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?


An icebreaker activity that I love for the first day of class is "Find Someone Who".  I create a worksheet with 10 "Find Someone Who" questions, and students mingle in order to find a student for each question.  For example, they may be asked to find someone who has more than 2 siblings.  This activity works well.  I find that students are motivated to communicate when they have this worksheet to complete.  After they finish, we review the answers together and learn some interesting facts about certain students.

Transportation Lesson

Lesson Focus

This lesson focuses on practical communication skills.  The theme is transportation. Students will learn how to give directions from one location to another.  The lesson will provide them with the vocabulary and expressions commonly used in this real-life, everyday situation.  A video and additional materials are used to practice reading and listening skills.


In this lesson, students will learn:

  • how to give directions from one location to another 
  • how to politely ask for directions
  • how to ask follow-up/clarification questions
  • how to read train timetables to determine how to get to a destination

They will also learn about transportation in India through a video and an article that covers a unique type of transportation.  These materials will provide the opportunity to learn additional vocabulary.


The class discusses the modes of transportation they use to get to class and work as well as common transportation methods in their native countries.  

Part 1:  Verbal (75 min)

  • Presentation & Discussion: Students are shown a power point presentation and are given a printout for note taking.  It covers key lesson vocabulary and grammar – prepositions of place.  Pictures that show the meaning of the words, expressions and prepositions are included in the presentation.  The instructor illustrates usage of the vocabulary and expressions while modeling the activity that students will be asked to do at the end of presentation – giving directions.
  • Practice:  Following the presentation, students are paired with a partner and asked to work together to give directions from Point A to Point B on a map.  Each group has a different map.  They are given 10 – 15 minutes to prepare a verbal presentation.  Groups then present to the class, and the teacher provides short feedback after each presentation.  i.e. we don’t use the definite article “the” with street names.

Part 2:  Reading/Comprehension/Writing (30 min)

  • Presentation:  The instructor presents the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Rail Map and explains stops, transfer points and any other important indications on the map.
  • Practice:  Each student receives a map, a schedule and a worksheet.  They are each assigned a starting point, an ending point and a desired arrival time, and they must determine a train route.  There may be more than one way to get from Point A to Point B, but they only have to choose one.  Students work independently, writing their answers on a worksheet provided.
  • Evaluation: The instructor reviews the work outside of class and returns it with notes and suggestions for improvement.  No grade is given.

Part 3: Listening/Comprehension (30 min)

  • Presentation:  This segment begins with pre-teaching 5 key vocabulary words from the 3-minute video that will be played.  The instructor explains the meaning of the words and uses them in sentences.
  • Application:  The video is played for the first time without any additional materials so that students focus on listening.  The instructor hands out a worksheet with fill-in-the-blank and true/false questions pertaining to the video. Students are given a few minutes to review the worksheet before watching the video a second time. The video is played a second and third time.
  • Evaluation:  The class reviews the questions and answers together, with students volunteering their answers aloud.  Parts of the video may be replayed to clarify in cases where students didn’t agree on answers.



As I read this course, I was reminded of the theories, strategies, and lessons from my TESOL graduate work. In addition to that, I am currently a teacher in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Using my degrees in K-12 teaching, I implement all of the parts of a communicative lesson plan. Illinois state standards are used regularly, and both language and content standards are the guides to all of our instruction in Math, Reading, Science, Social Studies, and Literacy. 

I also teach English Language Acquisition to adult learners in a college setting. We also are using standards from which we base our instruction, and the state looks for our evidence of progress in language and Math. It was very beneficial for me to review the concepts that this course outlined, and the theories and principals of it continuously rang true. 

It's good to hear that this ELLU course was a helpful review of the material you learned in your TESOL program, Linda. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your lesson plans here on LINCS. 

I appreciate the way you integrate authentic materials into your teaching, such as the CTA train schedule and a video on YouTube, as well as the way you scaffold these authentic materials so students can be successful.

Good luck with your classes!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

One strategy I learned in my teaching course long ago was to use mnemonic devices. I apply this each semester to memorize each of the students' names. I typically walk out of the first day of class having memorized all of the names. The reason behind this is to create a warm classroom climate, and to have the students feel relaxed and like it's a familiar place, beginning with the next time they walk in the door. I put meaning to their name or when they tell the class about themselves, I put it to their name. I also create a seating chart for the first night, referring to it very often. This helps to have me memorize the names. It has worked for over 25 years, with hundreds of students.

As you note, Linda, learning students' names is so important. Your method for learning names has served you well. At the beginning of a new class, I always have students create a name card, which not only helps me to learn everyone's names, but it also helps the students to learn each other's names.

