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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?


PatiG's picture

I am currently utilizing all of these strategies in my classroom. I am a TESOL teacher, trained and disciplined in the field of Communicative Competence (HYMES). It makes a large difference when the teacher lets go of the classroom and not keep it under a teacher directed forum. Students learn so much more and at a much faster rate.  Fluency is a focus and I incorporate all of the discourses by Swain and Canale.'s picture

I am using a variety of the strategies listed.  One of the challenges I face is that my class is located at a place with no Internet connection and a very limited number of resources.  Therefore, I would like to  be able to aquire additional authentic materials and have the time and materials available to further develop these into successful opportunities for my students.'s picture

My students and I spend time getting to know each other on almost a daily basis.  I set up strategies for my students to share about themselves while they are also using the content we are studying.

Tabel's picture

In one of my Education courses, we folded a piece of paper into 4ths. In each box, we drew a picture responding to a question. (Our family, where we'd like to go, greatest accomplishments, hobbies/talents). At the beginning of each course, groups shared and then one person was reported on to the class each day. Very simple and fun!

Mari's picture

We have had "Speed Date" style discussions to start conversations on a topic then the group discusses what they shared in pairs. Students often share even more about topics in the bigger group as they find out what others said in the pair discussions.

Jeannie Huyser's picture

For the first few weeks, I have the students introduce themselves. I then have them gather information about the student sitting next to them, and have them introduce the  person to the class. we also do a lot of icebreakers.'s picture

My plan is to include use the theme of a visit to a pharmacist for students to create a dialogue (in pairs) in order to communicate what is ailing them and for a pharmacist to make a recommendation.  This will be practical, learner-centered, and will provide a natural grouping opportunity for my students.  Below are the steps I followed in order to develop my plan:                                                                                                                                        

Step 1:  (Factors that may affect learning) Students who have limited L1 literacy.
Step 2:  (Lesson Focus)  A Visit to the Pharmacy

Steps 3/4/5:  (Lesson Objectives, Activities, Assessments)  (Learner Centered Instructional Practices, imbedded) (Classroom Management Strategies, imbedded)


Students will be able to communicate an illness to a pharmacist. 

Students will be able to make recommendations to someone who is sick.


As a whole group, students will brainstorm different illnesses/ailments for which they would speak with a pharmacist.

In pairs, students will read and practice dialogues that are already written.

In pairs, students will create, write, and perform their own dialogue.


*Ongoing:  vocabulary use during brainstorm; feedback/peer review during practice dialogues; feedback/teacher review during development of new dialogue.

Reine Babin's picture

I really like this idea.  I am doing some thing similar using a doctors office.

Esdras De La Torre's picture

I use similar plans

rtowne's picture

While students are waiting for class to begin, a few times a week I place topical picture vocabulary cards in the back of the room.  Students walk through the set-up to review the vacabulary. This is also a speedy pronunciation check if needed. 

irina morgunova's picture

As for vocabulary learning, I give a kind of dictation quiz when I read the vocabulary item and students write the definition of it, then I read the definition of another vocabulary item and students write the vocabulary item.  After that students make up sentences or write a story to practice this new vocabulary.

Mari's picture

In my next class I plan to have the students start on the computers with their individual work so there is less chance of their arriving in the middle of my presentation of new material.

Deborah BWCC's picture

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

Students in my beginning level ESL class are all Latina women from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.  They have been in the U.S. from 3 months to 14 years, but all are supported socially by the local Hispanic community in our small town environment.  They range in proficiency from beginning literacy to intermediate low levels and have a widely varied educational background.  Interestingly, the two students who are most hesitant to commit to oral production are a highly educated master’s level physical therapist and a woman with less than one year of formal education in her home country.  They are both very attached to their native language and will only rarely “take a leap” into real communication in English.  They wish to acquire English to help their children in school,  improve their employment prospects and be able to function in the community.  Many have preschool children in the on-site daycare center. 

2. Determine the lesson focus.

At the beginning of the semester, we conducted a student interest survey and discussion, and identified shopping as a theme and understanding spoken information as a function.  This lesson is on an in-store announcement about a sale.

Communicative task:  Listening and Speaking:

Responding to an in-store message to shoppers

Functional phrases (Sociolinguistic Competence)  “Excuse me, where is aisle nine?”  “Excuse me, do you have more of the item on sale?”  “Excuse me, could I have a rain check please?”

Language skills (Discourse Competence) Asking directions in a store; Asking questions about the price of an item; Asking for clarification

Cultural Knowledge (Sociolinguistic Competence) Understanding departments in a store; understanding whom to ask for help;  understanding when it’s OK to disagree, ask for clarification, or ask for a supervisor

Grammar (Linguistic Competence)  formation of questions;  use of adjectives;  use of clarifiers

Vocabulary (Linguistic Competence) sales vocabulary:  on sale, reduced, limited time;  store vocabulary:  shoe/housewares/toy department, aisle, shelf, service department, customer service, salesperson

3. Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments.

Lesson Focus:  Shopping and Sales

Duration:         2 hours

Objectives:  Students will be able to

1.  identify common items from a department store

2.  ask clarifying questions about price and price reductions

3.  answer questions about a spoken announcement to demonstrate understanding

Skills:  Speaking – use “do/does” to form grammatically correct questions

     - use clarifiers to enhance comprehension

Listening – developing strategies to derive comprehension from spoken information Writing – cloze dictation

Reading – reading a text of the spoken announcement

Materials:  items commonly for sale in department store – limit to 3 departments, e.g.   housewares, clothing, toys

            Instructor-created script for announcing sale item and cloze dictation sheet


Warm-up:                                                                                            20 minutes

Instructor asks if students shop at (Walmart, etc.) and asks what they buy there. Holds up item – knife, for example – and asks if they’ve ever bought one, and asks how much was paid.  Writes item and amount on board.  Continue w/other items.  Instructor asks if Ss know what a sale is; discusses/explains or asks students to explain percent off.  Instructor asks students to calculate 50% off price on the board for knife, 25% off sweatshirt, etc.                      

Activity 1:                                                                                           50 minutes

Instructor models a dialogue between a customer and a salesperson about one of the items, presenting language for asking the price, asking if the item is on sale, and what the sale price is.  Instructor conducts sidebar to review use of do/does in forming questions.  The class practices in a group, and then the instructor asks for volunteers to demonstrate the conversation with different items.  (Differentiated instruction:  more proficient students will tend to volunteer, while those less proficient will opt to listen and absorb.)

Instructor and students construct a second dialogue in which the customer doesn’t receive expected information and asks to speak to a supervisor.  Class discusses how to do this without offense.  Class practices, students volunteer, as before.

Instructor places the store items in 4 or 5 places around the room and divides the class into small groups.  Each group moves from item to item with a different pair of students using either of the model conversations to talk about the item there.  Instructor mingles and assists.  (Differentiated instruction:  lower level students may follow pattern exactly and listen to and observe more proficient peers phrasing more fluently or even improvising a bit.)

Class reconvenes and any questions or confusion are discussed.

Activity 2:                                                                                                       40 minutes

Instructor asks if students have ever heard an announcement to shoppers in a store, and asks for details.  Instructor explains class will practice understanding an announcement.

Instructor reads script 3 times, stopping after each reading to ask students what words and phrases they recognize and writing these on the board.  After the 3rd time, students direct the instructor to put the notes on the board in order and retell or paraphrase the information in the announcement.                       

Instructor writes announcement on the board and asks what words the students recognize in writing that they didn’t understand when spoken and what words are spelled differently from what they thought.  Instructor reads announcement again for pronunciation and asks students to circle words they want to learn.  Instructor notes these for future content.

Instructor distributes a cloze dictation sheet and dictates the announcement. 

Evaluation/Application:                                                                                  10 minutes

Instructor asks students to review what they learned and reflect on when they could use it.  Instructor asks students to notice items for sale when they shop and bring in details or questions for the class.

Instructor asks for other communication needs students have with shopping or related topics to plan for future lessons.

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

Learner-centered practices:

students chose the topic area and function as one that is relevant and useful to them;

differentiated instruction allows learners to participate at their learning level, either volunteering to speak or listening and absorbing the presentation;

use of authentic objects and realistic scenario.

Lesson could have been improved by encouraging self-directed learning – offering picture dictionary and encouraging students to select items they need/want to know about to include in this or subsequent lessons.  The dialogue in which the customer is assertive and asks to speak to a supervisor could be exploited and expanded upon as a basis for a transformational learning experience.

5. Apply classroom management strategies.

Building community – discussion of where students shop and what they buy enhances personal knowledge and community, and usually involves humor

Routines – students are familiar with routine of practicing a modeled conversation and then altering its content;  also, students are familiar with my presentation of verb forms and will be comfortable with the review of question formation

Relevance – shopping and sales are relevant and familiar;  incorporating the need to speak with a salesperson’s supervisor is new, but useful

Grouping – conversation groups will be selected to include all levels in each group so students can benefit from each other’s  proficiency and ability to help each other


Miriamb3's picture

Deborah and all,

I especially like the inclusion of sociolinguistic competence in the planning and implementation of this lesson. In addition to giving students tools to express their needs, it is important to tell them why, when, and how to use these tools so they do not offend, and get the best benefit possible when they venture out to use their English. I am pleased that you are able to include this competence in your work with beginning-level learners. Your lesson also shows the importance of working with the students to create the conversation– the dialog where the shopper doesn’t get what she wants/needs is co-constructed with teacher and students. I expect this is when the teacher can take the opportunity to explain/demonstrate the appropriateness of the language used and when and to whom to use it with.

This issue of sociolinguistic competence surfaced earlier this year in the postings on Online Course: Second Language Acquisition: Myths, Beliefs, and What the Research Shows.I am interested in how teachers include this important factor in their instruction with all levels and will start a new discussion on the topic. Looking forward to further conversation on this aspect of language and language learning..





Mari's picture

A Lesson Plan for Attendance/Absence Vocabulary and Skill

Student Need:  Class participants are parents of ELL students, who are learning the vocabulary and language skills to communicate with their children’s’ school and their own workplace regarding health and attendance. Their countries of origin vary as do their length of time in the US and their English speaking levels. Other factors that may affect their learning include their prior educational experience, access to phones and familiarity with telephone etiquette. Cultural experience regarding expectations for reporting absences may also be a factor. In previous lessons student have learned to answer basic identification questions and some health related vocabulary. This lesson teaches students to leave a basic machine message for when they need to call their child in sick for school. They will then practice calling their own boss to say they won’t be able to come to work.

Lesson Focus:  This real life problem solving issue will motivate students to participate in the class lesson and practice the new skills. Students will use and develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing in order to learn to communicate effectively with school officials and their own boss. Their learning will move from accuracy – leaving the basic information requested by the school’s attendance office - to fluency –communicating directly with their boss. The lesson allows students to share family and work information with each other as they learn the new skills. They will also have an opportunity to learn about American culture and their local school rules.

Activity:  Following a period of computer time to review vocabulary previously learned students will listen to the local school’s attendance/absence line recording to determine what information is being requested. The teacher will repeat the message three times before asking students to tell what information is wanted. The teacher then writes the list of information provided by the students on the board: your name, your child’s/student’s name, relationship to the child, reason for absence, length of absence. As students catch on to the request they can write down what they need to say in response. The teacher can repeat the school’s message as many times as students desire. The teacher will ask for a student to volunteer to share their response with the class as an example for the class. Students then will practice their information out loud with a partner and then say it for the class as assessment.

Extension:  Next, the teacher and students will discuss how this knowledge will help them call their own boss and what they still need to successfully call themselves in sick. A key point is that they usually speak directly with the boss rather than leaving a recorded message. Instead of a monologue they will need to dialogue with another person who may respond in a variety of ways. The teacher and a volunteer student will then role play a phone dialogue modeling this type of conversation. The class will discuss what additional information would help students get their message across to their boss. Then students will practice phone dialogues with a partner, those with better English skills acting as the boss and those with less calling in sick. They will change partners randomly a few times, each pair choosing who will be boss and worker, to get a variety of experience making calls. Lastly, they each will role play a call for the whole class as assessment. The teacher can act as a boss for those students with advanced English skills. Students can then discuss any improvements still needed.

