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

Use this discussion thread to share your comments on the ELL-U course, Principles of Second Language Teaching: Planning, Implementing, and Managing Instruction. Please share your thoughts on any of the following questions, or post a general comment or feedback on the course. 
  • Reflect on your current practices. What strategies, activities, or methods are you already using related to each of the topics below? What could be added to your practice?
    • creating learning objectives based on learners' communicative needs
    • using authentic materials
    • sequencing communicative activities that integrate skills and build from more highly structured to more open-ended tasks
    • assessing objectives
    • creating opportunities for learners to get to know each other
    • using classroom routines
    • using topics that are relevant to students' lives and goals
    • using thoughtful grouping strategies
  • What methods do you use for getting to know your students and/or helping them to get to know each other?
  • Share the lesson plan, learner-centered practices, and/or classroom management strategies you developed through the culminating activity.
  • Reflect on what you learned in the course. How has the course helped you to better plan your instruction to meet the needs of the adult ELLs in your  classroom? Which of the topics discussed in the course do you feel you will be able to integrate into your teaching to be more effective in meeting the needs of your learners?


How has the content in this course helped you better plan your instruction to meet the needs of the adult ELLs in your classroom? Which of the following topics discussed in the course do you feel you will be able to integrate into your teaching to be more effective in meeting the needs of your learners?

1. It has helped by bringing focus to creating a sense of community.

2. I think I will be integrating more group work and  bonding activities.  

1. Student characteristics and factors that may affect learning.

My students are all women from Mexico and have lived in the United States from 3 - 8 years. They all have different educational backgrounds and all them are able to read.

They are in the Intermediate ESL class.

2. Lesson focus: Calling the doctors office.

3. Duration: 2 hours

3. Lesson Objectives: Students will be able to: 1. Call the doctors office to make an appointment.   2. Communicate the reason for the appointment.

Warm-up: Brain storm on what might be said when calling for an appointment.  

Introduction:  Teacher will have the vocabulary on the white board, along with a written dialogue of the Nurse and the person making the call.

Presentation: The teacher will do a role play to demonstrate about the lesson of the day. Students will listen.

Practice Activities: Students will write down on a piece of paper any body parts vocabulary they know and also illnesses, ie., flu, cold ear ache etc.

Teacher will write this on the board, then say the vocabulary.  Students will repeat the words after the teacher and solicit more words.

Bingo:  Pair work.  Matching body parts.

Application: Cloze activity. Students will fill in the blanks of a telephone conversation with a nurse.

Evaluation: Pairs will come to the front of class and role play a telephone conversation with the nurse.








Hi Jeannie:

This is a great lesson that will come in handy, over and over again.  I have a question -- do your students have cellphones?  If so, they can do a pair practice for the class by role-playing and actually calling each other.  Also, it might be helpful to have students figure out an appointment game plan.  Students (and I) often take whatever appointment time is suggested, no matter how inconvenient.  Then, spend so much energy asking for time off from work, friends to pick up kids from name it.  It helps to go into the call with some times that will work for the student and their family.  I find that it is well received by the person scheduling the appointment.  They want you to show up!

Cynthia Zafft

Health Literacy Moderator

Hi Jeannie, It's always a good idea at the start of a lesson to find out what vocabulary students already know. ESL teachers know that BINGO is a favorite activity to practice  vocabulary students have learned, especially with beginners.

Another vocabulary game that is a lot of fun is Match Mine (or what some call Picture Grid). What I love about this activity is that students work in small groups and take turns serving as the teacher. In my experience, even the lowest level students eventually feel comfortable serving in that role. Learners will also get practice with numbers, direction words and—importantly-- communication strategies.

Here are the steps:

1) Each learner receives the same set of photos and a blank grid with 9-16 boxes. The teacher will have already taught the English words for the photos, so the learners will be familiar with them. This activity is designed to give learners practice with the vocabulary they have learned.

2) First the teacher models how to do the activity with a volunteer and teaches the specific language needed for the task, e.g., “grid, box, boxes, match, check, same, different, Put the plumber on number 6.” Depending on the level of the class, you may need to review the numbers, too.

3) Emphasize the importance of communication strategies. Encourage the students to check their comprehension and ask for clarification when needed. It is critical to teach this language explicitly and give students a chance to practice, for example: “Please repeat. Did you say number 4? What did you say?”

4) Next, the teacher leads the activity with the whole class by giving prompts for each photo, for example, "Put the plumber on number 6." Learners respond by placing the correct photos in each box based on the teacher’s prompts. Lower level students can sit close to the teacher so he or she can provide extra support.

5) Students compare their grid to the teacher’s. Does it match? To get more practice speaking, the checking is best done interactively by asking learners to take turns reporting on each box either with a partner or with the whole class. To assess individuals’ listening skills, he teacher can walk around the room to observe who understands the vocabulary and who needs additional support.

6) The teacher may want to repeat the game a time or two before inviting students to work in small groups of 3 or 4, with one student serving as the teacher. Learners do the same activity with one student giving the prompts while the other group members listen and respond to the prompts. To assess the student leaders’ speaking ability and the other students’ listening comprehension and communication strategies, the teacher can walk around the room listening and providing feedback as needed. Again, to engage the learners in more speaking practice have them take turns to check their work instead of just looking at the student leader’s grid. Each student in the group can take a turn being the leader if this seems appropriate for the levels.

Comments, questions and additional ideas are welcome!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I must admit that this class has given me me an excellent insight into the planning implementing and managing instruction which should cater to the needs of my adult ELL students. I do have a group of students who come with a tower of knowledge and a wealth of information but lack the target language skills to communicate the mentioned. They wish to be employed and some want to get a college degree soon after they get a job.

I have done a topic on food but after this class , I wish to plan and implement this topic differently .The teaching -learning process will  focus on  communicative competence and also incorporate the four components of reading , writing , listening and speaking. I always include critical thinking skills and indeed incorporate grammar into my teaching of ELL. I definitely plan on using their schema which is rich and varied.

My objective will be to correlate this topic with content area such as health into this topic.

Listening / Speaking Skills: I will help them to develop language skills to name  and list fruits and vegetables that we use here.

Reading / Writing Skills . Students will read words and phrases , write them and then communicate them to the group /class

Grammar : ( subject verb agreement )

Critical Thinking Skills / Extended Activity  Visit to a grocery  store or making a fruit salad in class .

Warm Up Activity ; A game of Bingo .  ( Fruits and Vegetables)  I give them fruits, snacks and some candy .as prizes and every one gets something .

Presentation  The teacher will review the Bingo words and help students to pronounce the same .Repetition for those who may need more help.

Activity 1 Group Activity.  Matching Game . Students will be given words and pictures and they match them This will help every one to recognize and associate the word and the picture .

Activity 2 pairs . This will be a mixed pair( beginner with a low  intermediate ). Filling in a Missing Letter . Students  will help each other to complete the word/s Sample : app--- e Students read the word and may translate it into their own language . They can quiz each other .I always provide students with a vocabulary sheet which reads as : New Words    Picture      In My Language . Students share this vocabulary with the class .Students love sharing their language with others . They may say, In Arabic we say badarjan for egg plant or badarjan - eggplant  Some students may say that they don't have strawberries in their native country. This is a great teaching - learning activity.