Cheers, Susan

I am currently using all of the practices above. I am an Intro level instructor, and  most if not all of my students are new to the States and require repetitive routines to get them familiar with learning. Being aware of students situations and learning needs/wants, I try to be very thoughtful in grouping them with native speakers in case translation is needed. However, I also use grouping of mixed native speakers and high to low learners. I would add compassion to the list. For new instructors there is never a true training period, but if you have compassion for others and the work of helping ELLs, it definitely build moral and the comfort of students.

Prior to class semester start, we have  a document name "Getting to know you". Students complete this form at registration. The form tells a little about the student and what they would like to learn in ESOL classes. During the first class, we take the time to look at the form together. I ask general questions about English they may know, want to know or questions they have. Through out the class, I refer back to the form to see if they have accomplished a goal or still working toward it.  To get to know students names and origin, I have them write a place card with their name in print and signature, initials (which is taught) and where they are from.  I have students follow my lead in introducing themselves to the class. We place this card on each desk so that other classmates see it and get familiar. By the 3rd week, students typically know each other;'s name and where they are from.     

My current practices involve all of the above mentioned strategies and activities. I have learned through self educating and mostly being an active instructor, that my students enjoy interactive and engaging activities.  They like to be busy, so I make new ways for them to get excited.  I have created word searches and mini crossword puzzles for students to learn how to use. Over the spring break this semester, I sent a booklet home for fun and they were working through it!!  

  • What methods do you use for getting to know your students and/or helping them to get to know each other?
    • I discussed this in a previous post, but to share again, I pre-teach myself through the registration getting to know you forms and then I follow up with the students on their first night of class.  I also have them introduce their self using an example from the board (Hello, I am...). I have a tent card that they complete there name and where they are from.  They then introduce to the class and work in groups to discuss information about their country and where it it located on a map.
  • Share the lesson plan, learner-centered practices, and/or classroom management strategies you developed through the culminating activity.
    • The lesson plan included "Getting to know you" and "Welcome to ESOL" as the topics. There is the date and goals/objectives written on the board for students to copy for each class. After all students have copied them down, we review together as we read through. The tent card is used so that students can learn their classmates and identify like information to share if needed. 
  • 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?
    • the videos and material are very informative.  They helped me to reassure my confidence in being an instructor to ELLs. I always want to make sure that I have a constant teaching flow and make sure that students are comfortable with material before moving on. The lessons will help me plan and implement strategies and ideas to keep my students engaged and wanting to learn!

Hello Nicole, It's good to hear that the ELLU course on Principles of ESL Teaching was helpful to you. Ensuring learners are comfortable and confident with the lesson content is certainly an important element of teaching, so thanks for sharing that. The activities you shared for getting to know students, such as the Getting Acquainted form you are using and revisiting and the name cards, help you to set the stage for a viable community of learning. Best of luck to you with your classes!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Thanks for this course!


Getting to know each other techniques

I have used various icebreakers and techniques for students to get to know each other. At some points in writing-intensive classes, I’ll have a student interview a partner about a topic. The interviewer then writes down the interviewee’s responses and gives them back to the interviewee at the end. That way, the interviewee has some written text to get started with.

Lesson Plan

Student characteristics and goals

Class: level 3-4; 3 hours

Students have a high level of fluency in written and spoken English. Most have been in this country for quite some time.

Based on student questionnaires, the majority of students in the class want to get their GED for improved work options and/or to attend community college or other vocational programs. At the center where I teach, the GED class is the next level after ESL 3-4 and the transition from the ESL to the GED class can be challenging.

The students are from a variety of different countries and have a very wide range of educational backgrounds. The educational background can be one of the largest challenges, especially in this higher level class that incorporates a lot of critical reading and writing.

Lesson Focus: Paragraph writing

To introduce paragraph writing, we will start with simple student introductions. In order to introduce more complex writing, we will also practice combining simples sentences with conjunctions, and then look at paragraph structure.

Material: Hogue, Ann. First Steps in Academic Writing.

Objective: students are able to write a simple paragraph


Starting with activities that are based on everyday life -- experiences and opinions -- rather than with a text is especially critical for students who come with fewer years of education in their home country.

Student interviews

  • As a class, we identify questions that we might want ask fellow students. Includes a brief discussion on appropriate and inappropriate topics. We discuss follow up questions, which I model with a student.

  • Students pair up and interview each other, using the class topics and any follow up questions they are interested in finding out about. Students write out 4 - 6 sentences  and then introduce their partner to the class

Combining simple sentences

  • I present on conjunctions and the class practices with sample sentences

  • Students combine their sentences about peers into complex sentences with conjunctions

Discuss paragraph structure

  • Teacher presents on paragraph structures and the class discusses examples, identifying topic, supporting, and concluding sentences

Write a paragraph

  • As a class, we come up with an outline of a fictional student to introduce and write 4 - 6 sentences. I do a think-aloud about how to pull the information together with a topic sentence and concluding sentence.

