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?


Hi Teresa, You are including lots of highly interactive activities in your teaching with the goal of balancing listening, speaking, reading and writing. I'm curious about the "guess that word" game. Would you be able to explain how that works?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I find it challenging to use topics that are relevant to my students lives and goals, specially when you are given pre-designed material that you ought to "finish" and advance pre-arramged objectives (I know, grammar rules are important too) but I think it would benefit all the learning process if we could add those goals to their learning. Not that we don´t try but sometimes programs and institutional objectives seem more important to our bosses.

Hello Dorcas, I agree wholeheartedly that "it would benefit all the learning process if we could add [learners'] goals to their learning." Ideally we would all do as you suggest here: make learners' goals a focus of instruction. When using a set curriculum, that can be a bit more challenging, but I think it is still possible. We want to build on the content of the textbook to connect to learners' lives in meaningful ways. I'm sure you are attempting to do just that.

Members may have some concrete suggestions and examples for how to build on the content of a textbook in relevant ways.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I like to use a "Web of Support" activity to get to know students and build classroom community. You gather your students into a circle and, one-by-one, students share about themselves, then throw a ball of yarn to someone else in the circle while holding on to a strand (thus forming a web). You could use this as an icebreaker for learning names. You could use this to find out two things that each student would like to learn by the end of the semester, or three things that each student is good at doing. At the end, I reinforce that, as the instructor, I will be there to answer their questions, and that they can also lean on each other for help and support- whether it is sharing notes, or finding out what the homework was yesterday. 

Thanks for sharing this web creation idea for building community in the classroom. It's incredibly valuable for the teacher to learn as much as possible about the students' lives. As you note, Anthony, learning about each other is also essential to create a safe and supportive learning environment.

Members may have ideas for other activities for building a supportive learning community.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

After a week or two of introducing themselves (a different topic about your life every day, for instance: First class - usually a Monday - we´d talk about our names and where we are from, 2nd class say we´d share favorite and typical meals from our places of origin, 3rd day of classes we´d talk about our families or jobs, and 4th day of classes we´d refer to out favorite hobbies and likes. On the last day of the week we´d put all the info together and have the students talk about someone else. During the 2nd week I´d focus in having them to relate with each other, that is to find things they have in common, shared likes or dislikes, that always provided a sens of community within the class) I´d move to remove name tags and try to remember everyone´s name by hearth. Also I´d try my best to put some of the info into the class content, i.a. "This week we are going to talk about pronouns. Why should we use them? Say, Rosa - who is currently not speaking to her husband - wants to communicate something during dinner. She could say: ... " and I would provide an example of it. 

Hi Dorcas, I want to affirm your use of name tags in class to help the students get to know each other.In my class, I tend to use name cards rather than name tags. Learners create a name card on the first day of class and place it on the table in front of them. In fact, we continue to display the name cards for several weeks since it takes longer for the students to learn each other's names than it takes for me to learn everyone's names. I also use a conversation grid in each class which requires learners to interview each other. The first two questions are always "What is your name?" and "How do you spell it?" I have found that even after several weeks of class, some people still need practice spelling their name, i.e., saying the names of the letters, quickly and clearly.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I also use name cards (more accurately described as name tents) instead of name tags. Students pick up their own and place it in front of them when they sign in. We have open enrollment in my multi-level class so we have new students coming in about once every couple of weeks. This helps everyone learn the names. In addition to making the greeting part of the classroom routine, each student has to spell her name while others write it on individual white boards. Great speaking, listening and writing practice at the very literacy level.


Well Susan, thank you for your comment... I think I should have to clarify that every time I taught English as a second language my students already knew each other (at least a majority) and I was the only one new to the class. That´s because almost all our students advance together in group and that´s why I did not use name tags for a long time, the challenge was bigger to me! To learn everyone´s names...


Characteristics and factors that may affect learning:

The class I am planning for is high beginning. Most of the students are Latino/a, and of Mexican origin. Length of time in the U.S. ranges from four months to more than twenty years. Several have completed the equivalent of sixth grade or higher, but have not completed high school. About a quarter completed 12th grade. Students with weaker print literacy levels tend toward auditory learning. Print literacy levels in their first language, Spanish, range from moderate to fairly strong. Their educational experiences outside of the United States were likely more lecture-based and teacher-centered, and in many cases, multiple years have elapsed since their last classroom experience. Students motivations include everyday skills such as communicating at stores and offices, improving their vocabulary, and continuing on to higher level ELA classes.

Communicative task: Talk to a customer service representative about returning or exchanging a product. Explain the reason or product defect. (Listening & Speaking)

Knowledge, skills, and language needed to talk with a customer service representative:

Functional Phrases: Polite questions- “Excuse me, is this the customer service desk?” “Pardon me, can I return this here?”  Making statements- “I’d like to return this/these _____.” Reporting defects- “There’s a stain on it.” “It doesn’t fit.” “The zipper is broken.” “It doesn’t work.”)