Group 3 .They change groups . Now they will use grammar . After the teacher models the sentences , students will be given an envelope with words which they will use to form sentences and write them on their charts. Teacher and other groups will help students to read the correct grammar form.

Assignment : Categorizing words into fruits and vegetables ( make sure that these are not confusing like tomatoes )  Fruits   Vegetables    Others

                     i would introduce words that I wish to teach in the next Food topic here which may go under the 'others category .

Extended Activity ; Visit to a grocery store and introduce new words such as aisle , poultry , meats, dairy  produce   discount , sale   coupon 

I would like students to make a salad using a single word or phrases ,  Introduce vocabulary such as bowl, spatula, fork, dressing , nuts,mix, toss. etc.

I always have a schedule . As soon as students walk in, I greet them, they sign and pick up their packet which has all the activities , vocabulary and assignments. Now to this I will add " Focus Points and provide each student with a new vocabulary note book which they can refer to any time during the course of the lesson .

I will also focus on more meaningful and relevant language which should be functional .

How are they going to use this vocabulary and sentences in the real world ? I am certainly going to practice  language that is appropriate ( using manners )

I will ask students for a feed back ( did I learn something today ?  Yes, No  I don;t know ) This will be my self evaluation tool  and will help me to plan for my next lesson. It can serve as an Exit Ticket too.



Hello Genita, It's great to hear you report that " this class has given me an excellent insight into the planning implementing and managing instruction which should cater to the needs of my adult ELL students." As you note, the students in your class "come with a tower of knowledge and a wealth of information ...", which is true of all the adults in our classes. Finding ways to build upon that knowledge, as you intend to do, is a key to effective teaching.

For a unit on food, you might want to invite students to talk about the foods they typically prepare and even have them share recipes with one another.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

As an instructor of adult ELLs, I try to create learning objectives based on learns’ needs. The curriculum I use has lessons based on real life practices and topics closely related to a variety of student goals. Student input often influences lessons and classroom practices. If students express a strong interest in an area or show a great need for a particular skill, the class lesson are adapted. The curriculum used provides some great examples and resources, but I would like to incorporate more authentic materials. In addition, I try to use communicative activities that build up on skills and have students practice in groups. However, I need to work on using more thoughtful grouping strategies, so students can get the most out of these experiences. The finally thing, I would like to improve upon is creating better opportunities for students to get to know one another. This a challenge in a class with open-enrollment, where new students are starting at any time.

Hi Kasi, You've set some worthwhile goals for yourself, i.e., incorporating authentic materials and helping students get acquainted with one another. Bringing in authentic materials can be done with many topic areas, e.g., online articles, podcasts, and videos on topics of interest, medicine bottles and packages for health, food labels for nutrition and health, newspaper ads for housing, employment, shopping, etc, online job applications and other online forms, etc.

It sounds like you engage students often in interacting with one another, which helps them to get acquainted. Fostering a sense of community in the classroom can take a little time, but it can be done and it is definitely worth the effort-- even in a program where you have open enrollment. Best of luck with your class!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

1. Identify student characteristics and factors that may affect learners’ ability to effectively learn and communicate in English

Participants in this class are High Beginning ESL students. They are primary Hispanic women coming from a variety to countries: Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. They come from a varied educational backgrounds, with some holding college degrees in their countries and others have only a minimal amount of schooling. While some student have resided in the United States for over 15 years, so have only been here a few months. However, most have children of their own or grandchildren for which they are responsible. Many have identified that their reason for taking English classes was to improve their skills in order to function in their everyday life with a primary focus on participating in the children’s education.


2. Determine the primary focus of the lesson

The primary object of this lesson is to learn about the pharmacy; student will learn about communicating about medication and reading and understanding drug labels. This lesson includes activities and materials related to the four competencies needed for effective communication. Students will learn how to use “have to + verb” to ask what is required for a prescription and how to structure questions related to those requirements. In addition, student will learn health specific vocabulary. Student will improve their cultural knowledge by learning how warning label are placed on prescriptions. Student will learn common phrase used on prescription labels, such as “shake well” and “take with food”.  Student will also learn how to develop and understand text as they practice asking and responding to questions about medications and practicing common dialogue between a client and a pharmacist. Finally, since understanding is essential to good health practices, student will learn to repeat back pharmacist instructions to show understanding and ask questions related to instructions.


3. Plan lesson objectives, activities, assessments around the lesson’s focus


Health Issues and Pharmacy Lesson


English as a Second Language-Conversational English


High Beginning

Objective: ¨Daily       ¨Weekly

  • Use “have to + verb” to ask/answer questions
  • Ask “What do you have to do?” after experiencing a health problem or receiving a prescription
  • Understand common prescription labels

Warm-up Activity:

Look at the picture on page 44. Review health problems vocabulary and offer advice using “should” statements.

Review answers to previous lessons homework



Guiding Questions:


1.) How is “have to” different than “should”? When do we use each?


2.) Who has gone to the pharmacy? Have you talked with the pharmacist

Required Materials:

Ventures 2 Student Book

Ventures 2 Workbook

Health Problem Vocabulary Card

Authentic Medicine Boxes/Bottles



Guided Practice (whole class):

Have students look at the grammar chart on page 48. Read the chart and have students listen and repeat. Have students focus on the differences between the questions and statements. Explain when to use do or does and have or has. Read the questions from the chart and call on individual students to read the corresponding response. Provide each student with a health problem vocabulary card. Have the students take turns constructing statements expressing their individual health problem. Then ask the class in reference to each student “What does he/she have to do?” and have them construct responses using the examples from the grammar chart.


Instructional Methods used:

Image removed.¨Lecture/ Note Taking  

Image removed.¨Class Discussion

    ¨Grouped Work              

    ¨Learning Centers


Activity 1 (individual/pairs):

 Look at the pictures on page 48 and ask what has happened to each character. Have class discuss the pictures. Look at the example conversation and have two students read the example. Have students individually complete the activity by adding have or has to complete each conversation. Review the answers. Then have students practice reading the conversations in pairs.

Activity 2 (whole class/pairs):

Write “pharmacist” on the board. Have students share what they know about the word. Explain that pharmacist know about medicine and can tell you how to take medicine correctly. Look at page 49 and read the example warning label explaining any unfamiliar words. Have students look at the example conversation and model the dialogue for them. Have two students perform the example conversation. Then help the students construct a new dialogue using the information from one of the example warning labels. In pairs have students practice constructing a dialogue for each example warning label. Listen and observe students offering assistance when needed. After students have practiced, ask for volunteers to perform their dialogue.

Activity 3 (small groups)

Look at the useful language box on page 49. Explain that phrases like “ok,” “I understand,” and “yes, I see” can be used to show understanding, particularly when following a pharmacist instructions. Ask students to brainstorm expressions used to show when someone does not understand. Write responses on the board like “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that,” “could you repeat that,” or “pardon me.” Place students in groups of three or four. Provide each group with an authentic medicine box/bottle. Have each group read the labels and allow them to ask about any unfamiliar words. Then have them practice constructing a conversation where they ask and answer questions about the warning labels and instructions. Allow students to referrer to the previous activities for examples and encourage students to practice using phrase showing about understanding.

Instructional Technology:


Assessment for Understanding:

¨Oral Responses/ Participation 

¨Homework Check

¨Class Assignments

¨Teacher Observation


Express/act out particular health problem. Ask students “What do I have to do?” Review common warning labels on medicines and stress the importance of understanding them and the pharmacist’s instructions. Ask the students if they have any questions or anything they would like to review more.