  • Students work on writing first draft paragraphs about their peer students. I help any students who are having trouble with introductory or concluding sentences.

  • In form small groups, making sure that one of the more expert-level writers is in each group. At this stage, the group only focuses on the topic sentence and discusses whether it is clear or how it might be improved. I go around and discuss along with the groups.

  • After group work, each student shares their topic sentence. Note: in the following class, I take time to introduce peer feedback methods and then the small groups provide peer feedback on the entire paragraph.

Assessment is based on complex sentences, paragraph exercises, topic sentences, and final paragraphs.

Classroom management

Strategies in this lesson include:

  • Building community by getting to know more about each other and having students introduce each other to the group

  • Groups are formed to include one expert-level writer who can assist other students in identifying topic sentences, also giving this student deeper knowledge in this area.



Based on this course, I’ve started using questionnaires to learn more about the learners in my class, especially their goals for education, career, and life in general. This helps me to both shape the general course material and also offer more individualized feedback where possible.

Also, as a follow-up activity to the questionnaire, I ask students to come up with a plan for how they might overcome their possible obstacles. Based on these plans, one student had a conversation with a supervisor was often changing his work schedule to conflict with class. The student discussed the benefits of education to him as an employee and contributor to the small construction company, which seems to have helped with attendance. Another student came up with a backup plan for childcare when her husband wasn’t able to get home and she would have to miss class to stay with the children.

Other students’ issues were more internal, such as how shyness made them less likely to talk in class. By continuing to build a sense of community in the class through pair and small group work and supporting each student, I’m starting to see the shyer students contribute more.

Another immediately helpful takeaway from the class has been to structure the class or units on a theme. I’m currently teaching a class on the theme of the family. This gives students opportunities to bring in their prior knowledge and discuss topics that are relevant to their lives. These sorts of themes are great for creating a bridge from existing knowledge to more academic texts and to engage in research. In addition, the thematic units naturally lead to lessons based on communicative tasks.

Hello Nuria, You are so right that learners who have had limited or interrupted formal schooling have different needs than those who come with a strong education background. A thematic approach helps with this challenge.

Thanks for sharing how your approach writing instruction with this group of higher level learners. The scaffolding you provide is important. It's also great that you are supporting learners to offer peer support to one another on their writing. I've read research that shows that those who give peer feedback actually benefit more than those who receive the feedback. If you can say more about how you train students to give feedback to one another on their writing, that wold be welcome!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I found this course to be very insightful and helpful. I especially enjoyed watching the videos of the instructors in action. They used a nice variety of strategies to effectively meet the needs of their students. 

I also liked how the course emphasized the importance of the instructor taking the time to really reflect on the background and needs of the students in the classroom. 


Hello Alyssa, Thanks for mentioning how helpful the adult ESL classroom videos were to you in this course. I've watched some of these videos numerous times, and I always learn something new. As you note, finding out about learners' needs is an essential component of teaching. Good luck to you as you venture forth with your work!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I am using many strategies, depending on the student's needs.  Very individualized.  I read New York Times articles allowed together with student.  We discuss throughout the read taking notes, learning new vocabulary and searching for clarification when needed.  I help create resumes, master applications, and job search.  We share recipes from different areas of the world and talk about ingredients and math needed.  We play word games.  Walk to town and talk with store owners.  

I like to use name cards on the tables for the first day.  Second day I ask students to add to name card answering questions of how many in family, interests, occupation.  They can draw and write words for this.  Of course now the "name card" has become bigger so I take picture of students and add that to the introduction sheet and we hang that on the wall.  Third day we go around the room and introduce ourselves and explain what we had written the day before.  Of course the first and second day we had gone around the room stating our names and where we are from.  Fourth day we meet, I ask the students to pair up with someone else and then they must introduce their partner and tell the class something about their partner.  Fifth day of class we have a celebration, this is where we can walk around the room and just chat with each other.  Before we leave we must share one thing we learned about a classmate.  

The lesson plan I worked with was one that I had done and have since redone, after taking this class.  My population is two students who are working on getting their drivers licenses from America.  Both have driven in their countries of origin.  One student has been in American not even a year another for 2 years.  Both read English better than they speak.  And both can speak moderately well. 

