lot of visuals because it is a science lesson and based heavily on content with minimal ‘new’ vocabulary. I will ask Kenny simple questions and model new phrases. I will have Kenny repeat phrases I say and then alter them slightly and repeat again, making stronger connections to the meaning of the phrase (Robertson, n.d.).

Judy is in the speech emergent stage of language acquisition. She speaks frequently and confidently, however it is clear she is not understanding new topics well and relies heavily on repeating familiar vocabulary, rather than offering insightful responses. The visuals will help Judy as well but I will elicit more from her. I will ask her to tell a story about a volcano she has seen on TV or from a movie, or about the volcanic rock in Jeju (if she has visited the island) (Robertson, n.d.).

Jill is at the beginning fluency stage and has become fairly fluent and comfortable in English. It is clear that she is understanding the content, but is unable to understand new vocabulary quickly and struggles to complete her thoughts in English without help with leading questions. Jill can help Kenny and Judy in group work and discussion together. I will ask Jill to draw conclusions about the information we are learning about and I will repeat what they say for the other students while rephrasing incorrect language to model proper usage for Jill (Robertson, n.d.).

Emma is at the intermediate fluency level and speaks often about topics not covered in class. Her vocabulary is still not complete in many topics, but has a strong grasp of proper grammar and sentence structure. I will have Emma be the presenter of the group work and share with the class what each of the students in her group discussed. Emma will receive more corrections for grammar and specifics. Emma can begin self-assessing her needs in the language. I will help Emma connect deeper with the vocabulary by explaining the roots of words when possible so she can make better guesses on future new vocabulary (Robertson, n.d.).

Below is an example of visuals for the lesson. 




Robertson, K., Ford, K. (n.d.) Language Acquisition: An Overview. Colorin Colorado. Retrieved from