Culture connection:  Following the practice for phone messages and direct conversation, the school rules regarding attendance and absences will be explained by the teacher. At this point, students will have an opportunity to discuss among themselves and create a list of reasons people use when calling in sick. Students will then evaluate the list of reasons as to their validity in American culture by breaking into two self-chosen groups. One group will evaluate reasons for a school absence and the other will evaluate reasons for work. There may be discussion related to work/school attendance/absence in the students’ home countries.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks, Mari, for sharing these details about your lesson focused on making phone calls. This lesson engages learners in listening, speaking, reading and writing for real world purposes and integrates important aspects of culture regarding expectations at school and work.

We all know that using the phone is one of the most challenging tasks for language learners, so focusing instruction on the language needed when using the phone is going to be helpful to learners. Here are some resources that teachers might find useful when planning phone calling lessons: .Telephone Skills Resource Kit by Valerie Glass and set of telephone activities for adult learners provided by Claude Pesce.

If members have strategies for instruction on using the phone, please let us know.

Cheers, Susan Finn Milller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Kathleen Tucker's picture


Many good lesson plans can be developed around use of the phone.  In my multilevel class, which includes students from different countries, everyone has a phone.  We use it to practice grammar (I have a phone, he has a phone) as well as phone conversations. The students come on Saturday, which means that most of them are working during the week.  They have been in the U.S. from 2 months to two years, and their speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills are low.  I try to provide open ended activities so that the lowest and highest level students can be included and make gains. 

Successfully completing a phone call is vitally important for an ELL.  It is an authentic task, and in the case of calling a doctor for a sick child, a critical one.  It requires  a fair amount of vocabulary and grammar,  discourse competence (what information to give first, etc.) sociolinguistic competence (polite forms of address), cultural knowledge (custom of speaking to secretary or nurse before doctor, necessity of waiting), and strategic competence (switching gears to answer various questions, recognizing different words or phrases which mean the same thing, etc).

By the time I present this lesson, the class is acquainted and the students are easy with each other.  In the first few lessons of the session, students introduce each other and find their countries of origin on a map.  We do a "like" exercise to see who likes coffee and who likes tea.  I mix up the seating.  I leave the group alone for break.  I leave out food ads and magazines to look at and talk about.

Preparations for this lesson:

The students have been building  health vocabulary during the two previous lessons.  The vocabulary includes body parts (eye, head, etc) and aliments (fever, cough, stomachache etc), common treatments (drink water, take Tylenol), and other pertinent nouns and verbs (emergency, appointment, doctor, nurse, secretary, to be, to have, to need, etc)  They have also been working on grammar for present tense verbs.  Students by now are familiar with answering basic information questions such as What is your phone number?  When were you born? etc. As help with these skills, I use the Ventures Series, Book 1, especially the lesson on health.

Activites: I first ask students to tell me when they use their phone to talk to someone (as opposed to texting).  Elicit responses such as "to talk to my mom,"  and eventually to call the doctor.  When do they call the doctor?  When someone is sick, when they need to make an appointment.

Next, I write a sample dialogue on the board.  For example, A: Hello.  My name is Rosa Gonzales.  My daughter is very sick.  Can I make an appointment?

                                                                          B.  Hello.  What is your daughter's name?

                                                                          A. Her name is Maria Gonzales.                                                                                               

                                                                            B.  What are her symptoms? or What is wrong?

                                                                            A.  She has a cough and a fever.   

                                                                            B.  The doctor can see her today at 4:00.  Is that okay?

                                                                             A.  Yes.  We will come today at 4:00

This dialogue can easily be adjusted, according the students' ability. I read it aloud twice, then have students read the entire conversation.  Then we split into groups of A and B and read it again.  Then we switch groups.  Finally, students pair up to practice several times (as A and B), reading the dialogue and then improvising. Then I ask individual pairs to stand up and do the conversation, in front of the  class. 

Finally, I take the doctor's role and have students call me.  At this point I throw in a few curves (change the wording a little, add another question) to see how well they can improvise (strategic discourse!)

As a follow-up activity, I pass out "ailment" cards (headache, flu, cold).  Students form into groups (each with varying abilities) and discuss what do to if child  (or themselves) have this problem. Call the doctor?  Wait?  Take Tylenol?  Call 911? Etc.  A secretary in each group writes down the ideas and reports.  I write the ideas on the board and the entire group discusses them.



Nydia Negron Lopez's picture


I also teach beginning ESL students.  To identify my students, most of them are Latino and migrant workers.  Therefore, most of them lack academic knowledge. They attend ESL classes with the goal of learning the language and to help their children with school activities.  One of the lessons I taught was health and visiting the doctor; this is because is one they need the most.  I started by asking students if they have been at the physician office or the hospital.  Most od the students replied they avoid going because they do not know how to communicate or express how they feel.  I helped them with the basic vocabulary, using google images and an online dictionary.  The pictures help students visualize what they are learning while the online dictionary assists with correct pronunciation.  To help the student with grammar, I assist students with a dictation using the vocabulary words.  After, they mastered the vocabulary and some other activities I made groups of students where they had to role play.  I need to address that I used a patient registration form to help and guide students on how they need to complete the form.  I also explained insurance policies and how to complete they information.  The objective of the lesson was to assist students with daily basic skills and to help them with self-confidence.  It was a success. However, this lesson took more than two weeks to complete.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Nydia, I appreciate your acknowledging that these lessons on going to the doctor took time. I think sometimes we teachers rush through important topics much too quickly for learners to absorb the language they are learning. Taking time and recycling the language in a variety of ways through activities that engage learners in interacting with one another in meaningful exchanges, as you have shown, will be most effective.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

LatinLanguages25000's picture

My ESL classes take place at off-campus locations such as churches, libraries, factories and small stores, in the community. The class make-up are multiracial (over fifteen nationalities), multilevel, and multigenerational (ages range from 23-65).   Different grouping strategies, role-play, total physical response, cooperative learning, and learner-centered instruction are part of class dynamics. Through this course I would like to learn (or improve) some strategies for adjusting and adapting ESL lesson plans as well as class dynamics for multilevel classes.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Abraham, You have identified an area that most teachers would agree is quite challenging, i.e., teaching a multilevel class. While all adult ESL classes are multilevel, as you know, some are a lot more multilevel than others. You've identified a number of activities that can be effectively used with learners at different levels. Through this ELLU course, you are certain to learn about additional ways to adapt your teaching to address the diverse needs of the wide range of learners you teach.

Good luck!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Priscilla Yokote's picture

The majority of ESOL students in my class are Latino. This lesson offers information about services in our community that help immigrants find better jobs and hope to help create happier lives. As well we hope that they can see how the U.S.A. differs from their own countries in the field of job search.Opportunity for grammar practice, new vocabulary, real life scenarios and application are part of the lesson.


It begins with a short article for the students to read.

Then vocabulary and questions are offered, as well as writing exercise, discussion and application on the web.


Meet Susan Barrett!                                                                                                                                                                               

Susan works for BRCC’s Human Resources Development Department (the same department that Stacy works for.) However, Susan works at a different location. Her office is at Goodwill Industries. It is located in the shopping mall near Applebee’s in Hendersonville. Susan is also a ‘people developer’.

 Susan counsels, motivates and helps people improve their lives. She also teaches English! Susan has two jobs. She works at Goodwill Industries and teaches English for speakers of other languages at BRCC. (Susan graduated from the Interpreter Program at BRCC. She also loves to make pottery!)

As a teacher, Susan helps students improve their English skills. Some of her students study for the U.S. citizenship test. Learning English is very important and can help you find a good job. Susan says that English language skills give you an advantage at work. If you speak English well, you will communicate better with your boss. Good communication develops trust between you and your boss. Your boss will give you more responsibility. More responsibility at work usually means more money, too.

Susan knows a lot about how to find a job in Henderson County. Most ESL families find jobs in:

  •  Agriculture: Picking & Packing
  • Starting their own small business -  (Mountain Biz Works helps with this)
  • Mexican Restaurants or businesses

But other jobs are possible if your English is good!

Susan understands the obstacles clients meet. For example, more and more companies require E-verify. E-verify researches the information on your job application. E-verify can discover if you are documented or undocumented. If you are undocumented, you cannot get many jobs.  

 If you do not have a GED, it will also limit your job possibilities. Approximately 80% of jobs require a GED. Companies select people with  GEDs  first. If you have a GED, your opportunities increase. You can get a GED in Spanish instead of English. El Centro can help you with this.  A GED in Spanish makes you Spanish literate at a 12th grade level!

Did you know that volunteering can help you find a good job?  If you volunteer you will feel better about yourself and your place in the world. Your English skills also improve when you volunteer.  You meet more people. You can tell people in your community, at church and in school that you are looking for work. Tell people what kind of work you want, and be specific. This is called networking. Seventy percent (70%) of jobs are not advertised! Network in your community- volunteer and tell people what kind of work you want.

You can do other things that will help you find a great job. You can study for a CRC Career Readiness certificate at Joblink (remember- at BRCC).  A CRC can really help you get a job. You can create a personal resume. A resume is a history of your education and work experience. A resume helps an employer learn about you and your skills. Susan helps people develop resumes. You need a resume when you apply for a job. It is also important to have computer skills. Today job applications are often totally online. You must know how to upload your resume into the computer. At the Goodwill Center, Susan can teach you these skills.

 Susan loves to help people improve their lives. It is fun and she learns so much from other people.

 At the Goodwill Center there is a bulletin board called the Wall of Stars. On that board are the names of people who found help at the Goodwill Center. You could also be a star on that wall!  Visit Susan at the Goodwill Center and get started!



New Vocabulary






bulletin board




To volunteer

To tell

To communicate

To trust

To require

To limit

To improve

To upload


Please use the following words to fill in the blanks.

pottery                   trusts

improve                upload




  1. Susan thinks that __________________can help you find a good job.
  2. If your boss ____________ you, your boss may give you more responsibility and money.
  3. When you fill out an application online, you might need to _____________ your resume.
  4.  Susan loves to make______________.
  5. Susan helps people _______________________ their lives.



In your own words……Please write complete sentences

  1. Where is Susan’s office located?
  2. What is E-verify?
  3. What is the Wall of Stars?
  4. What are some of the obstacles you might meet looking for a job?
  5. What is a resume?


For Classroom Discussion

Have you experienced Networking here in the U.S.?

How about in your own native country?


Please journal your thoughts about this lesson in your notebooks.

Write at least five sentences.



Type:    creating a resume    into your search engine.

Look at a sample resume. Start to record your own personal information for your resume.




LatinLanguages25000's picture

SDome of the activities I sue for helping students to get to know each other are:

a) Ask them to choose an animal that represents their "personality," then they explain why they chose a particular animal.

b) Activity called ,Party Guests Mingle", students walk around the class introducing themselves and intrucing a friend.

Mari's picture

My students do a presentation in class. They can do a "how-to", show their hobby, or describe a place they have been. They like the questions they get from their audience so they get both public speaking and interactive Q and A practice.

Mary Viehweg's picture

I, too, have the students do presentations in class. New students (new to the class) usually tell us all about themselves. These presentations are always so informative and heartwarming. :) Students who have been in the class for some time present "how to" demonstrations. During these presentations, we learn about each other's likes and dislikes, the student gets to practice sequencing, and we walk out of the classroom with something each of us has made! These presentations are probably one of the things I like most about our class!

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Mary, Thanks for sharing how you create opportunities for learners to get to know one another. This is so important and goes a long ways to creating a safe space for learning. At the start of a new class, I like to have students interview each other and then create a Venn diagram of how they are similar and different. From the information in the Venn diagram, they then write a compare and contrast paragraph.This activity, requires some  academic language and engages students in critical thinking. I've had good luck with this even with learners at the beginning level. I provide models and language support as needed.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition XCoP

LatinLanguages25000's picture

Lupita is a middle-aged mother of two in an ESL class at an off-campus community college program.  She had only three years of schooling in her home country. She came to the U.S. twenty years ago, and never attended any ESL program before until now.  She understands and can communicate fairly well in English, but she cannot read or write in her second language.  Lupita is a very motivated and perseverant student, now their children (who interpreted for her in the past) are young working adults; she wants to improve her reading and writing skills to be more linguistically independent in her L2.


