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One of the most frequently asked questions that I hear from ESL teachers in lower-incidence districts is that related to a curriculum, especially a newcomer curriculum. What materials do you recommend? How do you find an affordable program that would meet the needs of our newcomers?
As an ESL teacher, who works with students in multiple schools/grade-levels, you may not have a plan for teaching ESL students to follow. In many cases, they are supposed to be following the general curriculum of your school/district. While it leaves a lot of room for creativity, what do you do when a newcomer arrives?
Surely, to expect someone who has no basic grasp of the English language to understand, follow and perform in a regular classroom would be simply naive (if not absurd).
If you have read my blog posts on what to teach absolute beginners and the 7 strategies for newcomer teaching, you already have a pretty good idea of what to cover on your ESL teaching journey.
That said, while those tips alone may be helpful, they do not give you a clear plan on where to start and what to include in your lessons.
Trust me, I’ve been there myself. For the past few years, our district (which does not have a large population of English learners compared to some but it is substantial) has been getting at least one or two newcomers from various countries who speak absolutely no English. They are all in different grades, with varied backgrounds and schooling experiences.
Knowing what to teach is always great. But I realized that having a clear strategy, a roadmap of sorts, on what I teach first, what grammar and phonics points I include, etc. as well as what comes next would be absolutely invaluable.
I started looking around on the internet to see if I could find something that would help me out in this department. My search rendered a few results such as a Newcomer Toolkit from the U.S. Department of Education and a fantastic resource from Minneapolis Public Schools also called a Newcomer Toolkit.
As many teachers do, I also looked on Teachers Pay Teachers and have found this newcomer curriculum outline that lists topics to cover by the week. I myself have found it useful for my elementary newcomers.
At the same time, as great as these resources are, they lacked the specificity I was looking for. The goals are clear: I want my students to learn the basics of English and be able to begin communicating in it. But what are my objectives? And how do I get to them?
Creating the roadmap
So yes, I have begun creating one myself. And while I am still working on it, I wanted to share the process of creating a newcomer curriculum guide and the steps that I am taking in case you would like to try it yourself.
First of all, what is a curriculum map/guide in general?
It is nothing more and nothing less than a plan on how you will teach a particular course. In this case, a plan on how you will teach ESL newcomers/beginners.
It allows the teacher to work with the main ideas and activities/projects that help the class move forward. It also allows for planning out the units to come.
A curriculum map is just that – a map. It is not a full and rigid curriculum but rather a live document that follows the students and gives flexibility to the teacher.
Having it, however, provides the much-needed clarity in teaching newcomers. It outlines the essential questions, objectives, and standards you want your students to meet. Moreover, it will give you an idea of what activities you can incorporate and what vocabulary to use as well as the grammar and phonics points to cover.
How to create a curriculum map/pacing guide
Creating a consistent curriculum guide has been on my mind for some time. But I did not know where to start or how to proceed… Can you relate?
After some research, which I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I decided to ask myself three questions:
- What is my goal?
- What is the age of my students?
- What can I do?
There are several steps involved in creating a curriculum guide and I will outline them below.
Start with the “what”
Ask yourself the following questions:
- what are the topics and language structures that a newcomer needs to learn first in order to begin understanding, speaking, reading and writing English?
- what grade is the student in?
- what are the points in the school-wide curriculum he/she should be able to do
- What are the English language development standards in your state that could guide you?
- What are some of the materials you could use to consistently to teach the student?
- What are the essential questions that drive your school?
These are good anchors for your teaching
Once you have figured out the “what”, it is time to put it into coherent order. Your curriculum guide should be a document that you can refer to any time and be able to tell what you need to do next. You should also be able to tweak it as you go.
You can start by creating a spreadsheet or a table in a document and decide how many fields you will need. I use Google Docs for that.
Here is an example of how you can format it:
Unit topic, timeline (how long do you think it will take you to teach this?) and essential question
- list your objectives (students will be able to…)
- the expected outcomes (based on the ELD standards of your state – I use WIDA CAN DOs)
- grammatical structures/phonics aspects
- activities you can do with the students in class
- assessments you will use to check if they are progressing.
Student Portals Launchedeffective Curriculum Ideas 4th Grade
Now that you have a rough plan on what you need to cover, it is time to collect the materials.
There are tons of great resources out there. I am not going to go over all of them here, but if you are interested, check out my recommendations page.
That is my process for helping both my newcomers and myself… Angry birds unblocked games.
I have created a template that you can download and follow when you are creating your own curriculum map.
I am also in the process of creating a full curriculum guide that would help walk you through the first year of teaching newcomers. Subscribe below to download the template and the first unit for grades 9-12. I will update you on when the full product is out so you can enjoy it without putting in all the “heavy lifting” work!
Update: I have finished the ESL Beginner Curriculum Guide – read a blog post about it first OR click the button below to see if this is something you could use!
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Do you have a way to plan out what you are going to teach newcomers? Share in the comments below!
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