The change I made was in how I got them to remember the vocabulary they will encounter on the written exam and during their driving test.  Before, I had them create flashcards to do on their own.  Now I have created a Jeopardy game.  They will both get a White board to write their "questions", they will need to read and speak their "questions" aloud and they will need to listen as the answers and questions are being read.  They will also be encouraged to ask questions of clarification during the game and after.  One of my students speaks very softly so she will need to speak so all can hear her.  At the end of the class they will be ask to write an Exit Slip providing any tangles they still have.  I will be assessing throughout the Jeopardy game noticing which words cause the most trouble and where students' strengths lie. 

The biggest plus I gleaned from the course is to remember, to make sure all lessons have reading, writing, speaking and listening parts.  I am sure I do this more than I give myself credit for, but being aware of including them is important.   

Currently, I am using all of these strategies. I, however, feel that I am lacking grouping strategies. I often allow students to choose their own groups based on their preferences for certain peers. 

A method that I use as part of our classroom routine which allows students to get to know one another and increase fluency is an informal check-in question at the start of each class. Students are given a  question, example, and then they have 3 - 5 minutes to practice a response before sharing with the whole class. These questions ask students to speak in a verb tense that we are practicing (currently, our focus is in the past and future tenses). 

Through the culminating activity, I've developed the following: 

Factors that may affect learning:

Which of these factors are most important to consider as you plan a lesson? Write a short description of your class, outlining the key factors. Keep these characteristics and factors in mind as you plan the lesson.

  • I feel that all of these things are important to consider. I tend to consider proficiency and goals foremost as differentiation styles. My current class has a group of lower proficiency learners and two distinctly higher proficiency learners. I give extension activities to gifted learners to ensure that they are getting value from the course.

Communicative Task.

  • Students will be able to discuss their rights as they relate to the US Bill of Rights.


  • Students will be able to independently verbally describe the rights of US citizens outlined in the Bill of Rights through reading, discussing, and matching. 


  • Students will work in small groups to read the Bill of Rights
  • Students will then work in their small group to match the original text of the Bill of Rights with a simplified definition
  • Students will then discuss real-world examples of each of these rights.


  • Pre-assessment (differentiated)
  • Teacher observed levels of understanding based on informal checks (thumbs up, to the side, or down)
  • Teacher observed levels of understanding based on accuracy and fluency during work completion and conversation  

Student-Centered Learning:

  • Students will be monitoring their own learning by checking their understanding throughout the lesson by rating themselves. Students will also work in collaboration with other learners by working in differentiated groups to create meaningful connections to each of the rights in the Bill of Rights.
  • Students cultivate their understanding of the material by creating meaningful connections to it. They will relate their own experiences to the rights afforded to them by the Bill of Rights.

Classroom Management:

  • Students continue to get to know each other through informal “check-ins” at the beginning of each class. This is a question that requires that they speak in either past or future tense. The focus for this is classroom environment building and fluency. Students may speak with a student of their choosing for this activity.
  • Students will be collaboratively grouped for the matching activity. They will be grouped as follows: middle proficiency with low proficiency, and middle-high proficiency with high proficiency learners.

Through this course, I feel that I have increased my confidence in distinguishing between accuracy and fluency in the production of language. This has allowed me to more meaningfully integrate both aspects of language creation throughout each of my lessons. 


Hello Sydney, Thanks for sharing your experience with the ELLU online course on the Principles of Teaching ESL. You are clearly taking away a great deal. I have often said that the most valuable advice I have been given as an ESL teacher is to strive to balance listening, speaking, reading and writing throughout a lesson. It's good to see you have the same goal as a teacher.

You asked about strategies for grouping students. From what you write here, it sounds like you are using some different strategies for grouping students based on their level. In my experience, there are times when I want to be strategic about grouping and other times when allowing learners to choose their partners/groups is also fine. It all depends on the task I am asking them to complete.

Best of luck with your class!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I really enjoyed the videos of the different teachers working with ELL classes. They all did a great job and I learned quite a bit from their lessons. Thank you. 

I've combined some of the grammar goals for the course and the course topics into an activity that I repeat throughout the semester.

As an initial assessment, I give them a form that has three columns:  Topic, Question, Answer (quick notes). 

Under Topic, I list some general personal information topics and other topics specific to the course outline.  For example, in my last class, the topics I listed  were:  name, city, country, work, vacation/holidays, family, habits/routines, free time, health, home/housing (the four units were:  personal habits/routines, community resources, health, and housing.)

Under Question, I give an example of a question (for example:  What's your name?), and explain that there can be many different questions on any topic, depending on what they want to find out.

Under Answer, I give an example of taking quick notes on the response received (for example:  Mary), and ask them to only write down key words.

Step 1.  I have the students write down one question per topic. The actual instructions are:  Take 10 minutes to write down one question for each topic.

I use this form initially to assess their ability to ask questions.  By having them formulate the questions for discussion, I get a much richer variety of questions/conversations going in the class, and the discussion reflects the characteristics of the group of students in that particular class/level.