LESSON PLAN – Community Places

My lesson plan focuses on different community institutions where Lupita (and other students with similar goals as Lupita) may need to communicate. Class dynamics will include dialogues, role-plays, and problem solving situations.

Objectives:  Students will be able to role-play as customer, customer service staff, business owners, etc. by the end of the lesson; students will be able to communicate in diverse community service locations.

Activities:  Dialogues, asking and answering questions in different situations.

Assessment: comprehension and appropriate use of language answering and asking questions.

LatinLanguages25000's picture

LESSON PLAN – Community Places

My lesson plan focuses on different community institutions where Lupita (and other students with similar goals as Lupita) may need to communicate. Class dynamics will include dialogues, role-plays, and problem solving situations.

Objectives:  Students will be able to role-play as customer, customer service staff, business owners, etc. by the end of the lesson; students will be able to communicate in diverse community service locations.

Activities:  Dialogues, asking and answering questions in different situations.

Assessment: comprehension and appropriate use of language answering and asking questions.

Learner-centered practices:  The lesson focus will be based on the students’ needs, communication in different community places.

Applying Classroom management strategies:

  1. Building class community: students will work in groups, role-play, and interact with each other.
  2. Importance of topic: students use (or are familiar) with most community places I ntown.
  3. Grouping: students will be grouped based on their L2 proficiency level and common interests.
LatinLanguages25000's picture

My ESL classes take place at off-campus locations such as churches, libraries, factories and small stores as earlier stated. The classes make-up are multiracial, multilevel, and multigenerational (ages range from 23-65).   This course haves given great insights in how to implement grouping strategies, role-play, total physical response, cooperative learning, and learner-centered instruction. At the beginning of the course I did not know most of the information I learned.   

Robertgd407's picture

I start my first class by having each student stand and tell the class their name and their country of origin. Then I will ask various students questions such as, "Are you married?, How many children do you have?, what is your favoritite native dish?, Who is a better cook you or your spouse? Who is your favorite relative? Why?, What do you and this relative like to do together? What is your favorite family activity?" These questions invite, even compel other students to join in and comment or ask questions. This process helps the students to feel comfortable in the class and friendships are formed.

Mari's picture

We do this with a "Pair and Share" activity. Students exchange information about themselves (country of origin, where they live now and how long they have been in America) with one other person, then that person shares the info with the class. So they are introducing the other person not themselves and that makes it easier/more comfortable.

Robertgd407's picture

I start my first class by having eanc student stand and tell the class their name and their country of origin. Then I ask verious students questions such as, Are you married? How many children do you have? What is your favorite native dish? Whi is a better cook you or your spouse? Whi is your favorite relative? Why? What do you and this relative do together? What is your favorite family activity? What is your favorite dish cooked by your mother? These questions invite, even compel other students to comment or ask questions. This process helps the students to feel comfortable in the class and friendships are formed.

I have been using many of the strategies, methods, and practices taught in the "Principles of Second Language Teaching: Planning, Implementing, and Managing Instruction" Course. I haven't (until now) used student self-evaluation. I also haven't been using a written lesson plan.

I start a lesson by reviewing the previous lesson and relating it to the lesson I'm about to teach.

Here is my next lesson plan:

Class Level: Beginning ESL and Intermediate Beginners

Topic: Finding a job

Class Length: 3 hours

Lesson Objective: students will be able to use adverbs of frequency , learn new English phrases concerning employment, new vocabulary words.

Enabling Skills: Predict what presentation is about, quess unknown words/phrases, use present knowledge to understand new material, identify relative points presented in new material.

Language Skill Proficiency Focus: Listening, Speaking, Writing, Reading

Materials and Equipment: Handout whiteboard, pictures

Warm up/Review: Review previous lesson, "Understanding Job Ads"

Introduction: Seguey to next lesson, "Finding a Job in the U.S." and read "Oscar's Story" about finding a job. Ask students, "How did you get your first job? How did you feel about getting your first job.

Presentation: Relate previous material to new material, check students comprehension, use pictures and gestures.

Guided Practices: Student tell ways to job search, pair work to further develop wats to job search, group work drawing pictures of job search materials, introduce adverbs of frequency.

Communitive Practice: Students interview each other (five interviews), use adverbs during interviews, Teacher gives presentation of personal interest and students mark adverbs used in presentation on handout provided, Students read 3 short stories of job search activities of others and write comprehension answers, students create (working in groups) job finding techniques brochure

Evaluation: Check list of how well you use job search techniques, Check list of adverbs and job search words you have learned and can use.

Application: Students write how they will use job search information they have learned. Students give an oral presentation of how they will conduct their job search, Role play calling a prospective employer to garner more infromation concerning jobs listed without sufficient details (pay not listed, benefits not mentioned, sift or hours not stated, name of company not mentioned, company location not indicated).

The course said that routine is welcomed by the students. I found this true while teaching in Special Education. These students don't like surprises or change. However I was of the mind that adult learners would become bored with routine. I am re-thinking this point.

irina morgunova's picture

When I start my first class, we play a game as an icebreaker.  Everyone sits in a circle; one student starts off saying his name and his hobby, the next student repeats the name of the fist student and their hobby and then says his/her name and his/her hobby. Everyone in the circle repeats all previous students' names and then their own.  I, as the last person, repeat all students' names and their hobbies.

This is good for all levels; students relax and get comfortable in the class with their classmates and the teacher as well. 

Mari's picture

I have used this game with students telling what country they are from. The students really laugh if I mess up at the end. Then they know it's okay to make mistakes in class.

DW's picture

I have definitely learned that I need to scaffold my lessons better. I have always tried scaffolding, but I think I give my Intermediate level students too much credit. Some of my students seem to think they know more than they do and I believed the hype because they talk well but their writing skills are not the same. I will start at a lower level and build up from there. Also, I need to do more small groups. I do pairs and because of class size sometimes it is hard to do small groups. I need to use more materials like the sentence strips, colored index cards, and chart paper. I do use computers and the interactive SMARTboard. I still need to work on making it even more kinetic.I need to get back to the choral fashion of repetition that I used to do. Saw some fun games to like the fly swatter and matching the clauses.

DW's picture

I have definitely learned that I need to scaffold my lessons better. I have always tried scaffolding, but I think I give my Intermediate level students too much credit. Some of my students seem to think they know more than they do and I believed the hype because they talk well but their writing skills are not the same. I will start at a lower level and build up from there. Also, I need to do more small groups. I do pairs and because of class size sometimes it is hard to do small groups. I need to use more materials like the sentence strips, colored index cards, and chart paper. I do use computers and the interactive SMARTboard. I still need to work on making it even more kinetic.I need to get back to the choral fashion of repetition that I used to do. Saw some fun games to like the fly swatter and matching the clauses.

evobornik's picture

Currently, there is a large focus on fostering a sense of community, classroom management, and teaching to thee skills that my students will need in their given field, but there is certainly room for improvement. I am co-teaching with a vocational/ continuing education certificate subject area teacher and my ESL support class occurs 20 minutes after their content course ends. While I try to create learning objectives in advance, occaisionally a content area will stump them and, I must re-arrange our focus. I would like to become more comfortable creating, revising, and critiquing my the learning objectives that I create. 

BethYW2008's picture

5 Steps for Planning, Implementing & and Managing my class:


1) Factors affecting learning:

Even though the class is small, there are a variety of literacy levels and varying lengths of time in the US. The class is also 90% Hispanic with only one non-Spanish speaker.  motivation and confidence to speak in class also varies by student.  Some students are in the work forcea dn some are stay-at-home moms. One student is practicing to seek citizenship and one student is trying to improve his competency/certification on a machine at work. Each student has uniuique reasons for his or her presence in class.  


2). The goal for my lesson would be to have each student present a recipe to the class.  We are currently working on a unit in foods.

Lesson Focus chart:

Functional phrases: polite phrases like:

"I would like to tell you about..."  Or ""thank you for listening to my presentation."

Language skills- Discourse Comp.:

Be able to describe steps of the recipe in order so that the process make sense.


effective use of foods, containers, amounts, utensils, ordinal adjectives

Communication Strategies:

Be able to ask and answer questions offered from students in class.  Classroom students should be able to ask clarifying questions if they have them.


3) I have difficulty with formal assessment for this lesson plan.  I would use an integrated ongoing approach to my assessment but am not sure how to indicate that here.

My template is based on the one from the ESL Literacy Network Toolbox.

Plan: Students will each present a recipe to the class

Theme: foods, measure and process

Listening: Student will be able to listen to questions from fellow students and will attempt to answer with help.

Students in class room will listen to the presentation and ask clarifying questions as needed.

Speaking:  Student will present recipe step by step using ordinal adjectives and vocabulary such as foods, containers, measures and utensils.

Reading: students will read and follow along as the presenter presents the recipe.

Writing: The presenting student will provide class members with a written copy of the recipe.


4)Student Centered Learning

this activity will be guided by the teacher in preparation but the students will have the opportunity to:

-seek out their own recipes

- research the vocabulary needed for the presentation

- have access to personal' teacher and internet resources.


5) classroom management strategies:

we have already worked on introductions, discussed family structures, and explored shopping habits in other lessons so the students have some cohesion with on another.Our regular habit is to discuss the calendar in past, present and future termsat the opening of each class.   This includes ordinal numbers.  The exercise above will be a culminating lesson of language skills developed in previous lessons and are important to the learner at a life skill level for navigating a grocery store and understanding amounts.

Thank you for this opportunity to share.  I appreciate any comments.



Miriamb3's picture

Thanks, Beth, for sharing your lesson and for your invitation for us to comment. Here a a few of my thoughts and questions:

1. The lesson sounds very useful for language, numeracy, and cultural skills (shopping habits, eating habits, family roles, fast food culture versus real food, etc.) Do you address some of these topics during this lesson?

2. Do you discuss the difference between metric and US system of measurement?

3. It sounds like you have a good scope and sequence for where this lesson fits in. Do you discuss with your students why they are doing this lesson, what specific vocabulary and structures they will be practicing, and how these vocabulary and structures can be used in other contexts and situations?

A quick story to illustrate my comments above: When I lived in Barcelona in the late 70s, I usually shopped in a small markets or delis, or stores where I actually had to speak to the grocer – or the other customers - to be served. For example, in the bread shop I learned to ask loudly upon entering the store, “Quien es la ultima?”:  “Who’s the last one?” or as we might say, “Where’s the end of the line?” (Or we might pick up a number.) Usually I didn’t have to say it more than once or twice before someone would identify herself as the last in line. Learning that phrase was very useful for many contexts.

Other thoughts? Thanks, again, Beth.

Miriam, SME, Adult ELL


skoerner's picture
  • My ESL class, located on campus, is mostly Spanish speaking but also includes a few Hmong students. They are pre-GED level and so we use a more academically-focused approach, but also include a great deal of pronunciation, vocabulary work and interactive discussions in order to meet their varied educational backgrounds. This is also how we all get to know each other. We have recently been using a civics blog where students from all of the different level classes can interact by posting a response to a question and then commenting on each other's posts. They really enjoy learning about the many different perspectives just within our school. The computer skills they have learned have also been a plus. They have expressed a real desire to become more computer literate as they realize the neccessity.
  • I am currently using many of the techniques that were discussed in the course, but I find my biggest challenge to be the inconsistency in attendence, which makes it so difficult to really get into a large project, or build on a topic with scaffolding. Each class must be almost free-standing in scope. This has always been an issue in the ESL classes, and while I am very aware of the causes, i.e. work schedules, family issues, etc., it can greatly affect the group dynamic from day to day. However, I do try to maintain a weekly routine which helps them know what to expect and to see progress in their achievements.
Miriamb3's picture

The weekly routine is a great idea. I have just returned from COABE, where I attended some excellent presentations. In one of them, Dr. Helaine Marshall and Dr. Andrea DeCapua in their workshop on culturally responsive instruction for struggling language learners, pointed out the importance of routine for learners, especially those with limited or interrupted education. (See



t.eller's picture

CLT Lesson Plan for ESL Classroom

Title: How to call 911 when there is an emergency

The lesson objective is to equip each student with the ability to call 911 and clearly state their emergency, name and location to the operator.