Student Workbook pages 46-47


4. Implement learner-centered instructional practices based on adult learning theories

The topic is relevant to students’ needs and interest and is a necessary skill. The lesson also allows to students to participate according to their skill level and abilities. Students are asked to volunteer for communicative activities and are encouraged to participate and observe. In addition, authentic materials are used and students are asked to take part in realistic dialogue about those materials. This lesson encourages active learning, where students are asked to speak, listen, and write in simulated pharmacy related scenarios.


5. Apply classroom management Strategies appropriate for adult ELLs

Inviting students to share their experiences related to health, pharmacy, and prescriptions helps build a classroom community. Classroom Routines are used to help build consistency and allows students to become familiar and comfortable with my teaching style. The day’s agenda and lesson objectives are written on the board for each class session. Warm up activities are used to recycle important language and vocabulary, and each class session with a similar order of activities. Thoughtful grouping strategies are used when creating mixed ability pairs, and interaction is promoted through collaborative activities.

Hi Kasi-- this is a gorgeously developed lesson plan.  However, I have one question for you.  If your students have clearly identified their need and goal to be able to have English so they can participate in their children's education,  why is this lesson plan focusing on learning about the pharmacy?  

Years and years of qualitative research in our field has indicated that the most successful classes and lessons are those which focus firmly on whatever it is the students identify as their top priority and need.  What a good lesson you could do with this format and plugging in the vocabulary and concepts these women need to know in order to feel reasonably competent at that all-important participation in their children's school world!   One of the most common complaints leveled at immigrant families in the education world is that they do NOT participate in school meetings and events, and do not come to parent conferences and other important activities. Teachers and schools often incorrectly assume that such parents are not interested in their children's education.  You have concrete proof in the requests of your students that this is not so..  

In the town where I worked most recently in rural Maine, my  co-workers and I in the tiny non-profit in that town that assists the Spanish speaking immigrants in obtaining essential services together a parent group aimed at helping them begin to understand how American schools work and to learn how they could participate in school activities and events.  We also helped the school system understand its obligations to these parents in providing ALL information that comes from school in Spanish, including even the new math curriculum the kindergarten and first grade was trying out in one school.  Spanish speaking parents in that school had complained that though the school requested that they help their children at home with the homework the curriculum required, the parents did not know what it was and could not understand the curriculum in English.    Many of these parents had what we ESL teachers would call solid intermediate or high intermediate  English skills, but still felt very shy about asking the school in English to accommodate them, as the school indeed was required to do so.  

One of the biggest gifts we can give our students is the ability to advocate for themselves and their children in the school arena.  By explaining to the parents in parent meetings and classes what their rights were as parents and then helping them understand who to go to to register their requests about information in Spanish and other things, we were successful in assuring that our group of parents was able to effect real change in the school system and how the Spanish-speaking children were treated.  Among other things, the parents understood that legally they could bring ANYONE they wanted and trusted to the school to do the interpreting.  This was important because one teacher at one school here was culturally and linguistically VERY different from the immigrant families and often telescoped or changed their messages to their children's teachers and the school staff.   This person even denigrated the Spanish of the parents of the students in her school.  Because the parents knew they had rights, they were able to politely request to the school that that teacher no longer be the interpreter for them in school meetings. And I am delighted to say that I know for a fact that ALL information the school sends out now comes to the Spanish-speaking families in Spanish!

With these examples, I am hoping that you ARE listening to your students and creating other lessons that target what they need and want to know.   Some years ago there was a terrific presentation at an adult ed conference by a woman who had done project based learning with a group of Spanish-speaking mothers in a Colorado school district.  The women in the group identified the need to be able to speak up and be heard by the school's personnel and not to be dismissed as disinterested or unable to communicate with the staff.  I was so impressed that that group project had significantly changed hearts and minds within the school staffs about the parents' interest and desires for their children and the way the school was educating them ( or NOT educating them, as the case may be).  

One thing we know so clearly, as I mentioned earlier, is that adult learners come to an educational setting with pretty clear goals in mind.   When those goals are not addressed, they tend to leave or at least not engage very much. This is as true for ESOL learners as it is for other adult learners.   For a good look at what researchers found when they asked adult ESOL learners why they had dropped out of their VERY well intended and well-designed ESL program, see the write up by Schalge & Soga :  

Schalge, S. & Soga, K.(2008).  And then I stop coming to school: understanding absenteeism in an adult English as a Second Language Program. Adult Basic Education and LiteracyJournal, 2, (3), 151-161.

I hope you are already applying your considerable planning skills to the topic of parents communicating with schools!     

Sincerely, Robin Lovrien  





HI-- I am just going to piggy-back on Kasi's amazing lesson plan and insert an idea for teaching should and have to using games.  As many of you know, I promote the use of games and non-traditional hands-on activities for almost all teaching and learning in adult ESOL classrooms.  As a result, I am always looking at content and thinking of how it can be adapted to games and activities profitably.   Should and have to lend themselves to several activities:

I currently teach participants to use one set of matching cards to play four games (this provides the repetition and practice adult language learners need without resorting to boring repetition of the same activity over and over).   

Students can help create a deck of at least 20 matching pairs of cards --in this case there would be a situation on one card and a suggested action or solution on the other card (and it is best to use two colors of cards for this.)  Example:

Situation:  My daughter cut her thumb very badly when she was slicing bread.    Solution: She should go to the emergency room to see if she needs stitches.  

Situation:   I have a doctor's appointment on Thursday.       Solution:  I have to show my insurance card to the receptionist when I go on Thursday.  

                  My husband had a serious infection in his leg.   Solution:  He had to take antibiotics for two weeks to cure the infection in his leg! 

The situations for HAVE TO must be those with NO CHOICE, while with SHOULD, there is a choice. (It is also a GREAT leg up for students to include the past tense of Have to (had to) since many do not know that they cannot use MUST in the past tense meaning HAD TO).  (Don't, however, mix in "should have"!!     Of course, each problem can have only, one solution, so you have to be sure there are words or references to help with the match for that problem ( note that I used Thursday in the second one to limit the match to just that one and I repeated "infection in the leg" in the second one).

So with that deck, students can first (1)do a matching activity, with all cards face up to learn the matches.  Matching can be done with a partner or two other students and on a table or in a wall pocket.    

Then they can play (2) concentration (with cards lined up in rows and columns, colors separated into two groups).  Now they have to try to remember the solutions to match them.

**At this point, it might be good to have a discussion with students about why we use should for some solutions and have to or had to for others.  Why is there NO CHOICE for showing your insurance card or taking antibiotics for an infection?

Then they can play (3) what I call" Instant Bingo" --which in this case is also "indirect bingo"-- that is, players are not covering what they hear, as in traditional, direct bingo, but rather have to process something to make the match.  One color of cards is divided up among three or four players who set the cards face up in bingo grids-- columns and rows. Then players take turns reading from the other color of cards.  The player with the match asks for it and covers the matching card.   The one who covers his or her cards first wins.   (the instant part, of course, is that you do not have to make bingo sheets....:)).  The players can alternate using the problems as cards to read and the solutions as the bingo grids or vice versa-- this provides one extra round of practice.  