Some of the students are able to complete the initial form and write their questions without much assistance, others need more directions, and I circulate around to help those who need more help.  Depending on the group/level, sometimes I assign the questions for homework on the first day of class, then I go over them as a large group on the next day of class, and write a combined list of questions from all the questions they came up with, letting them choose from the corrected list.

Step 2:  I have them stand up and find someone they don't know, to ask them their questions.  There are two parts to this.  Asking the question and taking quick notes on the response received.  The actual instructions are:  Find someone you don’t know and ask your questions. Take quick notes on their answer.

I circulate and make sure they are not writing down verbatim everything their classmate says.  I want them to focus on having a conversation, and only jot down the spelling of a name or place, or something to trigger their memory, without interrupting the conversation.

Step 3:   I have them write full sentences about their conversation.  The actual instructions are:  Go back to your seat and write down full sentences about your classmate.

Step 4: The last step is for them to introduce their classmate to the class. I then ask them to introduce the classmate to the class.  I usually give them this format:

My name is ________.  Today I talked to (name of classmate). (Followed by sentences about the classmate.)


Through this activity, they get to know each other, and I can assess their ability to follow written/oral directions, their ability to formulate Y/N and/or information questions, their fluency/ability to communicate orally with each other, their ability to write sentences, including vocabulary, spelling and grammar.

I've repeated this activity throughout the course, sometimes using the same form, later in the semester, if we combine with another class.  I've also considered expanding this activity to make it a routine throughout the course, and have them formulate questions at the beginning of a unit or topic.  I've though about having them look each day at the next topics on our syllabus, and write down questions they have.  I haven't decided if I would have them ask the questions of each other, or have them turn them in to the instructor, as part of a student needs assessment to help me in the planning of each unit/lesson. I can imagine rotating between questions for each other and questions for the instructor.



Hello Silvia, Thank you for sharing the details of this learner-centered routine that balances listening, speaking, reading and writing. I think having learners generate questions the way you are doing is great. As you state, you also get valuable information about how well learrers can form questions and who needs help with this. Expanding the routine to the content in the textbook you are using is also a learner-centered way to ensure the content you are teaching touches on the questions learners have.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Hello Silvia, Again, thanks for sharing your detailed lesson plan on writing a letter to request a Consumer Action Handbook. Any teacher could easily adapt your lesson plan for their own class. The students also got to practice typing their letter which integrates technology into the lesson in an authentic way. In your reflection you noted that you learned a lot about how different cultures vary in terms of politeness, which is so interesting.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

I have been in higher education for 10 years, but only have taught ELA classes for 1 year. I currently have improved on implementing additional activities into the class. I still struggle with being a by the book teacher. I would like to improve on using authentic materials in class. I'm a business major and think I could add value in that area. I also would like to incorporate more thoughtful grouping strategies. Currently my classes choose their own partners.

Hi Rhonda, You've set some great goals for yourself. I agree that your background as a business major is a real plus. About grouping, having learners choose their own partners is one way to form groups. Depending on the task, there may be times when you want to be strategic about grouping. For example, just today, I asked one of the students in my class who is strong in grammar to work with a student who needed extra support in grammar. There are also times when I might want students who share a home language to work together, so they can support one another. Other times I may want students to work with those who do not share a primary language. Other grouping decisions might depend on the learners' level in English, i.e., higher level students work together on a task and lower level students work together. Grouping by level allows the teacher to vary a task to make it more challenging for the higher group and and easier for the lower group.

Best of luck with your class, Rhonda!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Five Steps for Planning, Implementing and Managing Instruction

Description of my class:

I teach a multi-level class with 15 students at different levels of proficiency. Although most factors that may affect learning can be present at any given time, I will focus only on three. This is based on the topic of the lesson focus which is to identify a goal, an obstacle and at least two solutions. The first is English language proficiency levels. Some students may not be familiar with the vocabulary in the lesson. Second, prior educational experience can have an impact if students haven’t had much time in the classroom where topics like this could come up. So, it will be important to focus on life experience. Finally, goals and motivations. This can be interesting at varying degrees depending on where the student is in life and what they want to accomplish.

Identify factors that may affect learning:

  • English language proficiency levels
  • Prior educational experiences
  • Goals and Motivations

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Hello Robin, You have identified critical factors that have an impact on learning. Importantly, you mention life experiences which every learner brings to the classroom regardless of English level and educational backgkkround. I want to affirm the idea that teachers find ways to draw upon learners' vast life experiences to build their English skills.