For what level of learners is this appropriate: This lesson is appropriate for all levels of students.  After this lesson, and practice in subsequent class times, students will have the ability to call 911 in case of an emergency and give their name, address and at use at least one word to describe an emergency or a portion of an emergency.

Does the lesson present language within the real-life contexts that learners will encounter? How?:  Yes, real-life language will be taught to students. Low level students will be taught to say one or two word emergency situations such as FIRE, BLEEDING, PERSON HURT, NOT BREATHING, etc. Students will write on cards their names and addresses to keep with them in case they must call 911. Discussion about what is NOT an emergency will take place as well.

What activities does the lesson use to get learners to interact with each other to exchange information and solve problems in situations that resemble real-life communication?:  Students will write scripts for role-plays of different emergency scenarios such as a fire in their home, a loved one having trouble breathing, witnessing a car accident with injuries, etc.

How does the lesson integrate all four skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking?):  Students will write scripts for calling 911 and read them with other students. Students will listen to others presenting their scenarios. Speaking their names and addresses, as well as spelling both, will be encouraged. Students will be put in groups as well as partnered to practice these skills.

How does the lesson balance the focus on fluency and accuracy?: Low level student will be taught the most basic words to express an emergency and taught correct pronunciation to help with communication to 911 operators. Higher level students will be taught complete sentences as their understanding allows. All students will practice with each other pronunciation and whether or not the listener can understand what the emergency is that the student is talking about. Higher lever students will be paired with lower level students to help with pronunciation and comprehension.

What authentic materials does the lesson use?:  Photographs of fires and car accidents from newspapers or magazines will be used.



t.eller's picture

This was a very enjoyable and interesting way for me, as new instructor in the ESL classroom, to learn many different strategies to help my students.  I believe it is very important to present clear, usable information to ESL learners. Too many small details, especially in the beginning, can bog down a students and frustrate them. Thank you for all the great ideas and the solid information about how students learn.

Mari's picture

Based on what I have learned I will have more concern for including all literacy skills, reading, writing, listening and speaking, in each and every lesson. I will be planning lessons that move from accuracy to fluency. As a high school educator I have always made an effort to make my lessons relevant to students' daily lives, this class has reinforced that belief in relevancy. I plan to include more opportunities for student interaction, more routines and more authentic materials in my lesson plans.

Tabel's picture

I wish I had more access to relevant material in my classes. I need to utilize more realia and implement more real-life situations that make our work more relevant. 

Tabel's picture


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


  • Class attendance prior to lesson
  • General well-being of student that day (work, childcare, physical health)
  1. Determine lesson focus.


  • Possessive adjectives and possessives
  1. Plan lesson objectives, activities, and assessments.


  • See Step-By-Step: T-32 & T-33
  1. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.


  • Students determine questions to ask classmates; answer their own questions, and decide who to interview
  1. Apply classroom management strategies.


  • Apply rules for giving classmate’s response. Also provide structure for returning work to teacher

Lesson Overview

Theme: Recognize and use possessive adjectives to describe people

Level: Low and Intermediate Beginning

Content Pillar: Cultural Expectations



Proficiency Descriptor:



Read and understand conversations that involve possessives of other people.

Write the answers to comprehension questions.



Write questions to ask a partner. Answer questions and write partner’s answers, as well.

Correct completion of “Practice Possessives” chart that goes with these questions.

Literacy Strategies:


Read and circle correct response for possessive cloze

Correct responses


Write four sentences about classmates and teacher

Correct sentences using possessive


Correct spelling of words

One portion of the work requires changing a possessive into His or Her. Sentences that are rewritten should be spelled correctly.

Habit of Mind:

 Use of possessives with apostrophe and interchanging with possessive adjectives

Lesson Resources:

Podnecky, Janet. Step Forward : Workbook. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

Santamaria, Jenni Currie. Step Forward: Step-By-Step Lesson Plans. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

Spigarelli, Jane. Step Forward 1: Language for Everyday Life. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.


Tabel's picture

Class Level: Beginning ESL

Topic: Possessives and Possessive Adjectives

Class Length: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Lesson Objective: Students will use possessive adjectives to describe people.

Language Skill Proficiency Focus: Listening, Speaking, Writing, Reading

Materials and Equipment: iPad, CD player, Step Forward CD, Workbook p 18-19, Multilevel Activity Book p. 40

Warm up/Review: Show pictures of celebrities on iPad and says sentences about them: “His hair is red. Her hair is blond. His hair is brown.”

Introduction: Write those sentences on the board and say, “Today we will use possessives to describe people.”

Presentation: Looking at picture on p. 32, ask questions: “Is her hair blond?” “Is his hair brown?”

Guided Practice: students circle the correct answers and speak in complete sentences. Students will create 5 more sentences using different possessive adjectives.

Communicative Practice: Students interview 2 classmates about eye color, name, and hair color. They write and say sentences about partners’ answers.

Evaluation: Students will write 4 sentences about teacher and/or classmates.

Application: Similar to the game of Telephone, students write a story together about a family, passing a page around their groups.


Identify student characteristics and factors that may affect learning.

  • Class attendance prior to lesson
  • General well-being of student that day (work, childcare, physical health)

Determine lesson focus.

  • Possessive adjectives and possessives

Plan lesson objectives, activities, and assessments.

  • See Step-By-Step: T-32 & T-33

Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

  • Students answer their own questions, and decide who to interview

Apply classroom management strategies.

  • Apply rules for giving classmate’s response. Also provide structure for returning work to teacher
MargaretG's picture

I have not actually started teaching yet, but here is a brainstormed lesson plan based on the class observations I have conducted, as well as the online training modules, of course!

  1. Student Characteristics and Factors that may affect learning

    • They are all from different countries and at a fairly beginning level. Most of them prefer to refer to translations they give each other than actually speaking and learning in English (we’ll work on it). All from central or south America with stable family experiences and simply want to communicate in English. Some want advanced degrees. All will eventually want citizenship, and they vary with schedules and jobs.
  2. Determine Lesson Focus
    • Functional life activities: Right now the unit we are working on describes objects in the home and community. Vocabulary/functioning discourse: describing the objects in the home. I want them to be able to send someone else to the store to buy objects, ask a cashier if they can’t find something, and be able to travel to another store to get it if they need to.
  3. Plan lesson objectives,  activities, and assessments
    • Objectives: I want them to be able to send someone else to the store to buy objects, ask a cashier if they can’t find something, and be able to travel to another store to get it if they need to.
    • Activities: First we will go over the vocab words from the section in the book, and then do a guided dialogue from the book with a partner, writing down the answers. Next, I will ask questions about where they go in the community to buy the different things from the book (food, toiletry items, and things in the home) and elicit responses. We will do some choral practice and then I will set a few lists of places and items. Given these lists, they will work with partners to create their own dialogue. Next I will ask them to work with a different partner and talk about the last time they went to the store.
    • Assessments: I will be able to walk around and listen for any problems and give feedback, and students will be able to give feedback as well. With the written down answers they will be able to self-correct as well as go back and see what we talked about that day.
  4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices
    • I think an interesting thing would be to use the board and set up three different “stores”: grocery, home/Target/Home Depot, and a pharmacy type store. They could work in groups and send one member up and if I called out an item, they could tell their group member which store to go to. I could also use corners of the room. This way, they could interact, use total physical response, and it would feel like a game. 
  5. Apply classroom management strategies
    • Journal: I really liked the journaling idea presented throughout the training modules. Even with beginning learners, I think starting to write a sentence or two at the beginning and end of class would be terrific. At the beginning I could introduce a topic or question for the day and have them write predictions, and at the end we could have a wrap-up of the things they learned or what to know more about. I would keep the journals to direct my planning for the next lessons.
    • Agenda on the board when they walk in, and once the vocab words are on the board, leave them there for the entire class/unit
    • Get to know you: I want the students to make name cards, both to help me and each other. On the inside of the folded part, we can have a different discussion topic to start each day with (countries they’re from, how long they’ve been in the states, other places they’ve traveled, etc.)


One thing I will need to brainstorm more is my grouping strategies, but that will depend on the size of the class!

Lori Carswell's picture

Here is my assignment for this course.

1. Identify student characteristics and factors that may affect learning

This class is a small, multi-level class.  Usually about six students are present. All current students are from Mexico. Four are high intermediate, one is low beginning, and one is high beginning. Their goals and motivations include: taking better care of children and grandchildren and helping with their education, advancing their own education, traveling, getting better jobs, and working more effectively with customers in their current jobs.

The most important consideration in lesson planning for these learners is the range of levels. Another consideration is the unpredictability of attendance. In planning lessons for this class, I usually include some whole-group activities, as well as lessons and activities by level or in mixed-level pairs.  The class is too small to break into several groups, so activities such as jigsaws are difficult. On the other hand, there is time to give a lot of individual attention and feedback.

2. Lesson Focus: Public Transportation Schedules and Communication

All of the students drive in their neighborhoods and to class, but they have expressed interest in learning how to take trains or subways for trips to other cities, or when they are visiting other cities where public transportation is essential, such as New York City or Washington D.C.

  • Communicative Task: Talk about train and subway schedules and routes; ask for directions when in a strange city; ask about costs of transportation
  • Functional phrases: Asking for directions, e.g., What time, Where, When, How long, How much? For higher-level students, asking for more detailed information on train and subway schedules, e.g., how to transfer lines
  • Language skills: Reading and analyzing transportation schedules; listening to directions; reading schedules on websites; interpreting costs of transportation options
  • Cultural Knowledge: Knowing where the train or bus stations are; knowing where the train and buses travel; knowing what time they travel
  • Grammar: Question forms for present tense (When does the train leave? Where is the train station? How much does it cost?)
  • Vocabulary: Schedule; station; subway; arrival; departure; distance; etc. Also, time of day vocabulary (this is review for most students)
  • Communication Strategies: How to ask for clarification on directions; how to ask strangers for transportation information; what to do if you get lost

3. Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments

I use WIPPEA, the TEAL lesson planning framework. Note that this lesson would probably take more than one class.

A) Warm-up:

  • Review time-of-day vocabulary and make sure students are comfortable with it. If not, review as needed. (Most students know this very well.)
  • Ask about transportation methods: How do you get to class? Do you take a train or subway? (no) Do people take the train in Chapel Hill? (no) Where do people use trains and subways to travel? (mostly in larger cities). Show a photo of a train station and elicit vocabulary.

B) Introduction:

  • Explain that the objective is to learn language for traveling by train or subway. Additional objectives are to be able to interpret schedules, plan routes, and calculate costs of travel. Elicit specific objectives from students, for example, travel within a specific city like D.C. or New York.
  • Write at least three specific lesson objectives on the board.

C) Presentation:

  • First, write a greatly simplified “schedule” on the board for a train trip. Then review question forms related to travel schedules: When does the train leave? When does the train arrive? How long does it take? (etc.) Ask and answer as a group.
  • Hand out a simple, real train schedule, for example, Amtrak for the Durham to D.C. route. Have learners work in pairs (or threes) to answer questions about the schedule. Then review as a whole group.
  • Ask and answer questions about the train schedule on the board. Check for understanding by asking additional questions. Have learners come to the board to write answers to questions about the schedule.

D) Practice:

  • Model a conversation about the schedule using a prepared dialogue with a customer and an employee. (Excuse me, when does the train leave for D.C? How much does a ticket cost?) Practice this dialogue as a group.
  • Then have learners break into pairs again and review dialogues. Have more advanced learners modify the dialogues or create their own, e.g., asking for help if you are lost.
  • Additional practice with technology: Provide a few websites with train or subway schedules, e.g., Ask learners to work in pairs to answer specific questions from the website and filling in a short worksheet. (This might be only for more advanced learners; beginners could spend more time on the dialogues.)
  • Come back together as a group and share what they found. (This could be a homework assignment as well.) Have beginners practice their dialogues for the group.

E) Evaluation:

  • Use the “red card/green card” approach to find out what learners feel confident about, and what they want to work on. Refer back to the original lesson objectives.
  • Have learners complete a cloze activity based on the schedule handout.
  • Use the results to plan the next lesson, for example, additional practice with websites or with route planning on a complex subway system.