Then the cards can be used for (4) a board game where the problem card is read and the player must remember and cite the solution.   When this is done correctly, the player takes a turn on the game board -- I guarantee that EVERYONE wants to win, so will readily engage with this-- BUT they must KNOW the material before beginning this game.  It can not be done before the other practice games.   

You can see that this provides a LOT of practice with the target content, but never in the same way. 

One more activity at the early stages of learning should and have to  would be simple sorting-- put the terms SHOULD and HAVE TO on separate index cards.  Set them on a table, Students then sort the problems into should or have to solutions or outcomes.    

It is amazingly easy to make activities such as this and also amazing how readily students take to them and use them.  Another question on this thread is about successful grouping.  In the case of games, grouping is easy. Four interested students play the game.  When they finish with that deck, four others can play. . There is much less need for moral support from someone else who speaks your language or is from your culture....!  It is also relatively easy to mix levels with games-- though in this instance, players would need to be able to read comfortably to do the games successfully.  ANYTHING that causes students to struggle in the games (e.g. vocabulary that is unknown or reading that is too hard) will negate the learning that is intended.  This is a delicate balance that can be achieved by knowing your students and their abilities well...!


Robin Lovrien  (and a reminder that I have LOT of info on games and activities on my blog at  (or google Robins Adult ESOL  Blog)  (AND I am doing a session on games at COABE, too!!)   

I feel that I learned a lot from this course and plan on using this knowledge to improve my classroom instruction. Knowing who your students are is an important element when creating lessons and developing instructional practices. Therefore, I will try harder to identify student characteristics and individual factors that may affect a student’s learning abilities. In the past I have focused more on understanding country of origin, length of time in the U.S., English proficiency levels, and print literacy levels as important characteristics. And while these are all extremely important, after going through this course I feel I need to give an individual’s educational experiences more attention. I would also like to make a conscious effort to incorporate the Four Competencies Need for Effective Communication into my lesson plans and classroom activities. In addition, I learned about the value of using a CLT approach, and I would like use this more, along with using more authentic materials, to present language skills and vocabulary that will help students with real life communication situations they will encounter.

Lesson Plan: After a unit on the United States and its geographic regions, students will select a state and in groups of 3-5 will report on the state to the class. There will be 6 states chosen. The assessment will be to have every student in the class write down three facts they learned about each state. 

My Level 4, High Intermediate ESL class actually did this a few semesters ago. The class was a night class and consisted of students from Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Vietnam. 

Method:  Students went to the computer lab and researched their state on Wikipedia and The teacher asked them to research the state's population, largest cities, the state flower/flag/bird, along with major bodies of water there, industries, what is grown/raised there, etc., along with asking them to find famous historical places and/or people born there. The grammar that we had studied in the unit was the passive voice, so for instance, "Oranges are grown in Florida." 

Students were not technologically savvy in this class, so they showed images to the class online from sites of their choice to present their reports, along with writing facts on the white board as well as creating a color drawing of their state indicating the state capital, lakes, etc. I would like to in the future have this be PowerPoint presentations for those comfortable with them.

Each group used its most artistically creative person to create the state map. The others participated by finding the information and presenting it to the class. I'm not as detailed here in showing every part of the project, but instead emphasizing that this used the Communicative Language Approach. The teacher presented the objective by first giving a brief report of her own state as a model. Students worked together researching...reading about their state and writing down the facts about it, and then orally delivering their report to the class. The rest of the class had to listen to the presentation so that they could do some note-taking for the assessment part of the lesson.

Hello Barbara and all, Thank you, Barbara, for sharing a culminating activity that reflects principles of second language teaching as outlined in the ELLU online course. There are several aspects of this lesson I would like to comment on. First of all, project-based learning that engages learners in conducting research using the internet can be highly effective since individuals must interact with one another in meaningful ways to complete their projects. You provided a model, which is always a helpful starting point, as well as a clear outline for students to follow to complete the project. Students were able to draw upon their strengths, such as those with artistic talent doing the drawing. You also engaged students in presenting their projects to the class and had those in the audience take notes -- an essential skill in the workplace and in post-secondary education.

You indicated that students in this class were, for the most part, not savvy with computers. I've learned that it can be helpful to identify those who are experienced with technology so that those individuals can serve as coaches for those who are novices. It can be helpful to emphasize that the experienced students should not do all the work, but rather help those who are learning to use the computer. Of course, the teacher is available to provide support, too.

I'm glad to hear you found the ELLU online course to be helpful. As you note, this free, self-paced online course is very focused on the practical aspects of instruction.

For members who may be interested in this course, go to and click on the LINCS Learning Portal. You will find this course as well as four additional self-paced ELLU online courses and the three suites of ESL Pro online courses, which are all excellent and free.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


I found the first step to Planning, Implementing and Managing Instruction most enlightening. It made me more aware of the need to take all of this into consideration more. How true that even though we test our students, we still have levels within our levels. After the first week of classes, these levels all become clearer. I also gained an awareness here, after taking this course, of the importance of Thoughtful Groupings. For group activities, the students generally group themselves, wanting to work with their friends or those from their country. This semester it was most pronounced in that the three Chinese students always made sure they sat by each other so that they could work together on group activities or in pairs. It's understandable that this happens but at the same time I often wonder as a teacher if I should intercede now and then to have them get to know others from other countries, maybe pairing an Asian student with someone from another country for a particular activity. At the same time, the students need to be within their comfort levels.

I liked the Accuracy Activities part very much and realized how often I implement these already. I do a lot of grid activities as well as TPR.

Hello Barbara and all, You raise an interesting question about grouping, Barbara. It's one I've thought about recently, too. As you say, when learners are free to choose their own partners or groups, this helps them to feel comfortable. Feeling comfortable in the classroom is an essential aspect of creating a safe space to take the risks necessary to learn language. However, like you, I think being purposeful about who works together and mixing students from time to time also has distinct advantages. An important outcome can be building a sense of community in the classroom, which is also an aspect of creating that safe space. Plus, working with various partners -instead of the same partners all the time- can lead to more in depth language practice for a variety of reasons.

I'd love to hear what other teachers think about grouping. What guides your decisions about how to group students? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages for various grouping strategies?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I implement all of the above strategies. At the beginning of the semester, I conduct a needs analysis survey to discover the language needs and objectives of my students. Also, I encourage constant feedback from my students about the relevance of the material they are learning. Routines and continuity are important for me. Setting up the groups at the beginning of every class and starting the class with an informal banter about current news or local activities, followed by the homework check, are the routines that help my students get relaxed and organized at the same time. I put a lot of effort into creating a friendly, cooperative, and fun atmosphere in the classroom. My students become fast friends and keep up their relationships and networking long after they leave school.  Another strategy my students enjoy is my weekly email with the week's review and materials for extra studies over the weekend.

Hi Olena, Thanks for posting your reflections about the ELLU online course on Principles of Second Language Teaching (available in the Learning Portal on LINCS). I agree that putting in place daily routines is an essential aspect of good teaching. Incorporating meaningful routines lets students know what to expect and puts them at ease. Having routines is also a huge time saver for lesson planning-- clearly a bonus for busy teachers!