Language Skills: Speaking with a customer service representative in person. Listening to the customer service representative. Reading a receipt with a store’s return/exchange policy.

Cultural Knowledge: Understanding common return policies in the U.S. and ideas about acceptable conditions for returns; Using polite language appropriately

Grammar: Pronouns, singular vs. plural (this/these), antonyms (optional)

Vocabulary: Clothing, defects/problems, customer service vocabulary (refund, exchange, store credit, units of time)

Communication Strategies: Asking for help, Asking for Repetition/Clarification- “Could you repeat that, please?”

Objectives, Activities, & Evaluation

Lesson Focus: Customer Service (Returns & Exchanges)

Duration: 2 hours

Objectives: Students will be able to (SWBAT):

1. Request to return a product. (content objective)

2. Describe a defective product. (content objective)

3. Substitute a pronoun for the name of the product. (language objective)

4. Utilize “this” or “these” depending on whether the items named are singular or plural. (language objective)

Warm-Up/Review: (Reading/Speaking/Listening/Writing) Students, in pairs, sit back to back. Reviewing vocabulary introduced in a previous lesson, students take turns dictating and writing phrases related to defective products. For instance, student A reads aloud “missing button.” Student B listens closely, and writes “missin button.” Student B reads aloud “broken zipper.” Student A listens closely and writes “brokin ziper.” After dictating several phrases, students turn around, exchange dictations, and check their work.

Presentation: The teacher asks questions about a picture of a gentleman behind a customer service counter. “What do you see in the picture? What can you ask him? Etc.” After previewing a dialogue, hand out strips of paper to the class which have related phrases. Ask students to walk around the room looking for the person with the sentence which best matches their own. For example, “It’s the wrong size.” goes with “It doesn’t fit.” Review the sentence matches aloud as a class. (Reading/Listening/Speaking)

Now look at singular versus plural. At the board, substitute the appropriate pronouns for nouns, with student input. These shirts don’t fit. _____ don’t fit. This toy doesn’t work. _____ doesn’t work. Continue with examples until students demonstrate proficiency. (Reading/Speaking)

Guided Practice: Model a dialogue, then practice six versions of the dialogue by changing out the product to be returned and its corresponding pronoun. Example:

A: Pardon me, can I return this shirt here?

B: Is there something wrong with it?

A: Yes, it’s the wrong size. It doesn’t fit.

B: Did you buy it on sale?

A: Yes, I did.

B: Then I can’t give you a refund. Would you like to exchange it for a new one? Or would you like store credit to buy something else?

A: I’d like (the store credit/an exchange) please.

Communicative Practice: Step 1- In pairs, students practice the six dialogues modeled. Step 2- Each set of partners will develop a role play based on the dialogue. Encourage them to select a new product or talk about products which they use in the plural.

Assessment/Evaluation: Each pair will practice, receive teacher guidance, then perform for the group. Classmates listen, and write down the product defects that they hear. Reflect as a class on takeaways from each role play.

Learner-Centered Instruction Practices: By opening up the communicative practice to products of interest to students (those which they may use frequently, and need to return or exchange), the task better reflects the students’ lives and interests. Some support may be required for additional vocabulary, but the role plays will be more authentic in their content.

Classroom Management: To help students get to know each other, I use a web of support activity. A student says his/her name, then throws a ball of yarn to another student in the circle, holding on to a strand of the yarn. The next student repeats the first student’s name, then says his/her name, and so on. By the time the introductions are complete, a web of yarn linking students has been formed. This activity can be adapted to the topic. Each student might be asked to name 3 products that they have returned or exchanged.

There are two classroom routines which stand out for me. One is writing an agenda/checklist of objectives on the board daily. This helps students with their expectations, as well as to see what they have completed in class. The other routine, the flyswatter game, is one of my personal favorites for working on vocabulary. Students compete against each other in a game about visually identifying vocabulary words.

This lesson plan on returning products and describing their defects is relevant to my students’ lives in that it helps them to communicate at stores and offices. Other communicative needs may include talking with a doctor, and sharing information with their children’s teacher and/or school.

This lesson plan shows pair and whole class groupings. Pair groupings maximize the amount of time in which students actively practice in the second language. Depending on the goal, pairs of differing abilities may be assigned so students may help one another. With reading (especially in higher level classes), pairs or small groups with similar abilities can help promote level-appropriate and differentiated learning. Whole class activities are generally more for presentation and summary.

I had already been aware of the importance of knowing the educational level/background of my students, and this course reinforced that. Also, this course was a reminder to move from structured to more open-ended activities in order to foster more authentic communication of interest to my students. I feel I will be able to integrate more classroom management strategies/classroom routines into my teaching to be more effective in meeting my learners’ needs.