F) Application:

  • This would depend on students’ individual interests. For example, each student could identify a city and then research the transportation options in that city online at home.
  • Further classes and class projects could be devoted to additional cities or transportation options.

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices

  • Self-directed learning: Learners have a great deal of freedom within this lesson, to explore transportation options in cities of their interest and to create dialogues that are meaningful to them. This lesson is also differentiated, with more advanced learners using the internet while beginner learners practice dialogue.
  • Transformational learning: This lesson should open up new opportunities or possibilities for learners; for example, giving them confidence to travel in a strange city, or to plan a train trip for their family.

5. Apply classroom management strategies

  • This lesson reinforces classroom routines including forming groups and working in pairs, using technology in the classroom, and using dictionaries and reference materials for unfamiliar vocabulary.
  • It involves various grouping strategies. For the schedule reviews and dialogue practice, learners will work in multi-level pairs or groups of three. For the more advanced website research and additional dialogue practice, learners will work in like-ability groups.
  • Whole-group discussions also occur at several points during the lesson.
Lori Carswell's picture

I found this course to be a good introduction to lesson planning principles. The example lesson plans and lesson plan templates were useful and I will refer back to them in the future. I thought the most valuable components of the course were the videos of actual classroom lessons, because I noticed a lot of things that the teachers did really well that I need to improve in my own teaching. I also learned a lot about grouping strategies. My class is small, but I can imagine grouping methods would be extremely important in larger classes.

Kathy Kamp's picture

Most of the topics in ELL Course 05 were not new to me, but reviewing them was useful and expanded my thinking about them. I found the discussion of language and content objectives to be useful, as I had previously only identified learning objectives, which I think is very important to focusing a lesson. I also appreciated the practical strategies, which I noted for future use. I like building a sense of community in a classroom, which I had not studied before, but came to after years of teaching—I realized how important it is for students to study in a supportive climate, so I try to nurture one. I think it's especially important, as some students are reticent communicators or suffer from a good deal of communication apprehension about speaking. They have to feel safe to speak, so they will participate more in class activities and learn from them. It makes sense to me that a supportive classroom environment is part of a CLT approach, is learner-centered and potentially transformative.


Carmela Kemp's picture

The first day of class, I create name cards (cardboard tents) which I continue to use each day until we all know each others' names.  The first day of class, I have students tell their country of origin, their profession in their country, and something about themselves and their family.

Carmela Kemp's picture

My class is an Advanced Reading and Writing Class.  Students have similar proficiency levels (they were pre-tested) but they may be in the US for differing amounts of time.  Most have at least a high school education in their own country.  

The Lesson I am preparing is on the "Bill of Rights."

Objective: By the end of the lesson students will be able to explain how the "Bill of Rights" relates to the Constitution.

Warm Up: Students complete a brief cloze on the purpose of the Constitution and the concept of the amendment process.  The cloze introduces and defines the necessary vocabulary.

Introduction: Teacher circulates miniature copies of the Constitution where students can visually note the concept of amendments.

Presentation:  Teacher hands out a list of the "Bill of Rights" and later amendments to the Constitution and reviews content with class.

Practice:  Students break up into groups and read the Readworks handouts, "American Government, the Bill of Rights Parts I and II" aloud to each other and discuss comprehension questions. Teacher circulates and monitors groups.

Evaluation: Using the "Bill of Rights" handout, students in groups, complete a matching exercise matching each of the Bill of Rights with the correct explanation of each.

Application:  Students in their small groups discuss 10 examples of real life situations where students must determine which rights are being violated according to which amendments and decide what would be the right thing to do according to the Bill of Rights.

Pansy Chintha's picture

In every class I try to get to know my students and we use the grammar lesson to know each other. Students work in groups and each group comes up with a story about their childhood or their country, food, culture. Students get to know each other and at the same time use the grammar that they have learnt.

Carmela Kemp's picture

Upon completing this course, I chose to "polish" a lesson I had already re-visited once on the "Bill of Rights."  The first time I taught the lesson, as a new ESL teacher of an Intermediate Reading and Writing Class, I selected two "reading comprehension" selections on the "Bill of Rights" that proved too difficult for my students.  I would now recommend the passages as a component of a larger lesson for Advanced ESL students.  As part of revising this lesson, besides recommending it for advanced students, I also added "scaffolding" to precede and follow the reading passages. That scaffolding included an introductory cloze that presented and defined the necessary vocabulary and then a handout and an accompanying "matching" exercise that outlined and defined the ten Bill of Rights.  

Having completed the "Principles" course, I re-visited the lesson for a third time.  Prior to completing this course, I was too attached to teacher-centered "whole class" interaction rather than the more student-centered grouping or pairing of students. So too, convinced of the importance of moving from highly structured tasks to more open ended tasks, I now would first have the students read the handout silently while the teacher reads it aloud but then I would have the students complete the matching exercise (that mirrors the handout) in groups or pairs.  

Also upon completion of the "Principles" course, I was taught to think about the "authentic communicative task" of the lesson and I decided to add a final component to the lesson where students discuss real life scenarios and decide which "rights" from the "Bill of Rights" the scenarios may violate as well as what might be the more appropriate course of action.  Not only would this "application" component of the lesson plan require critical thinking, it would also allow the students to get to know each other better and even possibly promote a shift of consciousness or transformational learning.




Pansy Chintha's picture

I create learning objectives based on learners’ needs and goals.  On the first night of class the students get to know each other.  We have a short dialogue where the students get to know the names of their classmates, the country they are from and how long they have been in the U.S.  They also ask them their goals.  As I circulate among the students I am able to get the information as well.  I also use classroom routine in my class.  We also review the previous lesson and sometimes have a quiz.  At the end of the class the students give me two or three sentences using the tense that we learned that night. 

When I was teaching them to write paragraphs, I used thoughtful grouping of students (using their level of education).  I gave each group title of a paragraph.  Each group had to come up with the topic sentence, supporting details and concluding sentence.  The students had a lot of fun trying to think of the supporting details and concluding sentence.  This gave the students lot of opportunity to interact. 

Susan Cann's picture

Although I have taught ABLE/GED for over 25 years, the only experience I have with ESOL is from a 4 day workshop 15 years ago.   I decided to add this class to my schedule and thought this course "Principles of Second Language Teaching: Planning, Implementing and Managing Instruction" would be of great value.   I wish that I had known the Prerequisite Activity "Reflect on Your Current Practices",  before I registered as upon completing the course I struggled to create a lesson plan.   I think that I will be able to do a reasonably good job after I have a few more PDs under my belt and some real life experience!   

yacoub khoury's picture

Activities should be varied from time to  time especially with ESL students to implement and apply learning in practice.As an ESL instructor ,I have some topics I have to address or encounter with the students and even with myself:

-what am I planning to explore or implement in my classroom?

It is Crucial to KWL .The instructor should know where he/she stands before addressing any topic to the students.What amount of information students know or have about certain topic.This later facilitates the instructor's job later to divide the class into groups.

-Why did I choose this focus?

Engaging students with something they have already known opens the door for enthusiastic approach and gains positive feedback at the end..

-Are there any contextual factors?

Instructors have to be aware of the class size and the level of the students.However, the content focus is the most important factor that students will deal with.In the same token,the competent instructor will lead students to a safe understanding regardless of the levels in the same class;students help each other.At the same time,it is not easy at all dealing with students of different levels at the same time during certain period of time ,so what do you think?

-How I will implement my ideas?

I focus on reading the passage most time twice using the Dictogloss as to allow me to assess learners' listening and language usages.It sis a good activity where students can interact and discuss meaning and vocabularies of the text.It suits all levels and it is of four steps starting with preparation and doing dictation and reconstruction ending with analyzing and correction.

-What signs will you look for to know if the activity is having an impact?

The impact and the involvement of students in positive way can lead to a positive accomplishment.Students participate ,and take parts correcting sentences of each other.Students work in pairs and then fours to compare notes and share their written ones .students will- at the end- be able to write correct sentences related to the main ideas of the text...Thanks


JanisHT's picture

A. Students and Setting

This lesson is designed for adult English Language Learners whose ages range from 19 to 53. The students have taken the C Level CASAS level tests in Reading and in Listening. The listening scores of the students range from 217 to 237, while the reading scores range from 223-243. Most of the students are high intermediate according to the levels set by the National Reporting System. A few of the students placed into the advanced scoring range.  All of the students have at least nine years of education in their first language and most have completed their secondary education. Two of the students hold professional degrees in their native countries. While most of the students are Spanish-speaking, this class of 18 students has 3 Koreans, 1 German, and 2 Haitians.

The students attend their English as a Second Language class as part of an Adult Education Program in a community college located in a standard metropolitan statistical area of 250,000+. The college is located within five miles of a large military base and many of the students have a connection to the military through family relationships. The class is considered to be intensive. Students attend from 8:00 to 12:00, Monday through Friday, and from 12:30 until 2:30, Monday through Thursday. There are 15 computers placed around the walls of the classroom and all of the computers have Internet access and have Microsoft Office Professional loaded on them.

B. Lesson Background:

The class has worked on reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills for the past four weeks, but there has been a particular emphasis on writing. Students were asked to bring in examples of print information that interested them. One student brought in a newsletter from a medical clinic, which inspired a discussion about writing for a specific purpose. The discussion evolved into a discussion regarding newsletters in general. One of the students suggested that the class create a newsletter about social activities in the area and the other students agreed that not only would their class benefit from the information, but also the lower level classes. They also thought learning to use Microsoft Publisher® would be a good skill to develop.

This lesson will take place over a series of weeks with students preparing a newsletter every two weeks. There will be other integrated skills lessons during this time frame as well since students attend a minimum of four hours a day. For this activity, students will spend approximately an hour each day researching, writing drafts, doing peer reviews, and then editing the newsletter using spellcheck and grammar check.

C. Learning Objectives/Expected Results:

Students will:
Speaking and Listening
 S.1.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one--on-one and in groups) building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
 S.1.4.5 Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
Reading and Writing
 W.3.4.6 Use a computer to create paragraph divisions in an extended text and mark them through indentation.
 W.5.4.1a Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
 W.5.4.1e Use precise language and domain—specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
 W.5.4.4 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
 T.6.4.3 Plan, select, evaluate, interpret, and use information from a variety of digital resources to develop assignment, project, or presentation.
 T.4.2.5 Use word processing as a tool to write, edit, and publish sentences, paragraphs, and stories.
Note: Student Learning Outcomes are taken from the North Carolina Community College System Standards January 2014 Revision.

D. Materials and Sources:

1. Computers with Internet access and Microsoft Office Professional 2010
2. Microsoft Publisher® Installed Newsletter Templates

3. Instructions on how to create a newsletter in Microsoft Publisher® found at
4. PDF file on How to Create a Newsletter developed by the instructor
5. Variety of newsletters obtained locally (some provided by the instructor and some brought in by the students) to review, compare, and contrast
6. Internet websites listing local community events.
7. Cell Phone cameras
8. Email accounts for sending information among the students working on the newsletter

E. Procedures/Timing:


1. Approximate Time 5 minutes
T: Reminds students of the discussion they had about newsletters and their desire to produce one. Asks students what they remember about newsletters and how they differ from newspapers and fact sheets.
S: Students offer various responses but eventually point out that newspapers concern events that have happened. Fact sheets are not time related. Newsletters have a general theme and provide information to a specific group of people on topics of interest to them.

2. Approximate Time 5 minutes

T: Divides class into three (3) groups of six (6) students each. Each group will have two (2) people who do not speak Spanish.
S: Students move into their groups and put tables together to make it easier to have a group conversation.

3.  Approximate Time: 15 minutes

T: Outlines tasks for the group. Each student will be a reporter and a researcher. They will also be members of the editorial board. Explains what an editorial board does. Also tells group to select an editor-in-chief who will make assignments (with student input) and will be responsible for final editing. Asks students to decide what theme they want for their newsletter and who will be responsible for formatting the newsletter.