What a great idea to send students a review email each week with additional work they can do at home!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

I see that communicative learning approach is really successful since it focuses on conveying the knowledge of the content areas through a meaningful use of the target language in communicating this knowledge. I see that the different strategies and activities which teachers use in this approach such as having students work in groups and creating real life situations are so helpful since students can get the opportunities to negotiate meaning and interact among each other’s and under their teacher’s observations and directions. I like how CLTA focuses on the meaning or the content knowledge rather than getting the students stuck and distracted with the linguistic knowledge.

This approach focuses on the language function, and how students can use language in when needed in real life. I like how teachers work on language modification to assist their students’ comprehension. This approach doesn’t ignore the linguistic knowledge at all since teachers work on correcting their students’ language mistakes indirectly by applying corrective feedback techniques such as recasting, comprehension-check, or clarification request. Even students may not pay full attention to these corrections from the teacher or native speaker side, however I think that they will get used to hear the correct language forms and apply them later.

 Unlike the traditional methods (grammar translation and direct methods), this approach considers communication is the core of the teaching process. Traditional methods’ focus is on teaching language forms and rules without considering the use and function of language. While students in the traditional methods used to the drilling and form memorization, CLT emphasizes the learner's cognitive which allow the students to think about and express their views. Finally, I think teachers should learn and try implementing these approaches.

Thanks for sharing your reflections on the ELLU online course, Rihab. You are taking away a good understanding of how language is learned best through communicating for authentic purposes where, as you note, learners have "opportunities to negotiate meaning and interact among each other..." Determining what students need in their daily lives and then creating lessons that give them a variety of ways to use the language in meaningful exchanges is key. I think we teachers often underestimate how much practice learners need, so finding ways to recycle the language we are teaching is essential.  Good luck with your class, Rihab!


  1.  Student Characteristics and Factors that may affect learning

 My students came from different countries and different socioeconomic backgrounds. They all came to the classroom with one goal which is learning English to be able to communicate and interact with the American society. They are beginners and they are ready to learn about the different aspects of life.


2.    Determine Lesson Focus

 The lesson which I chose to share with you here is about food. Food is an essential part of our lives and I thought it’s really important to learn the language which they will need to use when talking about food or explaining how to make food recipes. I’ll use Oxford Picture Dictionary for this lesson.

3.    Plan lesson objectives, activities, and assessments

 Objective 1: After presenting the different kinds of fruits and vegetables, SWBAT write at least 5 sentences about fruits and vegetables. They also WBAT talk in pairs and discuss the questions on the bottom of the page, OPD.

Objective 2: After modeling how food get prepared, P. 77, OPD, SWBAT write how they prepare a recipe from their choice and share it with the class.


T will ask Ss about who likes to cook, then she will tell them that they will learn how to prepare food. Ss will open the book, p. 77. T will ask them to look at the pictures and say what they see. T will write 4 sentences with 4 steps of how she steams the vegetables while modeling and explaining. Wash the vegetables, peel, slice, and steam. Ss will work in pairs and answer the question; what is the person in picture a, b, c, etc. doing? While the partner should answer the questions.

Assessments: Each student will be asked to write how they prepare a recipe in 4-5 sentences, then read it to the class. If the time is short, then each student can read this to his/her partner while the teacher monitoring them.

Homework: write how you prepare your favorite food in four to five steps using four to five sentences

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices

After I explain the directions for my students, they should work together in pairs to follow the directions and creating a dialogue in which they will talk and express themselves. During this activity students are active learners who take responsibility for their own learning, rather than on teachers who transmit knowledge.

5. Apply classroom management strategies:

During these activities my students got to know each other more by talking about their favorite food recipes and eating habits. Food is a topics that is relevant to their lives. We used activities that promote interaction as well as using thoughtful grouping strategies.

Rihab-- this is a nicely thought out lesson plan and it sounds as if you are really learning a lot from the course.  I have a couple of questions for you:   You note that all of your students are beginners.  Do you think they can really handle all these activities if they do not yet have the English to do them?  One of my Golden Rules for teaching is never to set up students for failure but rather always to set them up for success. When we ask them to "write sentences about X"  we often set them up for failure  if we have not guaranteed that they have grammar and vocabulary to actually write those sentences.   Did you do this lesson?  Were your beginning students able to write sentences?   It could happen if you gave them sentence stems, or the beginning of the sentence to complete: " I like to eat _____   for "(meal)_______"-- a very simple example.    Otherwise they are going to be struggling to come up with even remotely correct phrases and vocabulary at the beginning level, I think.  

I did this lesson many times as a teacher, but only with students at the intermediate level or above-- often as a writing exercise for writing something with steps (i.e. a recipe).  This was within the context of an Intensive English Program for college students, so they pretty much went along with whatever the curriculum and text books told them we were studying.    However in adult ESOL, I have found it very important to pay attention to what students ACTUALLY want to learn about or needed to be able to say.   I cannot determine what English setting you are working in, but students in adult ESOL/education in the US generally have pretty urgent and specific needs when it comes to the English they want.   One research article I refer to often reminds us that even though the cooking lesson is GREAT in our eyes for learning many things, the students do not always agree.  You may want to look at this. 

Schalge, S. & Soga, K.(2008).  And then I stop coming to school: understanding absenteeism in an adult English as a Second Language Program. Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal, 2, (3), 151-161.

Good luck with your teaching!   Robin Lovrien  




Thank you for the article suggestion to keep adult learners coming back to class.  I have taught ESL to children at the elementary level for 11 years and will soon embark on the journey of teaching adults.  I realize keeping them motivated, interested, and successful all have to happen in order for them to continue with the program.  Please feel free to share more tips about teaching ESL to adults.

Thank you,

Lisa Hamid


I use many activities to help my students get to know each other. One that others might like to incorporate: Monday mornings kick off with "What did you do over the weekend?" I scaffold this throughout the year by offering a checklist initially -- all in simple present. Gradually we make it independent production of sentences, then incorporate past tense. Eventually they become quite conversant. This is a fun and anticipated routine in our class.

This course was well organized and I appreciated all of the extra materials with actual lesson plans. The videos were good, but rather long for experienced teachers in my opinion.

Hi Tricia, Thanks for sharing your warm up with our community. Asking students about their weekend activities is a great way for everyone to get to know one another. As you note, it is also an authentic way to incorporate the past tense.

Thanks for mentioning the videos in this ELLU online course. I've watched these videos of real adult ESL classrooms over and over, and I learn something new each time!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Lesson Plan for Five Steps for Planning, Implementing, and Managing Instruction:
Lesson Title: Return or exchange an item at a store.
Factors That May Affect Learning: English language proficiency levels, print literacy levels,prior educational experiences,life experiences, and learning styles.
Lesson Focus: Interpret a store return/exchange policy to return or exchange an item purchased at a store.
Lesson Activities:
Teacher will introduce objective and discuss return and exchange policies:
•    Teacher will write name of lesson on the board.
•    Teacher will show “Returning Purchased Items” video (Youtube).
•    Teacher will show picture of lady returning a toaster (page 98) and discuss if anyone has ever returned or exchanged items purchased before…drawing prior knowledge.
•    Teacher will discuss students personal experience (asking , “Have you ever returned or exchanged an item?...)
Teacher will introduce lesson:
•    Teacher will write objective on the board.
•    Teacher will show & discuss picture of person returning/exchanging toaster on page 98.
•    Teacher will ask students questions about personal experience (and draw prior knowledge discussions) of returning and exchanging purchases.
Teacher will teach dialogues:
•    Teacher will read & model the conversation/dialogue listed at the top of page 98, “Learn” Section.
•    Students will listen and repeat the conversation listed at the top of page 98, “Learn” Section.
•    Teacher will read & discuss sentences/dialogues on page 98 “Practice” Part A.
•    Teacher will model, repeat and review all dialogues (and check for students understanding).
Teacher will have students practice:
•    Students will first complete activities on page 98 (“Learn” Section & Part A), as a class, with teacher’s guidance and checking for understanding.
•    Students will complete Part B in pairs; first, reading and repeating the listed dialogue at the top of page 98 (“Learn” Section) with another student.
•    Students will complete “Practice” Part A, in pairs, using “sentence strips” (teacher created) and then construct and read their own dialogues with another student.
•    Students will read & discuss paragraph on page 99 Part C out loud, as a class with teacher’s guidance (checking for comprehension).
As independent practice, teacher will ask students to report back to the class if they returned or exchanged an item.
Assessment: Quiz