Cheers, Susan

I am currently using a variety of strategies mentioned above.  Every morning, I like to begin the class with the date, day and weather.  This is my way of establishing a routine to begin the class.  As a way to help get them to know each other better, I like to play the game find someone who..?  I give them several questions and they  get up and find the person that answers affirmatively to the question.

Hello Margarita, Building routines into our teaching is super helpful, so good for you. You and other members might be interested in the thread happening this week in the LINCS community on the value of routines. This thread features many wonderful resources as well as ideas for useful routines. 

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

This plan is for students at a low level.  In this lesson the students will practice calling 911.  Students will be given a written dialogue beforehand that will serve a guide to help them create their own.  This is an activity that will provide students with an opportunity to work in groups which will also allow for an opportunity for classroom management.


OBJECTIVE:  Students will be able to call 911 in case of an emergency.


ACTIVITY:  As a whole group students will brainstorm on the different types of emergencies that require to call 911.

Students will be paired with someone who is at a higher level to practice a dialogue that was written before hand.  Once they have practiced the dialogue by switching roles, they will have an opportunity  to create their own dialogue using the previous one as a guide.

EVALUATION:  Students are evaluated base on the teachers' observations and their use of the new vocabulary.


Great ideas to incorporate in my lessons and very useful too.  One of my favorite topics was the student centered activities.  I will definitely incorporate some of them immediately.  

I use a variety of classroom practices covered in the course.  One I would like to share is how I start the day.  I begin with writing Good Morning or Good Afternoon (depends on which class- just some sort of welcome) and the date.  At the beginning of the course, for the first 2-3 weeks, I write the name of the course and my name.  I list the topics we will be covering in class and the activities associated with the lesson. I make sure I go over the agenda for the day and  as we cover each section, I place check marks next to completed tasks.  At the end of the class, we review the day's work by revisiting the agenda.   

I enjoyed the course and liked the concept of authentic materials.  I try to include material that is relevant to students' lives, but will certainly be more conscientious of this for future classes.  My next class will be an extension of a bridge class that focusses on academic reading and writing.  This past semester, the focus of the class was on fiction writing.  Next semester will be non-fiction, so utilizing authentic materials and relevant topics will be very important.

Hi Kara, The use of authentic materials is clearly valuable, so thanks for emphasizing that. What types of nonfiction will your students be writing? Do you have resources you can share with our community related to writing nonfiction?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I use all strategies in the video and text. From comprehension questions to reading aloud three times as well as annotating. I use group focused strategies where I allow my students to lead each other with myself standing by as a coach. They guide and teach one another mentor style. I have not used the grouping but I think that now I will.

Hello Jantae, It's great that you want to start being strategic about grouping students. Please let us know how this goes for you!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Langauge Acquisition CoP

This course has helped me by giving me new strategies and allowing me to think about aspects of teaching I had forgot. I always create ways for students to get to know one another.  I create learning objectives based on learners' needs and goals by giving a diagnostic and lots of speaking the first week. I usually know where my students are after that. I want to implement more classroom routine. I usually use an AGENDA. But I like the idea of writing or journaling at the same time every class. I also like the idea of using the same closeout at the end of class.

Hello Jantae, It's good to hear that the course reminded you of some useful teaching ideas. Building in effective routines can be so helpful to learners, and routines can also save the teacher time. You may be interested in checking out this recent conversation with expert Stephanie Sommers in which she and other LINCS' members shared a number of ideas and valuable resources for instructional routines.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

  1. Identify student characteristics and factors that may affect learning.

Students in my low-high intermediate level ESL class (CASAS scores 206-224) are all from China. All of the students share a common language, Cantonese, though they come from different cities or provinces. Several of them come from the same city, Taishan. Some students have been in the US for several years, while others arrived within the past six months. Most of them live in Chinatown, Chicago, where they are surrounded by shops and services that are fully bilingual. This reduces their need to express themselves in English on a daily basis. Over half the class works full-time, so it is a challenge for them to do homework. These students work at Chinese-owned businesses where they use their Cantonese during work hours. About 40% of the class is married with children. Students frequently arrive up to 30 minutes late or leave up to 1 hour early because of work/family responsibilities.


All of the students are literate in Chinese, but to varying degrees (as evidenced by their reluctance to come to the board and write a Chinese character for an English word). Most completed high school in China, and about three of the 11 students studied English in China. These students have reading and writing skills that are high intermediate, but listening and speaking skills that are low intermediate. The students feel very comfortable with choral reading and repetition of model dialogues. They like to look up words in dictionaries. They appreciate having a reading support for directions in addition to listening to directions. As a whole, the class needs opportunities to practice listening and fluency and accuracy in speaking English.


