Principles of Second Language Teaching: Planning, Implementing and Managing Instruction Activity

I am new to the discussion board. I am inputting my Lesson Planning activity for ESOL 04. 

This is an upcoming lesson I would like to initiate in my classroom.  Before I start I want to share that I work within the Prison system. Where I am, there is no student access to the internet, I have limited resources also. So, a lot of what I do is improvised and spontaneous. However, I do value structure and planning. The students have shared with me some of their difficulties outside prison when it comes to not knowing how to speak, read, or write English. I use their input to help me set up classroom lessons and goals. One difficulty shared with me involved ordering food at a restaurant. Many ESL students want to order a hamburger, but don't understand specific vocabulary associated with the process of ordering it the way they want it. For example: The waitstaff asks "may I take your order?" Student replies "I want hamburger." Waitstaff asks "how would you like your hamburger?" The student at this point doesn't understand what is being asked. Another example is when ordering eggs. Student doesn't understand the vocabulary of over easy, sunnyside up, scrambled, etc. So the goal of this lesson is for the students to learn the vocabulary, how to read a menu, and how to make an order with the waitstaff. 

Title of lesson plan:  Going to a Restaurant

Level of learners: Multi-level, Majority of class speak English well but struggle with vocabulary comprehension. 

Real-life contexts that learners will encounter: Going to English speaking restaurants students encounter difficulties in verbal and written communication between waitstaff and themselves. Reading the menu and understanding certain words related to how food is prepared is difficult. 

Activities used to encourage interaction: Review on class board the vocabulary associated with ordering food and restaurants. Role-play, have one student play the role of the waitstaff and another play the role as the customer. Model the activity first with one of the higher-level students. 

Integrating all four skills: Reading: Introduce keywords, vocabulary used in verbal communication and printed materials; Writing: Role play the waitstaff practicing writing the order from role play customer using a cloze activity; Listening: Role play listening to questions and answers during the activity; Speaking: using the proper vocabulary to ask and answer questions associated with making a food order at a restaurant. 

Lesson balance on fluency and accuracy: Using functional phrases, example Making a request "I would like to order a hamburger, please." Focusing on using keywords, vocabulary, and listening for keywords. 

Authentic materials being used: Menus from various restaurants. 

Okay, I can show videos, however, I feel that videos would not quite help with this particular lesson. I thought about setting the classroom up in a restaurant setting the best as I can. Not sure how that would work out. It is difficult for me to teach contextualized lessons with limited resources. So any ideas or suggestions will greatly be appreciated. Thank you for reading my post.  


Hello Scarlet, Thank you for sharing your lesson plan. Starting lesson planning by identifying the needs and goals of adult learners is so important. Inviting students to suggest situations where they need more English in their daily lives-- in this case both inside and outside the prison setting-- is a good starting place. Another important aspect of lesson planning is determining learners' levels in listening, speaking, reading and writing. Some learners who speak English quite well have had limited formal schooling in their primary language. This could very well be the case for the students in your class, so learning to read and write in English may be an important goal for them.

Role play is a wonderful strategy for enhancing listening and speaking skills. Seeking to integrate language activities that engage students in listening, speaking, reading and writing is a useful guidepost when planning lessons.

Members, Scarlet has asked for ideas for how to contextualize her lessons with limited resources. What suggestions can you offer?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Hi Scarlett-- I am always in awe of teachers working in the prison environment with unbelievable materials constraints!!  This is an amazing undertaking.  