S: Students elect an editor-in-chief who then gets the students to brainstorm whether they want to prepare newsletters on current events or if they want to select a different theme. Students also decide who will be responsible for inputting the articles into Microsoft Publisher®.

4.  Approximate Time:  15 minutes

T:  Calls groups back to the larger group and asks them to report on the roles each student will play. Asks groups for the theme of their newsletter.

S: Students report their decisions to the class and explain the reason for their decisions.

5.  Approximate Time:  15 minutes

T: Uses LCD Projector connected to the computer to demonstrate how to access MS Publisher®, select a template, and import images. Asks groups to move to computers to select a template for their newsletter.

S: Students watch demonstration of MS Publisher® and then select a template and practice inputting text and an image into a sample document.

6.  Approximate Time: 5 minutes

T: Reviews what has been accomplished so far and writes list on the board as students mention what they have done. Then, asks students to do homework by thinking about what they need to accomplish in their groups on Day Two and making notes for their groups.

S: Students respond to the teacher’s questions about what they accomplished that day.

Days Two through Nine continue with students working on the newsletter in group meetings and on the computer doing research or writing articles.  Students edit each other's writing, but have access to the instructor for questions they are unable to answer within the group.

F. Alternative Assessment:

This lesson plan produces a large number of opportunities for formative assessment for learning to take place. There are no tests or quizzes, but the students create products (drafts, articles, and newsletters) that provide printed evidence of the gaps and strengths of student learning. The print evidence allows the teacher to determine what additional support is needed for students to improve punctuation, capitalization, and spelling skills. The teacher can also spot errors in writing, including syntax, tenses, subject-verb agreement, and other areas of writing. From an analysis of these errors the teacher can create integrated skills activities as part of the teaching and learning in the part of the class not dedicated to the newsletter activity.

Students can also be evaluated on their speaking and listening skills. When they work in groups, they must communicate orally. A checklist from Day One is included and it can be used as a sample for daily rubrics that the students can help create. Because the teacher is actively observing the students throughout the lesson, an informal evaluation of their speaking takes place. The instructor can note issues in pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary, and structure and then develop lessons to address these issues.

While all four of the integrated skills are used in this lesson, speaking and writing skills are most clearly observed. These are active skills, often neglected in classrooms because they require so much more effort on the part of the students. Linguistic competence is demonstrated by the oral group activities and by the newsletters created as part of the project.

Integrated Skills: This lesson uses integrated skills although the skills of speaking and writing are most predominant. Speaking (including pronunciation) and listening take place during the group work in which every student has a role and must report on his/her progress to the overall group. Reading is developed through the research the students must do in order to write articles. Sometimes the reading is done through print materials, but it is most often done by accessing online sites. Reading is assessed by the written summaries the students produce ad by their ability to answer questions regarding the writing. The skill of writing is developed through note-taking, writing drafts or writing articles. Additionally, editing of articles fosters the further development of writing skills since the students must analyze their own and their group’s errors.

Alternative Assessment: The assessment in this activity is formative. The teacher develops a sense of the speaking skills of the students by selectively listening to their group meetings. The instructor has an initial checklist that is applied to evaluate oral communication. Later, students help develop a rubric that they use to assess one another. The teacher provides feedback regularly by sitting in on group meetings. Assessment of writing skills is pervasive. Students take notes, create drafts, write articles, edit articles written by themselves and others, and examine writing in terms of purpose and clarity. Not only does the instructor assist with editing as requested, but the students also perform peer reviews of articles. Finally, while the groups conduct a peer review prior to the publication of the newsletter, a final assessment is done as the other groups look at the finished newsletters of the other groups and then ask questions, make comments, and consider the finished newsletters as model for future newsletters.

Classroom Management: The activity is well-organized through the creation of groups that have the responsibility of producing a newsletter. Each member of the class belongs to a group and has a specific responsibility within the group. If he/she does not live up to group expectations, the group is adversely affected. For that reason, the groups use peer pressure to ensure individual focus and completion of activities. There is a fixed period of time each day for the students to work on the project. Those who finish early have an alternate assignment they can work on, helping to avoid the possibility that they could distract those who have not completed their assignment for that day. Classroom Management is greatly aided by the fact that the students wanted to create a newsletter.

Differentiated instruction/individual learning differences: The use of group work allows students to select activities that challenge, but don’t frustrate them. By assigning student roles on the newsletter staff, each student has a specific learning task that integrates with the whole. Students whose writing skills are weaker will be assigned to activities that require more research and less writing, but every student will produce some writing. In addition, students who wish to work on the actual input of articles into the newsletter template will have the opportunity to develop skills in the use of MS Publisher®. During the editing process, students may work as individuals or with a partner to review and offer editing suggestions to others. Students will learn to edit using the “Two Stars and a Wish” technique for Formative Assessment.

yacoub khoury's picture

I like EL Civics questions especially for ESL students. I place different letters in different places in my classroom trying to let the students make words out of these letters. It was three weeks ago when the students had fun and got educational benefits sharing what each one has accomplished .However, one of these words was Constitution. It is really a long discussion to  open among students .I left the topic pending ,but I did not tell students why I will not talk too much about this idea.After two days,one of the students said :What about the constitution from the previous class! The students was really inquiring until I told the students to go again and look at the wall and write down and share.You know what did they they find?


                                 Legislative                                         executive                                 Judicial

                                     Congress                                      President- Vice president                Supreme Court

                                   Senate + House of Representatives

This diagram opens a discussion of a lot of topics to be discussed everyday for half an hour.

Peggy Atkinson's picture

I stress the importance of knowing a little about each other in our beginning ESL class.

It's important for them to make friends and realize others are going thru the struggles they have.


Pauline Thompson's picture

1. A core group of five students attend my Intermediate English class. One is a medical doctor from Kosovo, who used to teach medicine at a school. Now he's in the US working in a salad factory, as his credentials are not recognized and his spoken English is weak. The remaining students are Bhutanese, Nepali-speakers. They like to collaborate with each other in class in Nepali before answering questions or performing tasks in English. All of the students seem unfamiliar with pair and group dialogues and pair checking (of answers). 

2. Students need necessary vocabulary and functional language to request and fill a prescription.

3. Ss first listen to a story about a man who needs to call the doctor to refill his prescription, but forgets until he completely runs out of medicine. Ss are asked to speak about the story that they've listened to, and reproduce as much information as they can remember. Ss are then asked to listen to the story and read it simultaneously, to check if they missed any information while listening. Ss discuss the main character's problem and how he could have avoided the situation. 

Ss write about the process of visiting the doctor, receiving a prescription, and going to the pharmacy to get the prescription. We also practice the essential skills necessary for reading prescription and over the counter medicine labels, over a period of two weeks.

4. Ss work together to complete all tasks, and are encouraged to share their experiences of visiting the doctor and buying medicine.

5. Ss talk about how it was visiting the doctor and buying medicine back home. Ss share home remedies that they learned from their parents and grandparents, and are asked to discussed which home remedies they continue to implement on themselves and their children.

John Storm's picture

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

We have a large population of West Africans in our program that speak English as one of their primary languages.  A couple classes have been created tailored to their population.  They are primarily Beginning Literacy students, having little to no exposure to education in their home country.  One of these students considers his English as "broken".  Therefore, reading and writing is the primary focus, yet oral communication is not completely forgotten.  

2. Determine the lesson focus

Communicative tasks commonly address civic engagement that involved basic reading and writing skills, such as filling out forms, reading schedules, and paying bills.

3.Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments.

Our students in these classes work primarily on common sight words found on common forms.  The first 100 sight words are addressed as well to increase accuracy of reading simple sentences and passages.  Alphabetics and phonetics is integrated throughout the class.  Pronunciation is addressed along the way to ensure that the students, as speakers, are intelligible to listeners in their community.  Teachers use provided pre- and post-assessments to gauge student progress and make adjustments along the way.

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

Learners are a part of the instruction process through our use of SMART goals and contextualized instruction.  Students are encouraged to bring in realia from work and home to augment the selection of materials used in the classroom.  Students express to the instructors target areas in their lives that are pressing, needing attention. 

5. Apply classroom management strategies.

Instructors use a variety of kinesthetic, hands-on activities that engage each student in the classroom.  These activities are intended to mirror experiences outside of the classroom where the literacy skills will be required to employ.  Explicit instruction is used to ensure the proper modeling and guidance in the acquisition of the literacy skill.  As the students are all from West Africa in these two classes, a rapport is built quickly, and the instructors can better target common deficiencies.


Jane McBee's picture

Factors that affect learning:

The class consists of 5 male students from Mexico. They have been in the US from 1-4 years. The English proficiency level is Pre-Beginning to Low Intermediate. The literacy level is from Pre-Beginning to Low Intermediate. Prior education experiences range from 0 to 9th grade. Of the 5 students, 3 are married, 1 is divorced, and 1 is single. Four of them have school-age children. Four of them live in the same mobile home park and do manual labor, such as construction, picking galax, cutting brush, etc. All are motivated to learn English for family, community, and job reasons.

I created this lesson using the Teal Center Fact Sheet No. 8: Effective Lesson Planning

How and When to Call 911


1)Ask students if they’ve ever had to call 911. 

2)Write the main emergency categories on the white board: fire, crime, medical, natural disaster

3)Ask if they recognize any of the words.


What is an emergency? What is not an emergency?

What happens when you call 911? What information will the operator ask you for?


1)Model a dialogue with the 911 operator.

2)Introduce the new vocabulary using pictures.


1)Play the “flyswatter” game with vocabulary words.

2)Have the students practice the dialogue in pairs.

3)Have the students use flash cards independently.


1)Teacher pronounces the vocabulary words. Students write what they hear using a provided word bank.

2)Role play in pairs.


Students create an emergency information sheet for use in their homes.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Jane, Your lesson focuses on an authentic task that is important for all new arrivals to the US, calling 911. You include listening, speaking, reading and writing activities for your multilevel class. Having the students who are writing create their own flashcards is a helpful strategy to support their growing vocabulary. Devoting class time to this can really pay off, especially if, as the students experience the benefits, they begin to create flashcards on their own outside of class. Creating an emergency information sheet students can use at home is practical and authentic.

Thanks for sharing your lesson plan with all of us!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

Jane McBee's picture

I'm a beginning ESL teacher, so all the material is fresh and useful for me. I appreciate all the suggestions for actual activities and lesson planning. My students are pre-beginning to low intermediate literacy level, so the section that is most important for my class is: "Using topics that are relevant to students' lives". Following the links, I've found great worksheets and activities for all sorts of everyday topics, such as healthcare, speaking on the phone, going to the grocery store, etc.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

It's good to hear that you found the ELLU course on Principles of Second Language Teaching so helpful, Jane. There is a wealth of resources available to teachers online and this course connects teachers to many useful ones. That's for sure!

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Adult English Language Learners CoP

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

It is extremely important that we use topics that our students can relate to.  Very well said. I cannot agree with you more. 

Gladys Lopez-Rivas's picture

I am aware of the many needs of our students, but after seeing how well the illustration on reading was, I feel it will be beneficial for the students if we get the student to verbally express their needs and set their own goals.  Reading and understanding can be extremely difficult but by scaffolding as illustrated in the Advanced Level Reading class film, students can be more successful.  The reading, comparing their story directly to their life, writing and discussing the differences or similarities was also a great technique.

Since I teach students in lower levels, I can be more creative in assisting them to set their own goals and compare them to my class goal.  During my reading sessions, I can have them write about the story (allow them to write it in their language since they are low), but then attempt to have small group discussions on how it compares to their life, the differences and/or similarities.

Mike Shecket's picture

Mike Shecket

Godman Guild Association

June 18, 2015


Principles of Second Language Teaching: Culminating Activity


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


A plurality of my students are from Somalia. Most of them, to my knowledge, have been in the U.S. for less than ten years. They have varying English proficiency levels, but I believe most of them fall in the High Beginning to Low Intermediate range. At least one of my students is in her first-ever school experience. Most of my female students have young children. I believe most of my students have the goal of trying to improve their ability to function in everyday life in English. I believe the most important factors to keep in mind are the students’ proficiency levels and goals.


2. Determine the lesson focus.


My students may need to make a major purchase, like a car or a household appliance.