After completing this course I have focused more on student grouping strategies; student lead activities, especially cooperative learning - students teaching and learning from each other. Also incorporating more authentic materials; especially realia.

(1) The students in my beginning-level class are all from Latin America (Mexico and Honduras). Most of them have lived here for many years, but have not invested in language learning. One has only been here for a year. Their print literacy levels are low/average. They have a high school education at best, but they write fairly well in their own language, and do not struggle with reading comprehension in their own language (neither, however, do they excel). Their English proficiency is low, and they struggle to retain new information, even in their own language. This struggle is one of the most significant factors. Others include an oxymoronic combination of high internal motivation (they’re always in class, they are worried about the new presidential regime, they are definitely committed to learning the language) and low external motivation (they’re surrounded by people who speak Spanish, so there is very little urgency or external impetus for them to learn). Finally, they are busy people—parents and employees—with little extra time or energy for language acquisition outside of class.


(2) PDF chart wouldn’t copy-paste for me.


(3) How does this lesson use contexts and themes related to the learners' real-life communicative needs or state (or other) content standards?

The lesson uses a real-life context that all students will encounter at some point (shopping in a store with no native-language support).

Does the lesson identify both language and content objectives and include activities to support attainment of these objectives?


What activities will encourage learners to interact with each other to exchange information and solve problems, in situations that resemble real-life communication?

Interaction is inherent, as the students will roll play in pairs and small groups, emulating real-life communication and helping each other with the language required to complete the task.

Does the lesson integrate all four skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)?

The students will begin by listening to a dialogue that takes place in a department store and answering comprehension questions. They will then read the dialogue to fill in the gaps. The dialogue comes with free-response questions that require writing. Then, using the dialogue as a template, the students will practice speaking (enacting various shopping scenarios).

In what ways does the lesson or unit differentiate instruction?

The students will be paired by level, allowing the more advanced students to engage on a higher level and likewise for the lower-level students.

In what ways does the lesson integrate ongoing assessment and student self-assessment?

All of my lessons incorporate ongoing assessment, as I will revisit specific issues with each student (eg, one student might be working on past tense verbs, another pronouncing “r” properly, etc.), and I check in with each of them as they engage the activity. Self-assessment takes place when the students check their listening comprehension against the reading and when they interact in their pairs.


(4) The activity is already fairly self-directed. I also encourage the students to confer with each other before asking me for information/correct answers. Transformational learning takes place in two major ways: one is through the introduction of self-confidence. First, we talk a lot about how the students are bi-lingual, which is more than many people can boast. We talk about using the phrase “English isn’t my first language” instead of “My English isn’t very good” (etc.), as a way of owning the fact that they are intelligent, respectable people who happen to have a different first language. We work on eye contact and speaking clearly. Second, via spaced repetition, retrieval practice, interleaving, and positive reinforcement, the students gradually begin to notice that the information that was once so difficult becomes second nature. We’ll look back at the weeks/months past and feel good about all we’ve accomplished, and revisit now easy material to remind ourselves that we’ve grown. I might add recording to the process, so students can listen to themselves second-hand.


(5) What activities or techniques will you use to get to know your students and help them get to know each other?

Laughter and movement are two of my favorite tools, though I don’t try to employ them immediately or I end up with the opposite of my intended effect. We gradually get to know each other, and then I begin to incorporate humorous activities or those that involve getting up on our feet and moving about. 

What classroom routines will you implement to help your students become familiar with common phrases, terms, and concepts?

Revising common phrases, etc. almost every class (without lengthy review) helps familiarize students with our most important materials. We also make flash cards, regularly quiz (low-stakes) and help each other review, and engage the same materials via different mechanisms.

What topics are relevant to your students' lives? What types of activities would help meet their communicative needs?

Students have different needs, but most of them have some needs in common (doctor/dentist visits, shopping, parent–teacher conferences, work environment, household/family terms, etc.). So we’ll use common vocabulary modules and training materials, and otherwise focus on overall grammar. I pick and choose vocabulary based on the words students need the most (but don’t know already, obviously). All my lessons are based on the last in combination with the students present needs, with minimal advance planning, so that whatever is relevant to them is what we focus on.

What grouping strategies will you use to provide opportunities to develop communicative competence through authentic communication?

I group students by level to promote level-appropriate learning, and sometimes split them up by level so they can help each other. I use small groups, full class, pairs, and individual work depending on the activity. For this particular activity, the group dynamics have already been described above.

(Reflection) I’d like to incorporate more authentic materials into my classroom routines. I also like the flyswatter activity. I feel like most of the other tactics represented in this course are already quite familiar. 

I think I would have really enjoyed this course if I hadn't had so many issues with the technology.  It was not clear at all where the links were and so the course was telling me I hadn't completed pages that I actually had completed.  Without placing the cursor over the words of the link which would then underline them, I couldn't tell what we were supposed to click on.  After finally speaking with a real person (after multiple emails got me no where) I was told that the words of the links were actually in a different color than the rest of the script. I couldn't see that without really looking for the color change.  They should have been put in bold letters or in a square or something.  Then I had trouble wth Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash, which I learned from the same person, are being more regulated now and he helped me change some setting in my computer to allow them.  I miss the old days when we could take courses face-to-face!

As an ELA 3 instructor, I find that my students are at a high enough level to benefit from authentic materials after covering a similar topic in their textbook. For example, after considering a unit on Housing, I assign them in pairs to find the most expensive and cheapest housing in the classified ads. They always find new vocabulary and new questions to discuss.



In a previous post a teacher wrote about the fact that her students appeared to be competent in their native language with regard to reading and writing but that they sometimes lacked the same level of competency when it came to communicating orally (speaking as well as understanding what was said and what they expected reply might be).  With the Educational Functioning Levels (EFLs) and the CASAS competencies clearly established, what are some strategies that can be used to build and reinforce oral communication skills?  Unlike one of the previous contributors, our learners are mostly Asian and speak many different dialects.

I teach Basic level ESL.  Most of my students are Spanish speaking with little literacy in their own language. Some students come from Asian and Arabic countries that use different writing systems.  My objective of the class is to teach the members of the family so that students can introduce their relatives. First I introduce vocabulary using my own family photos.  To check their learning, I ask them "Who is this?"  When they  seem to grasp most of the vocabulary I have them show pictures of their family (I told them to bring photos or have them on their phones) and in small groups introduce their family member to their group saying, "this is my ______".  Then later I have them asking each other who is this?  Next I have them make up their group into a family.  They give each other names and a role to play in the family.  Then I have each group in front of the class.  When the group is in front of the class each person has to introduce their new family members from their character's point of view. The child has to say , this is my mother, this is my sister, etc depending on how they made their family.