I wanted to share a game I created for much the same purpose-- I was working with a group of mostly Mexican young men who were working in the balsam forests of north eastern Maine-- doing what is known as "tipping"-- breaking off the ends of balsam tree branches for "brush"-- the raw material used to create balsam wreaths.  This is a big industry in our county and this group of workers was imported on special work visas explicitly for this work.   They lived in a barracks far from civilization, as it were, and their crew boss was very frustrated because he did the runs for fast food when the workers desired it (they had a Mexican family hired especially to cook for them, but some wanted fast food anyway...).  They would say" Hamburger" and he would order stuff at Burger King ( I was what was available in the next big town...)  but then the guys wouldn't like it because the burgers had pickles or catsup or stuff they didn't  like.   So I and two colleagues were asked to do English lessons to help with this ordering difficulty.  Just as you noted, they had trouble with all the ways we order eggs and potatoes at breakfast, too.   So I created a Go Fish deck to address the issue. (I wish I could post a picture here-- but I don't see that option).  Go Fish is a game in which players collect sets of four cards in a category.  The cards can be different (e.g. the category is bread-- the cards can be baguette, rolls, sliced whole wheat bread, hamburger buns), or as for this case, they can be four identical cards of the same name.  This latter version provides much more intense practice with names of things.   The players must ask each other, "Do you have a _____?"  If the player being asked does have that card, he or she says "yes, I do" and hands it to the one who asked.   If the player does NOT have the card asked for, she says, "No, I don't, Go Fish," and the player who asked takes a card from the pile.  Each player starts with 5 cards and the deck should have at least 8 to 20 sets for a good game. There should be no more than 4 players so they don't have to wait so long for a turn-- more English is practiced.    When a set of four is obtained, the player lays it on the table.  The goal in traditional Go Fish is to have no more cards, but typically in games with English learners, they prefer to play until all the cards are used.  You can adjust the number of sets to accumulate to fit the time available.  

In the deck I created with pictures downloaded from Google Images, I had "plain hamburger"  "Cheeseburger," bacon burger, (I did not use the names of burgers unique to a chain brand such as "Big Mac"  --but I could have.) I also added cheeseburger with fries, cheeseburger with no pickle, ( no tomato, no onion, etc.--to account for all the tastes);  I added egg choices: sunny side up, over easy, scrambled;  and potato choices: hash browns, cottage fries,   etc.  and different size drinks,   

So this game was for learning the names of things--we practiced ordering from a menu once the names were learned.   While hesitant at first to play a game instead of having the teacher drilling them as they expected, the men soon got into the game and soon learned that they were learning.  It was a wildly successful game, if I do say so...:))   

As I have noted here on the discussion several times before, the GREAT advantages of games such as this are that students get engrossed in playing and use English naturally to do so and do not fear making mistakes,  and that they get a LOT of practice/repetition of key material (see my earlier post on references on adult language acquisition.  Kuhn, De Keyser and Birdsong each note that adults need massive input of the new language and amazing amounts of practice in order to retain it.)

This is one of many games I use to teach-- and I teach to teachers to use in the classroom.  Go Fish can be adapted in unlimited ways to content and level of difficulty.   (Check out my block at for more info on using games in teaching.)

Good luck with your lesson on ordering restaurant food.  I am sure the students will be excited to have this new skill!

Robin Lovrien 

(I don't think I will EVER master the use of this site.. SOOO difficult to type stuff in here...!!)

Hello Scarlet, Robin and all, Thanks for describing in detail how the card game, Go Fish, can be used for language learning, Robin! Wonderful! By the way, uploading a photo is possible in the CoP when starting a new thread.

I agree that games are such a great way for students to learn language. One of our favorite games is Match Mine. Each student has a set of vocabulary picture cards and a grid with 6 to 12 numbered boxes. The teacher gives a prompt such as "Put the hamburger on number 4." Students follow the prompt by placing the hamburger photo on box number 4. After each item has been called, we check to make sure the students' grids match the teacher's. Once the students understand how to play this game, we form partners or small groups with the students taking turns being the teacher and giving prompts to one another. It has never failed that even the lowest level student in the class eventually serves in the role of teacher -- with--I might add-- great success.

Like Robin says, when students are playing games, they are relaxed and learn almost without thinking. They also must use a lot of communication strategies to ensure they understand and are understood by their classmates, i.e., asking for clarification, asking the classmates to repeat, checking their comprehension, repairing breakdowns in communication when they occur.