Hi Anthony, Thanks for posting your lesson plan and your reflection on the ELLU on Principles of Second Language Teaching. It's clear you are taking away some valuable learning. As you note, building in time for authentic communication is so important.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I am currently teaching one ESL Level One class and a Spanish Citizenship course. In both of my groups, I have been working hard to develop routines. My Level One class likes to have dictation practice on Thursdays. They like to review the previous material given in class within the first 30 minutes of class. They also like to do pair practice every day at least for 20 minutes. They love the game “Find Someone Who” which I try to have as much as possible. 


My Spanish Citizenship group likes to go over the 100 Civic questions at the beginning of class with me. After that, they know we have a PowerPoint Presentation where I talk about a history topic and where we have the opportunity to interact with each other. These students are used to a quiz after each presentation. They are also used to practicing in pairs the 100 Civic questions before the class ends.


When I say “I have been working hard to develop routines”, it’s because I used to like implementing new activities in class. I used to have more time to prepare for classes, and I used to go to a lot of training which always gave me a lot of ideas. Now things have changed. I don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Now, I wish I could use more authentic material in class. I also wish I could use more thoughtful grouping strategies.  

Thanks so much for sharing your reflections on the ELLU course, Maria. Time! Don't we all wish we had more of it to devote to lesson planning?! As you have discovered, routines can be a huge time saver for planning. On the other hand, the routines we use can also be authentic. It would be interesting to find out what authentic routines teachers are using in their classrooms. One routine I use every day is a conversation grid for partner interviews that includes questions related to the theme and grammar we are working on.

What are some other examples of authentic routines?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I feel very confident in the activities mentioned above when I am teaching.  I have been teaching for the past 16 years and just want to see fresh ways to approach these activities and strategies.  We have a routine each day so students know what to expect and it helps them to feel more comfortable in the class.  Our program uses materials that are made for adult ESOL learners and we have seen the students progress through the programs.  My favorite thing to do it to relate what we are learning to their own lives and make it real.  Within the class I use stick with the students names to create different groups.  

I really like this course. I liked the idea of a needs assessment. This helps with identifying the students needs and where I can put my focus.  I am also able to group students together with similar needs. I have also paired students that stronger with students that are not as strong. I also like the planning, implementing and managing instruction. Breaking my lessons into the six different areas has really helped; The functional phases, language skills, cultural knowledge, grammar, vocab and communication strategies. I was able to get some great strategies and help me be a better teacher. 

Each student will be paired with another who is on a similar learning level. Each pair will be given the name of an explorer. Using iPads, pairs will research their explorer and create a poster of visuals and information about their findings. Each pair will report to the class and teach the class about their explorer. Each pair will create review questions/puzzles about the information they presented. Teacher will include short videos on the explorers to add at the end of each pair presentation.

Lesson Plan:   Prepositions of Place

1. Identify student characteristics and factors affecting learning

My class has about ten students from five different countries.  The age range is 13-65.  They are all beginners but have varied levels of comprehension and education in native language. Some students are just visiting and others are building a life here.  Some want to get a job.  Some are caring for their children and interact regularly with teachers, doctors, other parents etc. 

I need to make sure that the less advanced students stay with the group while assuring that the high-beginners don’t get bored.  I can set varied levels of assessment based on the same subject matter.

2. Lesson Focus: Using Prepositions of Place to Describe and Inform

  • Communicative Task: Be able to ask and answer questions about where things are – starting close by (Where are my boots? )  and expanding, (Where is the grocery store)
  • Functional phrases: Be able to give more details when asking questions.  Where are my red mittens?  They are not in my pockets.
  • Language skills: Looking at pictures and maps and being able to identify objects and places and describe where they are.
  • Vocabulary: Since this is January we have been working on Winter vocabulary (weather, clothing, activities).  We incorporate this vocabulary into our lesson.  Where are my gloves?
  • Cultural Knowledge: Eventually this lesson will build into giving and getting directions.  Understanding who to ask for help/directions
  • Grammar: Review of the verb to be for singular and plural uses  Where is…?  Where are…?
  • Communication Strategies: Be able to re-state the question if the answer isn’t sufficient. 

3. Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments

A) Warm-up:

  • Review names of students and gather a bit more info about each other.
  • Review winter vocabulary from previous lesson
  • Review the verb to be (singular, plural, simple present, simple past)

B) Introduction:

  • Write “Where is my phone?” on the board.  Take out my phone and ask the class “Where is my phone?”

C) Presentation:

  • One by one introduce each preposition – in, on, under, next to….. and use my phone to give an example.
  • Ask and answer “where” questions about people, objects, pictues in the classroom.
  • Hand out an illustrated sheet of each preposition for review and future use.

D) Practice:

  • Have students ask and answer questions as a group- based on a photo of a winter scene.
  • On their own students will complete two exercises to reinforce the language and using it  in proper sentences.  Review as a class.
  • In pairs, one student will describe a room in their home while the other student draws it.  Then they will switch.  Giving each student a chance to speak and check their comprehension in flowing directions.

E) Evaluation:

  • Each pair will “present” one of their pictures to the class.
  • For homework, students will write out complete sentences to describe the picture they drew of a room in their classmates’ home.
  • From the “presentations” and homework asses how much to review and how quickly to start building on this foundation.