I normally have students pair with someone they haven't met before or someone they don't use to talk much.  Students are in need to interview the new classmates with sample questions I provide them.  When finished I ask students to introduce the new classmate to the entire class.  This activity had helped me in getting to know students as help students with simple communication and speaking skills.  

I attempt to design my lessons based off the communicative needs that my students have expressed to me (e.g. tasks they will need to do in daily life, sharing basic information about themselves). Due to cultural differences (Muslim men do not mix with women), I think I am pretty good about grouping so that all my students will feel comfortable; however, I still would like to find a way to involve the men instead of segregating them so much, simply because it limits their English partner resources in comparison to the other students. (This is simply because I have such a low number of male students in comparison to female.) Does anyone have any suggestions?

In the future, I would like to bring in more authentic materials such as doing in class activities on cooking or researching home repairs possibly. I am not quite sure how to do these things, but I want my class to be as helpful as possible to my students. In taking the Formative Assessment class, I recall that the unit suggested that the success of an ESL teacher can be seen in how independent the learners become. Granted, I have a low-level (very beginning class), but I would still like to see my students become even more independent. They will not, of course, have my coworker or me, outside of class time to help them.


Nicole Bowman

Personally, I usually just have students introduce themselves every single time a new student joins the classroom. Sometimes, this might be necessary and other times it might be time-wasting. By time-wasting I mean that the students who have been there longer may get bored with the process of hearing the same questions over and over. I do try to mix it up while keeping some questions consistent. (I teach lower-level students and want them to feel comfortable with telling people their name and where they are from.)

My revised lesson plan can be found here. My determination of the lesson's focus can be found here.

 The learner-centered practices I think I included could be the self-assessment of understanding and comfort with the new grammar piece. I've also made this activity a bit more structured than it previous was (it was merely a verbal game) since my students really like Bingo. Several of my students have also expressed a desire to improve their ability to use "small talk" in English, so the game caters to that as well. 

I really think that this course, as with other courses, has encouraged me to find more authentic ways to have students using language communicatively in the classroom. I love watching the videos and seeing the examples of all the ways that you can assess for fluency and accuracy. I will definitely be using some of those structures in my classroom. For example, I would like to try the flyswatter game, the one question interview, as you can see I've already used the interview grid in a modified form. Great ideas! Thank you!

  • Reflect on what you learned in the course. How has the course helped you to better plan your instruction to meet the needs of the adult ELLs in your  classroom? Which of the topics discussed in the course do you feel you will be able to integrate into your teaching to be more effective in meeting the needs of your learners?

Identify Factors that may affect Learning

I will be describing an adult ESL class which I will be teaching in a community in West Chicago (a city thirty miles west of downtown Chicago).  This community has a high population of Hispanic and Latino immigrants.  My class is comprised of mostly Mexican students and one or two students from Guatemala.  Some of the students have been here for many years and others have been here just a few months.  Many of the students are employed in manufacturing or landscaping. Others are stay at home mothers.  The educational background for my students, ranges from two years of schooling to university education in their native country.  The average length of time in school is eight years.  Several of the students lack literacy in Spanish making it considerably more difficult to learn English.  The English proficiency is level 1 per the NRS levels and based on the BEST Oral testing.   Print literacy is quite low for most of the students, possibly in both Spanish and English.  Many of the students have quite large extended families in the area and a good sense of community.  Students, particularly the males, are passionate about FIFA soccer and playing soccer on local teams.  Religious affiliation is mostly Catholic.  Goals for the students are primarily to become fluent in English and in the current political environment, some students are now feeling the urgency of passing the US citizenship test.  To somehow learn English quickly without much effort is the hope of my students.  After long days of work, family responsibilities and very little available down time, committing to study English lessons is difficult.  Living in a primarily Spanish speaking community speaking English outside of the class is not necessary and the need to learn English is not reinforced.  Finally, many of the students do not have adequate study strategies and progress is slow.  All the factors I have mentioned, need to be considered in planning a lesson.

The Lesson Focus

The lesson focus, for the first class with the students, will be personal information including:  first name, last name, country, area code, and phone number.  In addition, students will focus on the communicative task of asking others for personal information and responding to questions about personal information.   The life skills for the lesson include:  writing names, saying and writing numbers, saying and writing the date, reading a calendar, saying and writing addresses, completing school applications and other forms with personal information.  Language functions include asking for and giving personal information and asking about and answering questions about the date.


Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments

Objective:  Learn vocabulary used in personal information and use the vocabulary and sentence structures to ask questions or respond to questions.

1.  I will introduce the topic of personal information in a vocabulary PowerPoint in which images will be shown from real-life.  The PowerPoint is used to elicit prior knowledge the students have about personal information vocabulary and personal information form familiarity.  The PowerPoint “assessment” of prior knowledge will indicate which vocabulary words need to be studied in particular.  The PowerPoint also gives an opportunity to assess the ability of students to read and write the words.

2.  After practice with the PowerPoint images and single words, the students will make flashcards that can be studied outside of class easily.  In class, students will practice the words with a partner or in a small group.  In subsequent lessons, the students can match the words on their flash cards with the image in each PowerPoint slide as a means of review.  Additionally, students will be shown in which they can practice hearing, matching and spelling the vocabulary words.  As the unit on personal information continues, students will also be able to play memory games matching images to words.  An additional practice will be using, in which students select the right word for the image displayed, and practice using correct grammar and sentence structure.

3.  Once students are familiar with the vocabulary words for the topic, we will work at learning to read and understand questions on authentic forms.  Students will then complete real-to-life forms such as information on a registration form for the class, a driver’s license information, a library card form, an employment or medical form.

4.  When students feel they have mastered the vocabulary words, we will learn how to use the words in a structured statement and question form.  At first students can complete close sentences (using the correct pronouns his/her) or matching written questions and answers. Following completion exercises, students will practice writing the correct vocabulary word to complete a sentence.  Calendar review of months and numbers will also be practiced with the When …? questions. This will be followed by reading stories (short paragraphs) with personal information and attempting their own story, with the teacher’s help using their own personal information. 

5.  The most important aspect of this unit is becoming competent and confident in asking and answering questions about personal information.  With a partner or in small groups, students will play a board game I’ve developed using personal information.  I also have other games to practice the lesson conversation.

6.  The assessment primarily is about being able to have a personal information question/answer conversation with me or a fellow student.  Students will reflect on their own success at using personal information at the end of the lesson, by completing a short self-evaluation.  Students will also be given a listening test of an authentic conversation on the topic and a written test for the vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure.

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

The physical space of the class lends itself to learner-centered instruction.  The class is located in an elementary library with round tables.  Students sit around the tables in groups of four.  There will be some explicit instruction, but it will be followed by students working with a partner or with the group at the table.  The games will be with partners or in groups.  The conversation practice will be with a partner or in groups.  Students will also consider other times that personal information is used and bring such forms from their homes.  The lesson should mostly be self-directed, with my role as assisting as necessary as I move from group to group.  Because all the students are at a very low English literacy level, I will need to be more involved with the learning and hands-on than if I am with a more advanced English literacy group.  They depend on me for correct pronunciation, sentence structure, validation, and encouragement.  It is a challenge to make it really as student-centered as I would like.