We use the picture flashcards for lots of other activities, too!  Good luck with your class Scarlet!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Currently I have just started teaching an intermediate level ESL class.  My prior experience has been teaching two semesters in a Beginnings class and a month of teaching an upper level mixed class.  Before I became a part time teacher at the community college level, I was a special education teacher for the local school system for over 30 years.

The course reflection asked which of the following do I use in my class and how could I implement more of these strategies on a consistent basis:

  • creating learning objectives based on learners' communicative needs -  I think all of the activities have to focus on what the learners need and have to incorporate subjects of interest for the students, otherwise, they could become bored, in attentive and lose the motivation to continue learning.  I think it is very worthwhile to ask students what their goals are.  When they answer, "I want to learn English, "  I , usually, ask them why.  That's when I get the answers "I want to talk to my child's teacher"  or "I want to earn my GED."  This semester the students told me they wanted to work on pronunciation so I am doing some rhyming words to help them practice saying words and phrases correctly.

  • using authentic materials - As a former special ed teacher, I have a real understanding for the necessity of this.  I often use Grocery store ads or pick up those free automobiles for sale booklets or the Apartment Finders.   I like my students to fill  out applications to join the public library or fill out medical forms for their children's schools.

  • sequencing communicative activities that integrate skills and build from more highly structured to more open-ended tasks - Adult learners seem very afraid of making mistakes.  To insure success and an overall good experience, I love to ask open ended questions.  I will ask the students how to say something in Spanish and we come to find the actual word is different in the various Latino countries.  At the beginning of the semester I teach the basic "wh" type question words - these are used for literal comprehension or for RIGHT THERE comprehension, meaning the answer is right there in the reading.  Inferential comprehension is called THINK ABOUT IT.  That's where the open ended questions come in - the students have to think.  They have to relate their past experience and predict or identify cause and effect and very often there never is a singular answer.  Those open ended questions can lead to a student telling a story (which the teacher can write on chart paper) and the class can practice reading as a language story.

  • assessing objectives -  Giving tests is scary.  I am giving tests this semester to help the students get familiar with testing.  However, there are a number of ways to assess students' learning.  I like the 3-2-1   idea.  Students can write or verbalize  3 ideas about one subject, 2 about another and 1 about a third.  For example, say you finished a lesson on Personal Information.  Your assessment could be "Tell me 3 things you might see on an Identification Card,  2 reasons you need an Identification Card and 1 place you can go to get an Identification Card."  I would have a graphic for the activity and have those instructions written.  Also I think it is very important for students to assess themselves - how confident do they feel about tonight's learning objectives?  You can draw a continuum on a poster - depending on the level you are teaching, use smiley faces (happy, confused, sad) or move up to using words ( Super  OK    Not so Good).

  • creating opportunities for learners to get to know each other - I believe to insure continued motivation and perseverance in completing the course, students need to feel they are a part of something and belong to a group, they need to know about each other.  One of my first activities is asking them about hobbies or how many children they have.  The first day we do a "Find someone who" activity and that gets them up and walking around  the room talking to their peers and to me.  I notice the students tend to always sit with the same people so I am looking forward to using some of the grouping strategies to mix them up more frequently.

  • using classroom routines - I think the students need to know what to expect in each class.  Having routines helps me too!  Usually I start with a Grammar Minute - and I tell them it takes ME more than a minute.  It might be something on punctuation or re-ordering words to make a sensible sentence.  I might also incorporate vocabulary from a previous lesson as a review.  I like to introduce a new concept early in the class period then create an activity for students to work in groups and practice the new concept.  My class enjoys reading so we usually do that towards the end of class.

  • using topics that are relevant to students' lives and goals - I plan long term units based on themes such as Health and Safety, Shopping, Working and incorporate survival and Life skills such as counting money, telling time, banking, finding a doctor - all areas relevant to their lives.  I like to have speaking, reading, listening, writing and real life reading activities for each of my units.