F) Application:

  • Students can use this language at home – Where is your homework?   Where are your sisters?
  • Further classes will focus on giving and getting directions when walking or driving.

4. Implement student-centered instruction practices

·      Include learning activities that are personally relevant to learners – places and vocabulary that apply to them

·      Provide questions and tasks that stimulate learners’ thinking beyond rote memorization – use real life situations not just pictures/maps in the text

5. Apply classroom management strategies

  • This lesson incorporates our usual classroom routines including warm-up “small talk”, review of on-going vocab list and then an introduction into the current topic.  Students are always allowed to use dictionaries or translate briefly for each other
  • Students are paired based on ability and native language and do several activities in pairs and share their results with the class.
  • Because the class is small, whole class discussions happen frequently as well.

Hi Donna, Thanks for sharing this detailed lesson plan focused on winter weather and prepositions of place. There are several things I like in your plan, including focusing on a theme -- in this case winter weather. I wish I had a nickel for every time I asked the question, "Where is my phone?" Using your phone to introduce the question and the prepositions of place is a great idea. Displaying a photo and asking students to respond to the question, "What do you see?" is quite useful, especially with a low level class.

In my own practice, I strive to do the same as you and make the content as relevant as possible to learners' personal lives. I'm convinced this makes language learning more meaningful and easier to acquire.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition


I think the idea of thoughtful grouping strategies is critical in teaching. Determining the actual criteria for grouping and being flexible to change groups for different types of learning objectives. Not all ELL students are on the "same page" in learning practices.

I agree with you, Ruth, that a teacher's decisions around grouping are important. Many times we may want to let students decide their own groups or partners. At other times, the teacher will want to determine who works together. There are certain tasks that are well-suited to partner work, while other tasks work best when students work in small groups. Sometimes we are likely to partner those who share the same language and other times we'll partner those who speak different home languages.Grouping and pairing decisions are also often influenced by the learners' levels in English. Sometimes we are likely to want homogeneous levels working together while at other times we would want heterogeneous level groups. Teachers should carefully consider each task and what is expected of learners when deciding on grouping.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I found this especially helpful in its focus on student driven learning.  To move my students in this direction, I will spend more time helping them get to know each other.  I'll also do more grouping, of various kinds.

I also found the sequencing suggestions helpful—moving from very structured forms to something more open-ended.  This will work well in my multilevel classroom.

Hi Kathleen, Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the ELLU course on Principles of Second Language Teaching. It is always a challenge to meet everyone's needs in a multilevel class, so I'm glad to hear that the course was helpful to you in considering ways to address learners' needs.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

We are focusing on basic functional language communication skills for the beginner group.  The intermediate group we are focused on reading and writing skills at a higher level. 

Using authentic materials...We had a lesson on reading a recipe for spaghetti.  I brought in spaghetti.  We discussed the ingredients.

sequencing communicative activities that integrate skills and build from more highly structured to more open-ended tasks...We started with learning names of foods, then we read a recipe, and then we ate the food that we learned about.

Assessing objectives...I use observation mostly.  I review their work for correct answers and grammar.  I listen to them read and speak.

Creating opportunities for learners to get to know each other:  They had to interview one person and get their name, address, phone and I organized it into a class book with pictures.  Also, I have them partner up and practice speaking our selection from the text in small groups.  At the end of the class we have a large group activity where everyone has to read several words that reflect upon our daily lesson.

Using classroom routines is important to maintain consistency and for students to know what is expected of them and what will be happening next.  We always start with computers while people are arriving.  Then we go to our lesson and then small groups to review it.  There is a short writing exercise for review.  We end with a large group discussion about the topics of the day and what our future goals are and how we can achieve them.

It is important to use topics that are relevant to students' lives and goals.   Our most current lesson topic was food.  They had a chance to do a "mock order" from a café selection.  We also had a lesson that introduced a recipe for making spaghetti and then I brought in spaghetti.  We discussed the ingredients.

Using thoughtful grouping strategies...  I group them according to their levels.  I basically have 2 groups:  beginning and intermediate.  I am using 2 different types of lesson plans for them.

Hi Carrie, Thanks for sharing aspects of your practice with us here on LINCS. I agree regarding the value of using routines and the importance of focusing instruction on content that is relevant to the adults we work with. You mention that you start out the class with computers. Could you share with us what programs or websites learners are using on the computer?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Yes, I would be happy to share.  For beginning students at a low literacy level I use  (it's a Spanish/English website).  It starts with correct pronunciation of the alphabet, numbers, etc, and gradually builds from there.

Another website I use is  This is for reading short stories.  The students like it because it reads stories to them in English.  There are many levels of reading texts to choose from.  We start at the beginning and build from there.

Another website for intermediate students is  The students read a short selection and have fill in the blank with the appropriate vocabulary term.  This is great for group work and for building vocabulary.