5. Apply classroom management strategies.

Management strategies include:

1.  Having a sign-in sheet to record attendance and perhaps an additional question to respond to on the sign-in sheet about personal information, such as answering the question, “When is your birthday?”

2.  Students will create name tents with colored markers and will display them at their table.

3.  I sometimes use a conversation ball to toss around the classroom to different students asking them to respond to questions requiring personal information.  I will also have the students toss the ball to other classmates and ask questions and receive responses.  This ensures that the more talkative students are not the only ones monopolizing class time.  This is a great opportunity to build community.

4.  I will also play a memory game in which some students are given an image and others a word and they need to find each other in the classroom and ask questions and answer questions in response to the personal information vocabulary word involved.

5.  Using the PowerPoint for the unit allows students to continually review the vocabulary words and become more and more comfortable with them and then use them in questions and statements.



Reflecting on the strategies, methods, and activities, I already consider all the points brought up to consider.  Of course, there is always room for learning more and improving. I've appreciated reviewing the materials brought up by this course.  To help my students get to know each other better I use small group conversations, as well as activities such as "Find a Person Who..", Classmate Bingo, Jigsaw reading, ice-breakers, working on projects together, etc. 

I teach an adult ESL literacy class and a Level 1 Beginner class. For both classes it's very important to build slowly, using a variety of ways to present the same material. During the week I present new material, then on Fridays (I teach 5 days a week, 3-hour classes) we put it all together in centers. It's a bit tricky to design activities that emergent readers can do with little direction, but I've found that allowing learners time to pace their own learning and to take some ownership of how they learn really helps to build confidence while building language skills. 

To build community in the classroom, every day I hand out the name cards or ask another student to do it. Once everyone knows each other's names, I"m able to use their names when I'm teaching pronouns or other topics that refer to the students personally. They get to know each other and build trust with one another, then they're free to take more risks. I also try to encourage (once they're feeling confident in a certain skill) to lead the class in an activity. I get a new perspective from the learners' seats, and they get to feel what it's like to lead the class. 

Teach the words like and don't like, make sure ss understand meaning. Have flashcards or pictures (large enough for whole class to see at a distance). Tape the word like on one side of the room, and don't like on the other. Teacher holds up first picture: coffee. Ss who like coffee stand under 'like' sign. Hold up another picture: dogs. Ss move to like or don't like. Continue with 10 pictures. Ss get a chance to see who is like them, and once seated the teacher can lead discussion on who likes and dislikes what. 

I'd like to learn more about how to help lower-level ELLs take more initiative in the classroom. They are used to me standing up delivering content (which is appropriate at times), but I'd like to figure out how to incorporate more learner-directed classroom activities. They are more engaged when they're being challenged to produce their own language or reflect on what they've already learned with another student. 

Hi Kelly, It's good to hear that the ELLU online course was helpful. Thanks for sharing some of your teaching practices and for posing a question about ways to support more self-directed learning. Learners are generally with us for a fairly short time, so supporting them to become more and more independent, so they can effectively learn more on their own is important.

Integrating communication strategies into instruction is one way I strive toward this goal. Early on, I teach questions and phrases that individuals can use during conversational interactions, such as, Please speak slowly. Can you please repeat? How do you spell that? etc. During class, we also explore online language learning websites, especially ones that can be accessed with cell phones. Learners who have access can then use the sites when they have time at home.

Members, what are some additional ways we can support learners to be self-directed in their learning?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP


It is very important what you said. 

I have the same experience than you... I try to encourage them to practice English at home.,,, doing research in their computer if they have it..or they can go to the libraries to use one. of them. They can log in at home or when they go to outside of US.

Also, we have an English Program at school called Burlington English that it is wonderful because students can practice life skills and the four basic skills.

Encourage ELL adult students to be more independent, to communicate  in their everyday activities, to try to use English as much they can are challenges that teachers need to face.  All levels of adult students are able to be successful to work on these challenges. From illiterarate ( in their native language)   to Advanced Level.  I have a lot experiences, and I know that because I have those students in my class.  


I have been encouraging my students toward greater levels of classroom active participation by introducing learning activities that require body movements. The last time I wrote a simple sentence and some verbs such as hide, laugh ...on the board. I also wrote this simple sentence: I am ___, Students stood in a circle. I started by facing the student next to me, saying, I am violet. I like laughing, hahaha,  and you? students, each copied me saying their names and one of the verbs on the board. The next go around I turned to the student on my opposite side and said: Her name is ----. she likes.... students repeated this for another round. We had several rounds of practice, introducing each other, repeating nouns, pronouns, and verbs in action.  This practice created laughter, active participation and enhanced the learning environment. 

Have you tried using Games and Activities where small groups work as teams to play four-of-a-kind card games?  Or other ways small groups share information about themselves, demonstrate knowledge of English, do "each one teach one,"  take turns speaking so others in the group can write the content down, and then one writer reads it back, and the group work together to compare to an original teacher provided handout and correct their papers. 

So many ways to engage learners. 

Thank Elaine Kirn for these. She has written extensively on the topic.



Thanks for sharing these engaging activities for students to work together in teams, Arthur. I agree it's vital to get students working in pairs and in small groups as often as possible. 

I did a team activity in class today that is kind of a take on Jeopardy. I gave the students the answer to a previously studied question about a story we had read, and they needed to work together to help one person in the group write the question on a small white board. They took turns with the writing. I have found that asking and writing questions in English is particularly difficult. Students told me that this activity was really helpful to them, so we'll definitely do this again.

Cheers, Susan

Valeh, Thanks for sharing this highly interactive activity that also helped students to get acquainted with one another and practice using lots of English. As you note, when students laugh together, it really does help to create a positive learning environment.

Cheers, Susan

I don't have the responsibility of lesson planning as we use a packaged curriculum. However, after taking a course in Effective Teacher Training, I begin each class with a bell ringer and an ice breaker by asking a few review questions based on the work we did the day before.  I had students make name cards to set in front of them at their desks so we could get to know each other.  The first two weeks of class we divided the group into 5 of the original 13 colonies of America as we were reviewing principles of civics.  This week, I am going to do some regrouping by asking them to recall on Survivor the game show that at one point in the game, the two tribes "drop their buffs" and get redivided up in to new tribes. We are starting a unit into introduction to Medical Terminology, so I think I'll reassign the groups by healthcare occupations-nurses, dentists, xray technicians, pharmacy, EMTs. to change up things and get the students used to working with a variety of potential co workers. We play a lot of  online crossword puzzle games, matching games and cloze writing games. All of my students have expressed a desire to improve their reading and writing skills. We play circular writing games where I give each group a starter sentence then each member of the group, takes a turn using a different colored marker and writes the next sentence until the group has a well developed paragraph.  They then present their paragraph to the entire class which involved public speaking.  For reading activities, I am teaching them to complete SQRRR worksheets to organize their reading and study time. We use a lot of Venn Diagrams and KWL charts. We also use a lot of concept maps to organize our writing ideas.  The students have told me the graphic organizers are really helping them to see their ideas on paper before they even start writing or reading. We act out words and play guess that word games.