  • using thoughtful grouping strategies - This is an area I need to work on.  I need to do more group activities where the students work together.  In the past I have used them and found the prep for them takes a lot of time, but, the students really like doing an activity rather than sitting and taking notes (which is the worst way for people to learn!).  I am going in to observe another teacher, who does mostly hands on activities in various types of groups, in the next 2 weeks to give me some ideas.  Right now I do a lot of pair work so the student does not feel so alone and can get the support of a peer.  I find that when I lead the class for the majority of the time, my energy gets zapped pretty quickly!

  • What methods do you use for getting to know your students and/or helping them to get to know each other? - I use the initial Find Someone Who activity, I have had students introduce another student to the class.  I like to make graphs.  I like to ask the students to look at the graphs and make statements about the graphs. I give students post it notes and they might write down the name of their country.  Then I have them arrange them on the board in columns.  From the back of the room we can see where the majority of our students are from.  Or I have done which language is their first or who speaks what language (I subbed in a class one year and there was a young guy from Brazil who spoke 4 languages!).   We may do a graph on the different sports people like or foods people in the class  like.

The second part of the Course Evaluation was to make up a Lesson Plan.   Here is my lesson plan on Asking Directions when parents go to a Parent-Teacher Conference at their child's school.

Functional phrases (Sociolinguistic Competence)  -

"Can you tell me where Room X is?"

"Excuse me, do you know where I can find Mrs. X's room?"

"I don't understand, can you repeat that?"

"You are saying I  (go down this hall, turn left and it's the third door on the left)?"

"Can you write down the name of that book?"

Language skills (Discourse Competence)

Asking directions to the classroom

Introducing self to the teacher

Asking for clarification

Asking someone to repeat information they are giving

Repeating back wheat they heard to make sure they got it right

Asking teacher to write down the name of a resource she has recommended

Cultural Competence

(Sociolinguistic Competence)

Asking for clarification

Asking for repetition

Asking for something in writing

Understanding it is OK if someone refuses (and someone else can be asked)

Understanding that some people do not want to be approached and asked to give directions


(Linguistic Competence)

Forming a question

Repeating back what someone says (possibly rephrasing)

Functions of question words (where - location, who- person, etc)


Vocabulary (Linguistic Competence)

Directional words (through, up, left, right, next to, across)

Common landmarks in a school (water fountain, gym, office, etc)

Subjects taught in the classroom (Math, Reading, Writing, Science, Social Studies, etc)


Communication Strategies (Strategic Competence)

Approach a stranger and politely ask for directions

Make eye contact

 Ask for repetition or clarification

Ask the other person to listen to them as they repeat

Understanding Directional words (left, right, down, next to, beside, etc)

The Lesson

Background-  Many of our parents are intimidated to go into a school, especially if they have had little schooling themselves.  Also if they do not feel confident in their English speaking skills they will not go up to a stranger and ask directions.

Lesson -  After a lesson on the direction words (words such as left, right, next to, up, down), I would initiate this lesson.     I would also incorporate pronunciation practice, most likely on a computer so the students feel comfortable asking for repetition as many times as they wish.  I would make up an activity where students had to write directions to find a certain item in the classroom.  One group could write the steps on sentence strips, then another group could read and follow the steps - Did they find the item?  I would also have some listening comprehension activities - perhaps 1-2 sentences the students could repeat.  Then I would incorporate a couple of different conversations for the students to practice in pairs - conversations focusing on asking a stranger for directions.  If at all possible, I might alert some of the staff in the building and send students to ask directions of them, for example, go ask the custodian how to get to a computer lab. (I may not tell the students I had already talked to the support staff).

Evaluation - Sometimes it is fun to have the students evaluate each other.  I could teach them to create a simple rubric and then "score" each other.  This only works well if everyone gets along and feels pretty comfortable in the class.  I would have the students evaluate themselves, asking them, "were you able to understand the directions?"  Could you follow the directions?  What do you think you need to work on?