One student is pursuing a driver’s license. One student wants to be get a food sanitation license. They all want to improve their English to obtain better work and to interact successfully with English only people they will encounter at their children’s schools and outside of the Chinatown neighborhood.

2. Determine the lesson focus.

We are using Cengage’s StandOut curriculum at our community center, and we are entering the unit on health. This lesson will focus on a phone call to make an appointment with the doctor for a sick family member.

Functional phrases (Sociolinguistic Competence):  “Hello, I’d like to make an appointment for _______.”  “My ____ is not feeling well. S/he has _(illness)_.”  “I’m sorry, we can’t make that time.” “Do you have any (earlier/later) appointments?” “Do you have any appointments __(today/on Monday)____?” “Thank you very much.”

Language skills (Discourse Competence): Explaining an illness; Requesting a certain doctor; Understanding a phone conversation about an appointment; Clarifying the date and time of the appointment.

Cultural Knowledge (Sociolinguistic Competence): Understanding how to access different medical specialists; communicating health insurance information; understanding health insurance benefits; understanding different types of medical care facilities (clinic, urgent care, hospital, pharmacy); predicting the appointment conversations.

Grammar (Linguistic Competence):  polite questions with “do”;  modals used for politeness, simple present and present continuous

Vocabulary (Linguistic Competence): medical specialists, health insurance words, body parts, common illnesses

3. Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments.

Lesson Focus:  Making a doctor’s appointment on the phone for a family member

Duration:         2 hours

Objectives:  Students will be able to

LI.L2 Respond to and participate in a phone conversation with a receptionist when making an appointment with the doctor for a family member by briefly describing symptoms or body parts with pain and clarifying the date and time (LI.L2 & LI.S3)

HI.L3 Respond to and participate in a phone conversation with a receptionist requesting elaboration regarding an illness (“What are the symptoms?”) (HI.L3 & HI.S1)

Language Skill Proficiency Focus: Listening & Speaking

Enabling Skills: 

Grammar: - use “do/does” to form grammatically correct questions

- use clarifying questions to confirm the date and time

-modals for politeness


– receptionist, patient, symptom

-body parts

-common illnesses and their symptoms


Visuals: doctor’s office waiting room with various illnesses represented, receptionist and patient in phone conversation, parts of the body image to be labeled, pictures of illnesses and symptoms

Handout: Model phone dialogue for making an appointment, self-assessment survey

For Activity 2: cut-up model dialogue, doctor’s visit story strips to unscramble and questions to answer, matching game cards for illnesses (picture) and symptoms (words), picture cue cards for TPR body part commands


Warm-up/Review (30 minutes):

Ask learners, “Where do sick people go to get help?” Write responses on the board. Point to each place. Ask students, “What language do you speak when you are at this place?” Write the language they use next to each place. Ask, “How often do you go to these places?” (5 minutes)

Show the visual of the doctor’s office. Have students identify the type of medical place it is. Have students work in pairs to write six sentences in the present continuous tense (previously acquired language) about they see. Have pairs write their sentences on the board. Read and edit as a class. (20 minutes)

Ask students to label the parts of the body on an image individually (this should be review). (5 minutes)

Introduction: Show the picture of the receptionist and patient. Introduce both words. Have students tell what they see. Who is the patient calling? Why? What does s/he need? Try to get students to explain what happened and why the patient needs the doctor. (5 minutes)

Presentation: (40 minutes)

Introduce common illnesses and their symptoms using pictures from the textbook. Go over the pronunciation of each. Play a game of charades where students come up and act out an illness. The class guesses the illness. (20 minutes)

Present a model dialogue for a phone conversation to make a doctor’s appointment for a family member. The dialogue needs to include the symptom, body part or common illness/symptom, a request for a specific appointment date/time and clarification of the appointment. Act out the dialogue and use visuals to support the language. Guide students through the dialogue. Have students write down the dialogue.

Point out the polite request, “do” question formation, and simple present/present continuous tense in the dialogue. Emphasize the importance of the clarification request.

Divide the class into patient and receptionist and read the dialogue. Make a substitution and have the divided class read the dialogue. Switch roles and have them read the dialogue. Go over the pronunciation of difficult words. (20 minutes)

Activity 1: (25 minutes)

Have pairs practice the dialogue. Give students a chance to repeat the structures using the language from the dialogue and substitute related vocabulary for other symptoms or illnesses.

Have students write their own phone dialogue with the parts of receptionist and patient.

Have pairs present their phone conversations to the class.


Activity 2 (Give students a choice): 10 minutes

With a partner, match the illnesses and symptoms (picture and word cards)

With a partner, give each other TPR commands in the imperative (review) to practice parts of the body. Students use picture cue cards to suggest commands to their partners.  