Functional phrases: “How much is it?” “Can we look at this one?” “What colors does it come in?”

Language skills: Speaking to a salesperson, reading a product description

Cultural Knowledge: Knowing when bargaining is acceptable, or knowing how to find out whether it is acceptable. “Can I make you an offer?”

Grammar: “I am looking for a new dishwasher” versus “I looking for a new dishwasher”

Vocabulary: Features, financing, “rent-to-own”, warranty

Communication Strategies: “Could you please repeat that?” “Could you please explain?”


3. Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments.



Class Level: High Beginning to Low Intermediate ESL

Topic: Making a major purchase

Class Length: 3 hours

Date: 7/14/2015

Lesson Objective: Students will be able to gather and evaluate information necessary to making a major purchase and use the communication skills necessary to complete that purchase.

Enabling Skills:

Grammar: use present progressive tense (“I am looking for…”)

Vocabulary: types of products and stores, words for money, words for features


Language Skill

Proficiency Focus


Materials and Equipment:


Information stickers from cars or appliances

Play money, sample purchase contracts



Warm Up/Review: Whole-class discussion about making major purchases. Students discuss what they have had to buy.

Introduction: Tell students that they will be practicing making major purchases. Show them some of the sample stickers from the various products.

Presentation: Act out a dialogue in which a customer goes to a car dealership to look at cars and take a test drive. Comprehension check: Ask students Y/N, OR, and WH- questions for approximately 5 minutes regarding the content of the dialogue.

Guided Practice: Group students for practicing their own dialogues related to making major purchases.

Communicative Practice: Have pairs of students develop their own dialogues.

Evaluation: 1. Have the pairs of students present their dialogues to the class. 2. Give students time to reflect on what they’ve learned.


Application: Guide a whole-class discussion on what students might buy and where they might look for it. Do they need to buy a car? A dishwasher? An oven?


4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.


I will give students a choice of what kind of purchase they want to talk about. I will let each pair of students creatively write their own dialogue. I will try to devote as much time as possible to students communicating with each other in a real-life situation.


5. Apply classroom management strategies.


I will have students from different countries who speak different languages sit together and communicate with each other.


I will have students make name signs so they can learn each other’s names and I can learn theirs.


I will write the agenda for the class on the whiteboard every day.

Mike Shecket's picture

The content of the "Principles of Second Language Teaching: Planning, Implementing, and Managing Instruction" course has helped me plan my instruction to connect language content to real-life contexts. It pointed out that I could use authentic materials, which could be a great variety of materials, such as TV news reports, newspaper clippings, advertising circulars, and even cartoons.

It has also caused me to think more about how my students will be using English on an everyday basis.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Mike, It sounds like you have a wonderfully diverse class of adults with varying goals. You are supporting English learners to use English in their everyday lives outside of the classroom and you are bringing the outside into your class through the use of authentic materials -- including TV news and newspapers. Balancing listening, speaking, reading and writing, as shown in your lesson plan, is a good goal to shoot for. You indicated that you also pay attention to what I like to call communication strategies, i.e., asking for clarification when we don't understand and checking comprehension. Giving learners the opportunity to practice these strategies in the safe space of the classroom is likely to enable them to do so outside the classroom, too.

This ELLU online course on the Principles of Second Language Teaching engages teachers in understanding the basic principles of excellent English language instruction. This course can be beneficial for all teachers and especially for those who are new to the field of adult ESL.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Danyelle Reece's picture

I currently utilize the strategies listed in my classroom.  I conduct a lot of discussion-role-playing in my class using realistic topics such as teacher-student setting, employee-employer setting.  If the students don’t understand, I would use their native vocabulary word and match it with the English word with the same meaning.  We would compare the spelling and pronunciation.  I would lead a discussion on comparing similar cultural traditions to those of the United States.  Not only does the discussion help comprehension, but it will build trust and a positive teacher-student relationship.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Danyell, Creating a safe space for learning through positive teacher-student relationships, as you note, is one of the most important aspects of teaching. Another essential aspect is to create a community of learning by supporting students to get to know one another. Through interacting with each other, adult English learners form friendships and also get the practice they need to push their language development forward.

You say that you sometimes draw upon the home language of the learners as support. Research has shown this to be a positive approach. In my experience, it is common for learners who share a first language to readily help each other when necessary, so instead of having a hard and fast "English only" rule, it's more effective to draw upon that home language support when it is needed to, for instance, quickly clarify vocabulary or the directions for an activity.

As you indicated, engaging students in comparing the way English works versus their home language can be both helpful and fascinating.

You have outlined some of the valuable take-aways from the ELLU online course Principles of Second Language Teaching. Others in our community may be interested to check out this course as well as the other ELLU online courses.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Marti A's picture

I use ice breaking games at the beginning of each new session.  Students are always hesitant to get started but soon everyone talking to everyone else.

Marti A's picture

1. I have students ranging from very little education to students with some college.  I try to pair students with less education to those with more. 

2.  Grocery shopping- identifying foods. Asking for food location.

3.  Reading, writing, speaking and listening.

4. Classroom discussion over what we enjoy eating.  Where do we shop?

5. Learn vocab words of food and food groups.

6. Pair students and practice conversation in book.  1. Listen 2. Choral practice 3. A group and B group practice 4. Practice in pairs. 

7. Partners plan a small meal and write a shopping list.  Where do we find the foods in the grocery store?

This lesson has always been a favorite of the class.  We all love hearing about what cultures eat and how to cook these foods.  This lesson incorporates listening, reading, writing and speaking.  We also end up exchanging recipes.


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Marti, Thanks for sharing your reflections on the ELLU online course Principles of ESL Teaching. Since we are fast approaching the beginning of a new school year, I wonder if you could share any of the icebreaker activities you use at the start of a new class?

Teachers, what are some of your favorite getting acquainted activities to use at the beginning of a new class?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

mdarling's picture

This course will help me to better plan instruction to meet the needs of the ESL students in my Family Literacy class.  One example of a lesson I will improve upon is one in which students practice writing letters to their children's teachers explaining why they were or will be absent.  Students will use all four skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) as they learn related vocabulary (parts of the body, common illnesses), grammar (verb tense), and letter-writing and editing skills.

pauline morris's picture

Sequencing can be an issue, especially when some catch on quicker with the written  and others are kinesthetic learners.  Do teachers tend to go with what is easier for they themselves?   

pauline morris's picture

A number of our lower classes have a mix of refugees and Hispanics.  Depending on where the refugees hail from, the educational backgrounds span an incredible range.   Another huge variable is the fact that many of the Hispanic students have, at least, a minimal acquaintance with U.S. life style through movies, family members who have been here, and often longer length of residence.  There are also topics of interest that students from the Western Hemisphere find totally acceptable while other students view those same topics as untouchable.  It has become much more complicated for all of our lower level ESL teachers to make lesson plans once one has dealt with the basics of clothing, food, colors, etc. 

Dr. Robin's picture

Pauline's description of the classes and the last sentence about how complicated it is to make lesson plans for what I have long-termed "mixed everything classes" is a pet topic o mine.  This challenge has been prominent in adult ESOL for decades, and much has been written about it.    I do not have time at the moment to go in to this in depth, but right now let me say that I have found from many years of coaching teachers in this situation that is is VERY important to abandon old ways of teaching and re-think this kind of classroom.  There IS no ONE lesson plan that will work in such a class-- and the teacher will inevitably end up "teaching to the middle and hoping for the best"-- or, in many cases, teaching to one language group or teaching to the more educated, etc.   

Differentiated instruction is completely necessary in settings such as these. Differentiation can be achieved in a a variety of ways-- many, many of the resources offered in these recent discussions would work to provide learning activities for learners at different levels of whatever-- literacy, need for English for s specific purpose-- i.e. a current job or other urgent need-- cultural backgrounds, language backgrounds, etc.. All of the great suggestions in the discussion on creating "non-formal" learning opportunities for students apply equally well to differentiating a classroom-- having students work in self-directed groups where possible, freeing up the teacher to work with those who cannot work in self- directed groups for whatever reason.    My long-standing approach has been to create learning centers within the classroom and highly individualized and flexible materials for small group learning, etc.

In any case, it requires accepting the reality of the classroom and working from that instead of trying to mold the classroom to fit older, more traditional teaching approaches, from what I have seen and experienced.   Robin Lovrien   




Paul Rogers's picture

Dr. Robin, I agree wholeheartedly with your point of view and observations. A lot of the difficulties in mixed-everything classes could be solved if there were computers in the class. Now we can also use cell-phones as educational tools - in class. 

But, I guess my question is - do ESL teachers use technology in their classes? I am very interested in people's opinions on this point.


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Dr. Robin, We have learned so much from your sharing over the years about how to address the wide range of needs in typical adult ESL classes through setting up learning stations. Thank you kindly for sharing your expertise with us here.

Members who have questions about strategies for structuring classrooms to address diverse needs will be interested to check out last spring's LINCS discussion led by Dr. Robin and classroom teachers Lauren Osowski and Alicia Broggio.

As Paul suggests, incorporating technology through computers, tablets and cell phones can play an important role.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

jerry hopkins's picture

I am here to enhance my teaching skills. The men I teach in prison are diverse racially, ethnically, cognitively and academically. While I teach a program focused on reentry; their effort to prepare themselves for release, I have learning objectives for the class generally. I also note those who may struggle with reading and understanding written materials and pursue other media which address their individual learning styles.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Jerry, The work you are doing in the prison is important. Addressing a wide range of needs in the classroom is always a challenge. Understanding individual learner's needs is always the first step, and it sounds like you are aware of how to support learners at various levels. 

Did you know that LINCS also has a Correctional Education Community? You would be welcome to join with others who share your teaching context.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Brian Heim's picture

I like to write questions on a beach ball then choose a hand - right or left.


Whatever hand lands on a certain question, they read that question then answer it. This is for an intermediate to advanced esl class.

Toya L.'s picture

I have been volunteering in an ESL program at my church for several years now in which we work one-on-one with immigrants and teach them English. While taking the Principles of Second Language Teaching course, I implemented a weekly activity in which I encourage my individual reader to watch a little bit of CNN every week and come prepared to discuss one topic in class because she deeply enjoys following world news. Of course we keep it at a high-level of discussion, but it's great to stay abreast of world events and share our thoughts and opinions on the latest drama in the political race. My reader gets to listen to other people who speak English, think about the events covered, develop her own opinions, and then form her ideas into English, while listening to me do the same. We both enjoy our weekly news conversations! This regular activity combines class routines, student relevance, and authentic materials, as we integrate CLT. Fun times!

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Toya, Creating a structure for the learner you work with to continue learning outside of your tutoring sessions is valuable. You are doing so by building the activity around content she is interested in, which is clearly motivating. As you note, your conversations focused on current events are also fun ... a great bonus!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Tessa Parnell's picture

What methods do you use or have you heard of for getting to know your students and/or helping them get to know each other?

As I currently do not have an ESL class I will have to go with what I've learned so far and from personal experience with dealing with my international friends from college.

Creating name cards

Asking them to introduce themselves and where they are from using guided practice.

As the class progresses, stop and ask "What would people in your home country do in this situation?" (for holidays or current events)



Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Tessa, Using name cards is not only helpful to the teacher in getting to know the names of students at the start of a new class, but --of course-- it helps them to get to know each other's names as well.