Another website is  We play jeopardy and they have to figure out the correct verb tense of the word.  It has a game board just like jeopardy and some catchy music.  It's a fun game to end the class on.

we played a game as a large group and had students line up in two rows facing each other.  One row had a slip of paper with a question on it and the other row had to answer the question.  The questions included simple personal things, for example:  Do you have a pet?  Do you have children? etc...  Then I would say, raise your hand if you have a pet.  What type of pet do you have?  Raise your hand if you have a cat.  etc...

Another game that I'm going to implement is 2 truths and a lie.  Each person has to come up with 2 truths and a lie about themselves to share with the class, and we have to figure out which one is the lie.  Sounds fun and creates community within the classroom.

Communicative task:  placing my food order

We did a lesson on ordering food from a deli café. 

1.  Factors that may affect learning:  my class is mostly from Mexico.  They are mostly low level literacy and proficiency levels.  They learn best with practice reading, writing speaking, and listening to English.

2.  Communicative task:  Placing my food order.  Functional phrases:  I want a ...sandwich.  Grammar:  I want a turkey sandwich.  Vocabulary:  turkey sandwich, ham sandwich, salami sandwich, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise.

3.  We used real sandwiches from Subway.  We pretended we were ordering a sandwich from Subway.

4.  Student Centered Learning:  Students had to label food items, interview a partner on what they like to eat, write their partner's order down, tell them their order.

5.  Apply classroom management strategies.  We used our usual routine. of grouping students by them choosing a partner to interview.  These topics are relevant to their lives because they've been to eat at fast food places..  This is a good skill for them to learn because it will help them order a sandwich from a deli.

Students had opportunities to listen to orders and recognized the vocabulary terms:  sandwich, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, ham, turkey, and salami.  Students had the opportunity to place their order to each other.  Then they had opportunities to eat what they ordered in the classroom.

This course has helped me to better plan my instruction to meet the needs of the Adult ELLs in my classroom because it made me aware of characteristics of a student centered learning.  I understand now, the importance of the students being responsible for their activity and choosing what they want to study, how, and why they want to study it.  They are active in their own learning.  They construct knowledge about the topic of discussion, while relating it to their own personal experiences and background.  They work in groups, which gives them opportunities to practice their speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills.  I will strive to make the effort to allow more meaningful experiences like these within the classroom.

I feel I would like to integrate into my teaching the following topics discussed in the course:  creating learning objectives based on learners' needs and goals (what's of particular interest tot hem), using authentic materials (real life objects), using topics that are relevant to their lives (life skills that will help them function effectively in an English world), and thoughtful grouping strategies (allowing them to choose their partner, work as a team to come up with answers, use one answer sheet per group so they work together to complete it).

I'm excited to try the vocabulary game from one of the videos:  swat the fly word.  There are two words on the board and 2 people have a fly swatter and have to swat the correct word that was just read out loud.  The first one gets the points.  That sounds like a fun large group activity.  I could use the vocabulary from our lesson on food.  I enjoyed learning all of this information, strategies, and especially watching the videos.  I am a visual learner and it was good to see the lessons being taught with the different teaching styles and techniques.  Very useful!!  Thank you!

I have used authentic materials, and topics that are relevant to my students' goals. For my activities, I have used authentic materials like restaurant take-out menus, grocery store advertisements/promotions, and pictures of weather alerts. I strive to use topics that are relevant to my students' lives and goals. I feel my focus on authentic materials helps to keep me from straying. I have provided opportunities to talk about buying food, making a doctor's appointment, providing personal information, traffic violations, and making an emergency phone call to 911.

I've heard of students fill out a partner's bio and introduce that partner to the class. I personally use flashcards created by the students, and hope to have a diagram of the seating arrangements on the board for the first few weeks, with their names on them, so students can remember each others' responses. I feel that sharing an opinion on a relevant topic opens up a discussion, thereby helping students get to know each other. An example could be sharing where they are from, or sharing family photos. I find discussions about pets and gardening particularly fruitful. You can also create a survey or graph responses about a particular topic. Like George Schooley said in his video, opening about yourself and establishing rapport is a great start, as well. 

The CAELA template Lesson plan for Beginning Low and Beginning High ESL class- Personal Information.

My students are a mixed level class of students from Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Vietnam, and Iraq. The majority of students are High Beginning, and I have several students that are low beginning. Two lower level students have had very little experience in formal education and had no exposure to English in their native country. All other students have at least a high school diploma or some college completed in their native country. 1 student is currently enrolled in a nursing course. Many students have limited access to transportation.  There is a significant difference in ability levels among the Hatian students, which could be a factor when grouping by language or culture.  For this lesson in particular, some students may not have an I.D., have access to a computer with internet, or interact with Americans on a regular basis. To address the topic of exchanging personal information, I will center my lesson on mailing a letter and/or package at a post office.

Class Level: BL/ BH  Topic: Personal Information   Class Length: 2.5 hours  Date: 07/24/18 

Lesson Objectives: BL students will be able to identify and recognize key pieces of personal information and address an envelope. 

