Strategic Planning for English Language Learners

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James Green

Next semester I am likely to teach a unit on dinosaurs. In learning about dinosaurs, students will learn about Earth history and how the Earth has changed over time. Objectives will be for students to develop an extensive sight word vocabulary, apply more complex phonics strategies, and being able to write competently. I will write about 4 different students that will be in my class. Each of these students is at a different stage of language acquisition.

Stage 1 – Pre-production:

Juan is in the pre-production stage of language acquisition. This is also known as the “silent period”. Juan is listening well and trying really hard, but at this stage he can’t speak English. I’m hoping for Juan to advance to Stage 2 of language acquisition after about 2 months of differentiated instruction designed to boost his language skills. I’ll have a specific lesson on dinosaurs that compares and contrasts the size of different dinosaurs. For this I will pair Juan with a capable native English-speaking classmate. This activity will be very visually based. I’ll gauge Juan’s comprehension level by having him point to pictures and act out vocabulary. I’ll be very cognizant of my speech and be sure to speak slowly and use short words in hopes of not overloading Juan. I will have this group of 2 give a very short presentation in front of class. They will compare the size of a Stegosaurus and Velociraptor. Juan will be asked to point to pictures as part of this presentation. This will help boost his confidence.

Stage 2 – Early production:

Jose is a Mexican student who has a very limited English vocabulary. His English vocabulary consists of about 1000 words. He uses short words and sentences. With Jose, I will emphasize listening well and absorbing English. Because Jose has the ability to only speak in one-or-two word phrases I will be prepared to accept one-or-two word phrases for his responses. By doing this, he will be able to expand on his vocabulary and gain confidence by using new words. Part of this new vocabulary will be learning names of 3 different kinds of dinosaurs. To modify this content for Jose, I will use a lot of pictures. Jose’s confidence will grow when he participates in whole class activities. We could have a discussion about what the dinosaurs eat. I will ask for short responses that emphasize new vocabulary.

Stage 5 – Intermediate Fluency:

Maria is a Mexican student whose English vocabulary is expanding fast. She is beginning to use more complex words and longer sentences when she explains something. Since Maria is now able to readily express opinions and analyze a problem I will help her develop a more advanced command of syntax. I’ll have Maria analyze why she thinks dinosaurs went extinct after doing reading on that topic. A focus of this will then be to give feedback that stresses vocal fluency. I will use tools such as graphic organizers and have Maria fill them in with details.

Stage 6 – Advanced Fluency:

Michael is a Filipino student who is very close to native language fluency. There are just small gaps in his fluency that should be addressed. For the dinosaur lesson I will group Michael with 2 other native speakers and have them give examples of some major physical differences between a Brontosaurus and T-Rex. To further boost Michael’s confidence I will have him talk about the different diets of the Brontosaurus and the T-Rex. Before he does this he will learn effective note-taking techniques. I will keep in mind that a big key to  an English learner at this stage is to get him or her over that last hump in regards to learning a second language.

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