Writing a lesson plan for English language learners can be challenging, especially if ELL students only make up part of your classroom, or if your lesson is on a subject other than language arts. It is important to plan how you will use specific strategies to target English language learners in order to successfully teach them the material. For this reason, it is a good idea to annotate your lesson plans with ELL strategies in mind.

Planning the Lesson

Plan your lesson in three parts: Modeling, Guided Practice, and Independent Practice. Modeling is the first step, when you will introduce the concept and vocabulary. This is crucial for ELL students. Guided practice is the second step, when you and the students practice the new concept together. Independent practice is last step, when the students practice the concept on their own or in pairs and groups, under your supervision.

Choose an organizational format for your lesson. For example, make two columns -- the left column for notes on your actions, and the right column for corresponding student actions. This will help you remember to keep students involved throughout the lesson. Write all steps chronologically with details of the amount of time each activity should take. Planning the details and including clear directions throughout your plan will help English language learners follow your lesson.

Revisit your transitions and write out explicit directions for students. If they are going to sit on the carpet during the modeling, for example, write down where they will sit and for how long. If they are going to leave the carpet and work in pairs during the guided practice, write down how you will choose the pairs, when they will leave the carpet and where they will go. Smooth transitions are a major part of classroom management, aid in effective teaching, and help your ELLs to feel comfortable and secure in their learning.

Annotating the Lesson Plan

Highlight key words in your lesson plan. These should be vocabulary words that are crucial to the lesson, words with double meanings that may be hard for English language learners to understand, or commonly-used words that your ELL students need to practice. Make a list of the words somewhere on your lesson plan, so that you can write them on the board or chart paper in different colors before you teach. Aim for approximately five new words per lesson. Introducing too many new vocabulary words will overwhelm students.

Make or collect pictures to represent as many key words and concepts as possible. Visuals aid both ELL students and native English speakers in vocabulary comprehension and retention. Make notes on your lesson plan for when you will refer to visuals. Before or during your lesson, place the pictures next to the vocabulary words they represent.

Plan kinesthetic visuals to go with words. Movements such as running in place to represent the word "run" keep all students actively involved in the lesson. In addition, movements give language learners another layer of context to aid comprehension. Use movement when you cannot make or find a visual for a key word, or to reinforce the concept for multiple learning styles. Make notes on your lesson plan to remind you of when you will teach students a movement corresponding with a word.

Consider making your lesson plan bilingual. The amount of foreign language you use should depend on the makeup of your classroom and the levels of your ELL students. If most or all of your ELL students are native Spanish speakers, for example, you might say and write a key word in Spanish before translating it into English and using the visual. This will help students make the explicit connection between their native and second languages. Write translated words next to the key words on your lesson plan. Add these to the chart or board ahead of time, or during the lesson.

Review your lesson plan with attention to what your ELL students will be doing. Consider whether it is best in this lesson for your ELL students to work with native English speakers, or to be paired with each other. Consider where they will need to sit in order to see and hear you best. Make notes on your lesson plan: a list of partners, a seating chart if necessary, and any reminders concerning specific students will help make your lesson more effective.


As an additional aid, you can have ELL students make vocabulary flashcards with pictures, or give them an envelope of words and pictures to review during and after the lesson.

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