BH students will be able to exchange/ request personal information orally and in writing, and listen for specific information, and properly address a package.

Enabling Skills: Grammar: LB. Simple present tense, asking questions  HB: possessive adjectives "her, his, your". 

                         Vocabulary: LB: street address, city, state, zip code, first name, last name   HB. street address, city, state, zip code, first name, last name, phone number, area code

                         Pronunciation: stress on First, Last,  in first name Last name, short I sound in words with short I. 

Language skill proficiency Focus: LB  L S W R 

Materials and Equipment: Computer with internet access, Projector, with ID card application, Index cards with 2 kinds of each information ie; 2 different zip codes 2 area codes  2 different house address numbers, etc. 2 different fake ID cards 1 large piece of poster paper,  deck of cards with each type of personal information. Mailing forms, blank address labels, blank envelope,  and 3 packaging boxes. Picture dictionaries- Heine Picture dictionary. Basic Picture dictionary if needed, Information gap sheets. 

Warm Up- Review: TPR for classroom directions. Raise your hand, turn to/talk to your partner, spell my name, say my name, etc. Partners then turn to partners and do same. 10 min. 

Introduction: Together with students, fill out an application for I.D. card with the projector. Explain what it is, Ask students to tell you where to place give pieces of personal information like address, phone number, etc, as you write it down. Say, ok- the ID is ready. Show students a fake ID card, and go over each piece of personal information- "tHIS IS ... HIS first name is... his address is..." 10 minutes.

Presentation 1: Take an envelope and explain that the goal is to address it. Explain that there are two people involved in sending an envelope, and explain concept of sender versus recipient. Introduce 2nd ID. Address the envelope using information from both ID's. 

Guided Practice 1: HB Facilitate HB:  Roleplay:  students fill out a mailing form with the address of 2 ID's, the "postal worker" fills out address requesting personal information from each other as student provides their personal information, makes up their own, or uses information from the 2 ID's being projected. LB: TPR personal info: . Present students with 1 set of personal information index cards, and flashcard deck: have students go through the deck and point to each piece of personal information. 15 minutes

Guided Practice 2: LB: Facilitate LB: addressing an envelope: Give students second set of personal info index cards and have students address a giant poster paper to simulate an envelope. HB. Fill out an information gap, with missing personal information. Students talk to each other to complete. 15 minutes

Communicative practice: 3 small groups of 3, with mixed abilities, address a package. Explain that the package is similar to an envelope. Using information from the 2 different ID's have students create an address label by writing info down, put it on the appropriate places, and "weigh it". 20 minutes 

Evaluation: Line Ups: whole class: each student receives a piece of information from an index card. Students line up in order of an envelope, students will form 3 lines. All students will read the address, and listen to pronunciation, as I point to different people standing and ask "what is this?", as well as listening to students tell me who has each piece of information. 20 minutes (2 ADDRESSES) 


Whole class: Using the usps website zip code finder, I will have students request a zip code using a state, city, address, etc. I will listen for accuracy of the information to make sure it is consistent with what they are giving me.  15 minutes. 



Bitterlin, Gretchen, et al. Ventures Teacher's Edition Basic 2ND edition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Hargis, Toni. BBC America . 2014. Tuesday July 2018.

Heinle, Cengage Learning . The Heinle Picture Dictionary. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2005.

Molinski, Steven J. and Bill Bliss. Word By Word Basic 2nd Edition. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education, Inc, 2006.

Nails Mag. Nails Mag. 1 December 2014. Monday July 2018.

USPS. 2018. . Monday July 2018.

I found this course very informative. The support and many practice opportunities really solidified the information that was presented. The wonderful videos were also a fantastic way to integrate many aspects of the learning. I loved how many of the strategies used in the end in the final video were from the same classes and material previously observed. I had a technical glitch opening up some of the lesson plan templates or articles, but I found a way around it. The CAELA website and Teal website I found to be most helpful and the glossary was very handy to have. I am a new ESL teacher. 

Please click my link to view my lesson.

Strategies, activities, methods I use related to the following topics and areas for improvement

-creating learning objectives: I create performance based objectives for each thematic unit and share them with the students at the start of each class.

-using authentic materials; I use materials such as forms, brochures, menus, etc. from the local community to provide exposure to relevant vocabulary and grammar used in everyday conversation

-sequencing communicative activities that integrate skills and build from more highly structured to more open-ended tasks; - I would like to use the LEA technique more in my instruction.

-assessing objectives: I use both formative and summative assessments. I would like to use more formative assessments and use written journals and portfolios in the class.  

-creating opportunities for learners to get to know each other:  I use lots of icebreaker activities in the class, pair and small group work for cooperative/collaborative activities

-using classroom routines:  I try to be consistent in my lesson plans so students are familiar with the learning process.

using topics that are relevant to students' lives and goals; I do a needs assessment at the start of class and set up the course based on students' needs to be successful in their daily activities. 