I believe there are some games that help students learn each other's names. If anyone has a game to recommend, please let us know.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Tessa Parnell's picture

Principles of Second Language Teaching: Five Steps Activity

  1. Identify Student Characteristics and factors that may affect learning

    1. As I do not actually have a class, I will make up one.  My imaginary class has students from Mexico and Russia.  All have been in the US for at least 6 months – a year or more.
    2. The Mexican students English is what they have picked up so far from living in the US.  The Russian students have a firmer grasp as they have been taught English in Russia, however, they learned “British” English and are having a hard time adjusting what they currently know with what they need to know
  2. I will be having my students call in sick for work.
    1. This will help my Mexican students with proper sentence structure and pronunciation as well as expose them to new vocabulary.
    2. This will help my Russian students with new vocabulary and some slang, as well as some sentence structure and proper pronunciation.
  3. I will introduce the lesson and ask for the students to pair up with a partner. Students will first use their home language to English dictionaries to make a vocabulary and pronunciation list. 
    1. I will also prepare my own list of words.  We will go over all of the words they chose and go over pronunciation.  If there is a question to what the word means, we will go over the definition.  Some words I will personally choose would be: Fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, migraine, dizzy.
    2. After we have looked over and learned vocabulary, students will work in pairs to create a “script” between themselves and a boss. 
    3. I will go around to each group providing support and helping with grammar and pronunciation issues.
    4. After they have finished their script, each pair will come to the front of the class and perform their “skit”.  They are allowed to fully complete their skit with no interruptions.
      1. After the skit, the class is asked to critique it for correct sentence structure and pronunciation as well as clarity.  “Did they get their meaning across?”
      2. After the class has made their recommendations, I will also weigh in.
    5. After all the groups have gone, I will ask the class which group had the best excuse for not coming into work.  That group will receive a prize.
  4. Since my entire lesson is on communication this question answers itself.
  5. This is also part of my lesson plan.  Student will get to know their partner very well, and the students will learn about each other during the skits.
Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Tessa, Skits-- or what we often call role plays -- are an excellent way to get students interacting in meaningful ways. We usually use role plays to give students the opportunity to apply what they have learned. I'm trying to include more role plays in my teaching. I always ask for volunteers to perform their role plays for the class; instead of having everyone present their role plays, only a few will perform. I usually have pairs perform their role plays for another pair or two before asking for volunteers to present to the whole class. In this way, everyone gets more opportunity to practice.

One thing I'm planning to do is to ask pairs of students to audio or video record their role plays.Most students have cell phones that can do this. They will have the freedom to re-record themselves as often as they want to until they are happy with the result. They can then work in groups of four to listen to each other's recordings and offer comments.

If members have other suggestions on how to use skits or role play, please feel free to share them here.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Ellen Patron's picture
Susan and All,
If you were to have students record each others' role plays, would they be able to email them to the teacher during class?    Couldn't the teacher then project the role plays via an overhead projector so that all students' work is displayed?  If so, what program would you insert the files into so that they could be projected?  I'd want some program that would be quick to use so that this all could be accomplished during the same class.  Would PowerPoint work?
The next REEP cycle for our outreach programs starts next week.  So, I start with a personal identification unit.  I'm considering having students interview each other as a get-to-know you application such as Susan just described.    It sounds like the activity could work but I'm concerned there could be pitfalls. 
I'd love some input...
Ellen Clore-Patron

REEP, Arlington Education and Employment Program

rwessel51's picture

Video files are big and are likely to exceed e-mail size limits. They would also quickly eat up a learner's data plan, so it would be better to send them over WiFi if it is available.

A better solution would be to have the learners bring their Smart Phone charging cables use them to transfer the videos to a laptop connected to a projector. (There are instructions to do this at this link: I've transferred a few videos from Android to Windows and had no problems. Going from iOS to Windows was another story, so I'd do a few dry runs with different devices before grinding to a halt in class. Smart Phone videos are in a standard format, so any media player (Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, VLC, etc.) should work. Again, do a few dry runs to make sure the media player you plan to use works. VLC Media Player ( seems to work when all else fails. If possible, have the learners make their videos in separate rooms or the videos may contain audio from multiple role plays.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hello Ellen, Robert and all, Thanks for your suggestions, Robert. Another possibility is to use a doc camera --if you are lucky enough to have one-- to display the video as it appears on the smartphone. Here's a question, though ... what's a good way to amplify the sound on a smartphone?

Good luck with this, Ellen. Please report back on how it goes and I'll do the same!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator,  AELL CoP



David J. Rosen's picture

Susan asked: "what's a good way to amplify the sound on a smartphone?"

If you have (an) external speaker(s) that you use with a computer, you can plug these into most smartphones, too. If you want more volume, a $25-$30 Boosteroo

amplifier may be able to double the volume. I use a Boosteroo with my laptop and speakers in conference presentations, and it has provided all the volume I need.

David J. Rosen


rwessel51's picture

This worked for me: I recorded a short video on my Android smart phone and, using the free SanDisk Connect app, uploaded it wirelessly to a SanDisk Connect wireless flash drive I had purchased a few years ago. When I plugged the wireless flash into the USB port of my laptop, I was immediately able to play the video, with sound. Had I had a projector connected to the laptop, I could have played it for a roomful of people.

The flash drive has a WiFi transmitter and the smart phone connects to it as it would any WiFi router, so you don't need Internet service to use it after the app has been installed on the learners' smart phones. SanDisk has apps for both Android and iOS, which can be downloaded from the Google Play and iTunes stores. This should get around compatibility issues between different smart phones and the Windows and OS X operating systems.

SanDisk doesn’t make my version of the device any more, but my guess is the newer version ( will work better than the one I have. Amazon has a 32GB one for $24 (

David J. Rosen's picture

Ellen Patron asked: "If you were to have students record each others' role plays, would they be able to email them to the teacher during class?    Couldn't the teacher then project the role plays via an overhead projector so that all students' work is displayed?  If so, what program would you insert the files into so that they could be projected?"

Yes, you may be able to do that if the students, and if you, have the hardware, software and Internet access.

Some smartphones have built in microphones; for others, you or the student can often purchase an inexpensive external microphone. There are free or inexpensive smartphone recording apps (my examples are for an iPhone or iPad). You could then upload the recorded audio file to a cloud storage filing system, e.g. dropbox, then download it to a computer that you already have in, or can bring into, in your classroom.

Perhaps you didn't mean audio files, however, but text files. If your students have Internet access, there's a free, simple website (no login or software download needed) called Today's Meet, that would allow two (or more) students to type a dialogue (up to 140 characters at a time). They can then send you the web address for their dialogue "room" which you can access from your Internet accessible device in the classroom (smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop) and use the Todays Meet toolbox feature to send their dialogue to a multimedia projector. Of course you could also just save the dialogue as any kind of document, and email the document as an attachment that could be accessed by a computer or other device connected to multimedia projector.

There are probably many other solutions. My main point is that you probably can do this.

David J. Rosen




rwessel51's picture

You may also find the learners’ smart phones are so full of photos that there is no room left for videos. When I did my test video, my phone gave me the option of saving the video to a removable micro SD card. You could keep a supply of micro SD cards on hand, but you’ll need to fuss around installing them, and not all smart phones support them.  Other possibilities are inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras that also take videos or even cheap camcorders.

Last summer, before the class was almost immediately canceled through the loss of a place to teach it, I wanted to do something similar, but  using an old Flip camcorder mounted on a tripod instead of learner smart phones. The idea has a lot of possibilities. For role play involving negotiations with a sales persons, the activity could be combined with product research (if you have the luxury of an Internet connection) and turned into a financial literacy lesson as well. As a class writing project, insights gained from different role-play sessions can be combined into a more comprehensive script. If you can get the cooperation of local businesses, their insights could be included as well: What do I wish my customers knew when they walk in to my store? 

Tessa Parnell's picture

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

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

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

Jeannie Huyser's picture

1. Student characteristics and factors that may affect learning.

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

They are in the Intermediate ESL class.

2. Lesson focus: Calling the doctors office.

3. Duration: 2 hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bingo:  Pair work.  Matching body parts.

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

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








Cynthia Zafft's picture

Hi Jeannie:

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

Cynthia Zafft

Health Literacy Moderator

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Here are the steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments, questions and additional ideas are welcome!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Genita Morenas's picture

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

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

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

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

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

Grammar : ( subject verb agreement )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Kasi Walker's picture

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Kasi Walker's picture

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

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


2. Determine the primary focus of the lesson

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


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


Health Issues and Pharmacy Lesson


English as a Second Language-Conversational English


High Beginning

Objective: ¨Daily       ¨Weekly

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

Warm-up Activity:

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

Review answers to previous lessons homework



Guiding Questions:


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


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

Required Materials:

Ventures 2 Student Book

Ventures 2 Workbook

Health Problem Vocabulary Card

Authentic Medicine Boxes/Bottles



Guided Practice (whole class):

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


Instructional Methods used:

¨Lecture/ Note Taking  

¨Class Discussion

    ¨Grouped Work              

    ¨Learning Centers


Activity 1 (individual/pairs):

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

Activity 2 (whole class/pairs):

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

Activity 3 (small groups)

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

Instructional Technology:


Assessment for Understanding:

¨Oral Responses/ Participation 

¨Homework Check

¨Class Assignments

¨Teacher Observation


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


Student Workbook pages 46-47


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

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


5. Apply classroom management Strategies appropriate for adult ELLs

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

Dr. Robin's picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely, Robin Lovrien  





Dr. Robin's picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Kasi Walker's picture

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

Barbara Balogh's picture

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

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

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

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

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Barbara Balogh's picture

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

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Olena Crawford's picture

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Rihab Mousa's picture

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

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

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Rihab Mousa's picture


  1.  Student Characteristics and Factors that may affect learning

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


2.    Determine Lesson Focus

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

3.    Plan lesson objectives, activities, and assessments

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

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


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

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

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

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices

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

5. Apply classroom management strategies:

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

Dr. Robin's picture

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

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

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

Good luck with your teaching!   Robin Lovrien  



Lisa Hamid's picture


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

Thank you,

Lisa Hamid


Tricia Conner's picture

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

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition

Diane F's picture

On reflecting on my current practices, I use a variety of all the strategies, activities, and methods listed; but probably need the most help with creating learning objectives based on learners' communicative needs.

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

Diane F's picture

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

Rebecca Langley's picture

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

In what ways does the lesson or unit differentiate instruction?

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lureen Nelson's picture

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

Laura Rodgers's picture

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



Martha E's picture

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

Gary Zafuto's picture

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

Nydia Negron Lopez's picture

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

Nicole Bowman's picture

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

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


Nicole Bowman

Nicole Bowman's picture

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

Nicole Bowman's picture

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

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

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

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

Identify Factors that may affect Learning

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

The Lesson Focus

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


Plan lesson objectives, activities and assessments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Implement learner-centered instruction practices.

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

5. Apply classroom management strategies.

Management strategies include:

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

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

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

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

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



Annette Barker's picture

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

Kelly Smith's picture

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

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

Kelly Smith's picture

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

Kelly Smith's picture

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

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

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Nelly Neiman's picture


It is very important what you said. 

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

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

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


Susan Finn Miller's picture

Bravo! Thanks, Nelly. This is the goal after all, isn't it?!

Cheers, Susan

Valeh Abbasi's picture

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

2learn-English's picture

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

So many ways to engage learners. 

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



Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

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

Cheers, Susan

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Cheers, Susan

Teresa McNeill's picture

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

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Dorcas Ross's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Anthony Workman's picture

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. 

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Dorcas Ross's picture

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. 

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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's picture

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.


Dorcas Ross's picture

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...


Anthony Workman's picture

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.

Anthony Workman's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Maria Mata's picture

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.  

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Jamie Paskins's picture

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.  

Tamra Larsen's picture

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. 

Michele Cruz's picture

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.

Donna G's picture

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.
Susan Finn Miller's picture

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


Ruth Heitsman's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Kathleen Tucker's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Carrie Danekas's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Carrie Danekas's picture

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.

Carrie Danekas's picture

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.

Carrie Danekas's picture

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.

Carrie Danekas's picture

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!

Alice J's picture

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.

Alice J's picture

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. 

Alice J's picture

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. 



Alice J's picture

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.

Alice J's picture

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. 

Sally Fox's picture
Barbara Ritter's picture

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; 

Barbara Ritter's picture

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. 


Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Irma Baack's picture

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.



Susan Finn Miller's picture

Thanks for sharing these instructional activities, Irma. It's great to see how you have incorporated authentic materials into your teaching.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP

Irma Baack's picture

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.



Irma Baack's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

Hi Irma, It's clear the learners were highly engaged in this restaurant project. It's cool that you could incorporate the use of technology in meaningful ways, too!

Cheers, Susan

Janet Kazlauskas's picture

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.

Susan Finn Miller's picture

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!


June Talvitie-Siple's picture

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.
Susan Finn Miller's picture

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

Erika Rivera's picture

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.



Susan Finn Miller's picture

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