With a partner, put a scrambled story about an illness and doctor’s visit in order, then answer questions (Ventures 2nd edition, collaborative activities, Level 2, Unit 4, Lesson A).

With a partner, put the scrambled, cut-up phone dialogue in order. Categorize the phrases as receptionist or patient.

Evaluation (5 minutes):

The instructor asks students to complete a self-assessment page circling different faces indicating their comfort level with the phone conversation, body parts, common illnesses, and symptoms.

Application (5 minutes):

Act out a common illness or an injury. Have the class suggest what is wrong.


4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

Students offer their experiences in the warm-up and activate their knowledge in the introduction activities;

  • Include learning activities that are relevant to learners;
  • students have self-directed learning when they chose during activity 2;
  • students use self-assessment measures;
  • students work in collaboration with other learners;
  • students have opportunities to read, write, listen and speak;
  • students may unscramble the dialogue and story to utilize critical thinking skills;
  • students utilize critical thinking to create their own phone dialogue;
  • students learn clarification strategies for the phone;
  • use realistic scenario.

5. Apply classroom management strategies.

Building community – discussion of where students go for medical help and often, and what language they use there. Opportunity to work with partners to get to know one another.

Routines – students are familiar with routine of practicing a modeled conversation and then altering its content;  also, students are familiar with the term “asking for clarification” and will understand what this means. Begin each lesson with warm-up/review and end each lesson with a self- evaluation. 

Relevance – everyone needs medical care and it is essential that students become familiar with parts of the body so that they can respond appropriately in an emergency. They are responsible for children, so it is very relevant for them to call the doctor to make an appointment for someone else.

Grouping – Students will be assigned to same partners of same proficiency for activity 1 so that they can compose a dialogue at their level. Students will be assigned a random partner for activity 2, which focuses on linguistic fluency or accuracy.


I really appreciated the video examples in this course that showed how to apply the knowledge to the classroom. It helped me understand how important choice and authentic materials are in the classroom. It was helpful to see what choice in learning looks like at the different levels of ESL. It helps me to consider and understand how I can make my lessons for Level 2 ESL students more engaging and give them greater autonomy. I would like to include some choice options for my students in the future.

I also appreciated seeing the examples of scaffolding at various levels. There was a clear progression of tasks from structured to more open-ended. I want to be sure to incorporate more open-ended tasks in addition to the structured tasks I have been giving my learners. I can see that the open-ended tasks promote valuable critical thinking skills.

I also learned a lot from the discussion and examples of grouping for activities. I want to be more intentional to incorporate a variety of groupings for tasks: both the same level and different ability levels. I can see how modeling a task for group work is always essential at every English ability level. 

This course also helped me to consider using the textbook as a tool rather than following the lesson plan inside of it. I'm just finishing my first year of teaching ESL, so this will be a change for me. I appreciate all the time and effort that was put into creating this course. 

I completely agree that teaching with content that students need to know in real life will better encourage the interaction we hope for within the classroom. It will also open up so many platforms to teach from in an engaging and meaningful way.  When adding the technology into the activities, it will encourage students to continue learning and improving their computer skills.

Hello Katrina, Thanks for your post. Since the pandemic, we are all learning how essential it is to integrate technology into our instruction.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

I currently utilize learning objectives based on learners' needs utilizing a contextual approach rather than a grammatical structure to lesson plans. I thoroughly enjoy using authentic materials for tactile learning which enhances lessons through real life examples or through role playing. Materials such as measuring cups, hotel or restaurant literature, a staged clothing store, or a temporary using an electric hot plate have increased my students' motivation. While I don't currently have higher education in TESOL, my program is utilizing National Geographic's Standout which has influenced me to progressively teach skills started with a more highly structured conversation or principle to more open-ended tasks.

I have a routine of starting with an opening ice-breaker, reviewing previous material, and checking in with my student's personal lives. However, because my presentations are typically integrated with gradually releasing students from highly structured conversation, I sometimes sense that my classroom routine can improve to be more consistent. I also would like to improve in using thoughtful grouping strategies to facilitate multi-level worksheets, activities, and conversations that engage students from both a literate or orality background. 

Since I serve students from an Asian background and family is important to me, my first method to get to know them is to ask about their families. I find that students are very comfortable sharing about their spouse and children, which can direct attention not only at them. However, they also tend to share about themselves, their job, and their interests when related to their communal belonging. I also have found that sharing stories and pictures about myself and my family establishes trust and personalizes the class. Furthermore, I use the standard games like "My name is _____, and I like _____." or "Two truths and a Lie". However, my favorite way to get to know students is by sharing stories related to the topic at hand. I find that when I can connect a student's name card, picture, and a story about them, I can get to know their personality in addition to facts and background about them.