-using thoughtful grouping strategies: need to improve more in this area; 

Most students have pictures of family members on their phones and on the first day we share information about ourselves and show pictures of family members and pets.

Another activity that students really like is the bio-poem. It's an easy way to share get to know one another and at the end of class, they walk away with a complete poem they can share with family and friends. 


Hi Barbara, Most learners enjoy sharing photos of friends and family, and cell phones make this so easy. I'm curious about the bio poem. How do you support learners to write their poems?

Cheers, Susan

I teach a low intermediate level.  In order for students to get to know each other, I use a Getting to Know You worksheet where it allows the student to ask the same question until he/she ultimately finds the person that has answered "yes" to the question. The student then writes the name of the individual.  Then, they move on to the next question, but this time, he/she student  must have someone else's name.  After several questions, the student would have collected/spoken to almost everyone in the class as well as obtained their names.

During a different lesson, I used a Metra train schedule for students to learn how to use  the questions:  "How long does it take to get to... from...?"  Or If you take train #302 at 8:15 a.m., "What time will you get to Downtown?"  Also, "How long does it take to get from the LaSalle station to Washington Station"  By doing this, students are using an authentic schedule to figure out which train to take and calculate the time.

I also created another lesson that involved creating a menu, an advertisement and ultimately doing a role playing presentation where students get to show how to order food and use the vocabulary that they learned.



I teach a low intermediate level.  In order for students to get to know each other, I use a Getting to Know You worksheet where it allows the student to ask the same question until he/she ultimately finds the person that has answered "yes" to the question. The student then writes the name of the individual.  Then, they move on to the next question, but this time, he/she student  must have someone else's name.  After several questions, the student would have collected/spoken to almost everyone in the class as well as obtained their names.

During a different lesson, I used a Metra train schedule for students to learn how to use  the questions:  "How long does it take to get to... from...?"  Or If you take train #302 at 8:15 a.m., "What time will you get to Downtown?"  Also, "How long does it take to get from the LaSalle station to Washington Station"  By doing this, students are using an authentic schedule to figure out which train to take and calculate the time.

I also created another lesson that involved creating a menu, an advertisement and ultimately doing a role playing presentation where students get to show how to order food and use the vocabulary that they learned.



I currently use a number of the strategies that are listed above.  My low intermediate students come from various educational backgrounds and have different learning styles.  For example, I have students that are stay at home moms who never completed high school in their country.  On the other hand, I have students who finished high school and have previously studied a second language in their native country.  There are also students who have the drive to succeed, but their motivation is lacking.  Some students come to class feeling very tired and I feel that it is important to assess their needs and use authentic materials in order for the students to feel a connection.  It is important for the topics to be relevant in their lives.  I recently covered a lesson about ordering food in a restaurant.  Students were first introduced to the vocabulary and then worked together in groups of three to come up with items on a menu, along with the prices.  Once they decided on the menu, they worked together in the computer lab to create the menu.  The second part of the assignment was to come up with an Advertisement for a Grand Opening.  Students worked together to talk about essential information that needed to be included in the Ad.  Once the advertisement was complete, students were asked to write a dialogue about ordering a meal at a restaurant.  They collaborated and came up with the proper use of vocabulary that we learned in the Unit.  They were repeatedly exposed to the vocabulary and visuals as well as videos so they could understand the material.  Once the students were ready to role play, I gathered some props and made it look as authentic as possible in the classroom (tablecloth, dishes, silverware, etc.)  Students became very engaged and seemed quite confident.  The true test was when I invited another class to come into our classroom to observe as well as participate.  I asked a couple of volunteers from the other class to pretend as if they were ordering in a real restaurant.  It was a lower level class, but the students became very interested in the activity.  In the end, the scaffolding helped make this lesson a success.

I wanted to teach my students the game of Baseball. I brought in equipment to teach them the vocabulary they would be using while learning about this sport. A plastic bat, plastic ball. a glove, bases and baseball caps for each student. After showing them several you tube videos and learning phrases we were ready to go into the gymnasium. First we practiced catching, throwing and batting the ball. It was then that I could see which students had previous knowledge and those who were new to the game of baseball. The student's demonstrating skill taught the other students.  Next we played a game. Another level class wanted to challenge us to a game so we let the students choose to play or observe.  As the ESL instructor I quickly became the facilitator and was able to let the students choose 2 captains. The captains chose students to be on their team. If a student chose not to play I asked if they would be the score keeper which they gladly participated. I loved this lesson because my student's got to know each other and got to feel like they belonged in a group. We ended our semester (last class of the year) walking over to a park and played a game of baseball. We did several group activities in the classroom. I saved newspaper and magazine articles and photographs from when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series so students could read and increse fluency when reading. Students made poster boards and presented their baseball posters to the rest of the class.I also taught them the lyrics to a song "Take me out to the ballgame."   I was surprised when one student asked if he could sing the song solo in front of the class! Talk about risk taking! It was truly rewarding to witness this student practice his English and singing skills.

