Teaching English Language Learners in the Classroom

The English as a Second Language (ESL) guidelines don’t fit exactly with the students that I teach. As in many classrooms, there is a range of students at different levels and a lot of these students have been exposed to English to varying degrees before entering my class. There are some that have been exposed to English for two or three years but are still in pre-production. There are also students that have been exposed for only three years that have already achieved intermediate fluency. One of the keys in my classroom is that all students speak Korean, so there are a lot of instances for peer work to help interpret what we are discussing in class.

With that in mind, next semester I will teach a unit on the basic concepts of Economics to a fourth grade class. The key objectives are: 1) To understand the difference between goods and services, 2) to understand the difference between needs and wants, and 3) to understand the difference between consumers, producers, and service providers.

To introduce all lessons, I will write the core vocabulary on the board and continue to add key academic vocabulary as we build upon previous lessons. I will also use visuals such as the supermarket, a famous Vietnamese market in Ho Chi Minh City, a toy store, a Vinasun taxi, and a massage salon. These references will cover the core vocabulary as well as call on the world around them. This will introduce the concept to the whole class and allow them to draw from their own pre-existing knowledge of what they know from each visual.

Pre-production: Jae Yong
Jae Yong is a new student to the school that has been introduced to English academic subjects for 3 months. He has limited vocabulary and is still in “the silent period.”

While working with the visuals, I will have the students talk to a partner about the words they already know. As Jae Yong does not have the vocabulary to discuss in English, I will allow him and his partner to speak in Korean, drawing on his personal experiences and helping him to interpret what we’re discussing in class. My seating plan pairs pre-production students with students that are a range from speech emergent to advanced fluency.

The power point to follow will have each word shown with a visual and as we go through, as well as basic definitions. I will ask students to read aloud the text from the power point, and then, speaking slowly, have the whole class repeat the words and definitions after me. I will continue the same process when explaining services.

When I work with Jae Yong one-on-one, I will allow him to point to pictures/images in the textbook or power point to show that he understands the key words. I will also allow him to draw answers instead of writing in English. I will leave visuals up on the power point with an example of goods and services with the word underneath the visual to help him use what we just learned from class. He will struggle with all objectives when calling on his own experiences, but should be able to identify key vocabulary through pointing at pictures or drawing.

Early Production: Yeo Min
Yeo Min came to our school last year and has been learning academic subjects for one year and three months. He has limited vocabulary but is now able to express answers to yes/no questions and can say simple sentences with grammatical errors.

With Yeo Min, I will point to pictures and elicit key vocabulary for objectives 1 and 2. I will also ask yes/no questions using visuals in the book or power point as an aid. I will also ensure that he is repeating core definitions but will not correct grammatical or syntax mistakes. He will aslo be able to identify goods and services through graphic organizers that separate the two, as well as create his own through drawing. For objective 3, he should be able to identify the difference between a consumer, producer, or service provider through pictures but may not be able to explain the differences using English.

Speech Emergent and Beginning Fluency: Eun He
Eun He is on the border between speech emergent and beginning fluency. She has been taking English academic subjects for two years and has excellent conversational skills. She still struggles with putting complex answers into full sentences, but can generally explain her overall meaning.

During each of these lessons, Eun He has been given the opportunity to speak more freely through “Think, pair, shares” with her partner or small group. She has also now used more academic vocabulary to describe her own personal experiences with examples of goods and services, or when she has been a consumer, meeting all objectives.

I will ask her to complete fill-in-the-blank activities, ask questions that require her to call on her own personal experience and give her the opportunity to process the language and concept, and I will only correct errors that interfere with the meaning of key concepts and vocabulary.

Intermediate Fluency: Sung Joo
Sung Joo is a strong intermediate fluency speaker, listener, reader, and writer. He has been taking academic English classes for two years and has taken additional English classes after school.

Similar to Eun He, Sung Joo has been been given the opportunity to reflect on each visual, key vocabulary through “Think, pair, shares,” and has been answering questions throughout each lesson. I will also ask him to present his findings after “Think, pair, shares,” with his small group to the class.

After completing worksheets or textbook activities, I will ask him to walk around and help other students that are struggling with some of the concepts by re-explaining what we have covered. He will also use Korean for students that are still in pre-production or early stages to help interpret the more difficult topics that we have covered. As Sung Joo generally finishes activities more quickly than other students, I will provide him with additional activities such as creating a mind map to categorize the information we have learned in class.

For All
At the end of the unit, mixed ESL level groups will create role plays of going shopping and present them to the class. They will be allowed to use both English and Korean to interpret all objectives. Not all students must have a speaking role, but all students will participate in the role play in front of the class.


Haynes, J. (2014, June 5). Six Strategies for Teaching ELLs Across the Content Areas | TESOL Blog. Retrieved from


Robertson, K., & Ford, K. (n.d.). Language Acquisition: An Overview. Retrieved from


Six Key Strategies for Teachers of English-Language Learners. (2005, December 1). Retrieved from



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