Thanks for sharing your focus on baseball, Janet. Many countries have adopted this "all-American" sport, so I'm not surprised that some students already knew how to play the game and could teach others. How fun that they actually engaged in playing the game with one another and even learned the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Cheers for baseball!


Lesson: Recognizing Double Negatives


Student Characteristics:


My students are Korean immigrants. They are generally at the intermediate level.  The majority of them have at least a high school diploma but most have completed college in South Korea.  The amount of time they have spent in the U.S. is varied.  Some have been here for 10 years, others much less. This makes a difference because they have different exposures to the American culture and using English to cope with their daily activities. Most of the students are women who are staying home with their children, but a few have jobs. Those with children are interested in being able to have discussions with their children’s teachers and doctors. Those with jobs are most interested in being able to discuss what their duties are and to understand the culture in the workplace. Both are motivated to be able to use English grammar correctly. 


The Focus of the Lesson:


Sociolinguistic Competency and Cultural Knowledge- The students need to understand how the use of double negatives in their conversation may reflect on their interactions in both personal and professional situations.  Additionally, double negatives are often used in American culture to express comedy or musical expression.  Thus, understanding when double negatives are used appropriately is also important. 


Discourse and Strategic Competency (language and communication skills)- Students should be able to analyze and discuss how double negatives are used differently in American culture, and determine when and when not to use them, as well as determine how to get a clarification of another’s meaning during a conversation where a double negative is used.


Linguistic Competency (grammar and vocabulary)- Students should be able to identify what constitutes a double negative and why the use of them is mostly inappropriate.  They need to be able to articulate that using a double negative negates their intention and can be confusing in a conversation.


Lesson Plan:




  • Students will be able to identify double negatives in verbal and written sentences.
  • Students will be able to translate a double negative into appropriate grammatical structure.
  • Students will be able to translate the erroneous meaning of a double negative by translating sentences into the unintentional positive meaning.


Warm-up: Review vocabulary associated with negativity using flyswatter activity. Students are divided into groups and identify negative vocabulary spoken by the instructor. 



  • The instructor will introduce the concept of a double negative as a grammatical error that is often used in American culture. Provide multiple examples of where a DN is used most commonly in everyday life and in American songs and comedy.  

i.Example: “I ain’t got no satisfaction.” (Rolling Stones)

ii.Example: “I don’t know nothing about birthing no babies.” (Gone with the Wind)

iii.Example: That won’t do you no good.

iv.Example: I can’t find my keys nowhere.

v.Example: I didn’t see nothing.

  • Instructor has students break into groups of two and has the groups write down any examples they have heard in their everyday interactions with Americans. Are their examples of how this grammatical construction is used in the Korean language? Groups share their examples with the class as a whole. 
  • Students are given a worksheet that has examples of double negatives. For each example, the students write the sentence to express the intended meaning of the sentence correctly. Students share their work to compare their answers.
  • Have a student take one of the pieces of paper that has an incorrect sentence on it. Explain that he has to act out the correct meaning of the sentence. (For example, if the sentence is 'I don't have no money.' He would act out that he has money.) The class will have to guess what double negative he is acting out. If they guess that he has money, they would be wrong. They will have to guess that he doesn't have no money or none money. The student who guesses correctly can act out the next sentence.

Hi June, Thanks for sharing this lesson plan on teaching double negatives to Korean speakers who are learning English. It's possible that there are certain aspects of negation in Korean that may be interfering with understanding negation in English, so it's useful that you are engaging learners in comparing the two languages. From all the examples you provide, it's clear that double negation is pretty common in English.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Current Practices:

-Before I start anything in my classes, I try to get to my students as much as possible. In other words, who they are, where there from, what they like and dislike. All the activities are meant to bring close to them and build trust. Learning a second language requires to decrease as much as possible factors that would affect participation.

-Ice Breakers

-Self 20 second videos that students can do in the quiet of their rooms. If their introverted or scared this is great activity. I provide sentence starters. Send to me and then with their permission I present in class.

-Classroom routines are written and always includes a mnemonic( picture) into when and what is happening.



Hi Erika, I love the idea of 20 second intro videos. I've found that when learners record themselves, they often do a lot of re-recording until they are satisfied with the final product-- which gives them lots of practice with English. Thanks for sharing this idea.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I am currently utilizing all of these strategies in my classroom. I am a Massachusetts ELL certified teacher and obtained my masters degree in ELL, in 2004, from a prestigious college in Boston. I have been teaching since 2000, and have been an ELL educator since 2004. I have been teaching ELL adults for the past year, in Illinois, and have carried all these strategies into my (adult) classes.

I will say, without a doubt, that using these strategies allows English learners to find confidence to take risks, participate, and feel welcomed, along with seeing success. I have adult learners of varying cultures, time in this country, ages, and educational backgrounds, and all are doing well improving their English, in speaking, reading, writing, and comprehending.