Artwork for podcast Equipping ELLs
91. Mastering ESL Lesson Planning: A Step-by-Step Path for Success
Episode 918th September 2023 • Equipping ELLs • Beth Vaucher, ELL, ESL Teachers
00:00:00 00:24:47

Share Episode


ESL teacher, can we support you in your lesson planning?

Join us as we guide you through a step-by-step success path to revolutionize your approach to lesson planning! Discover how to set clear goals, assess your students' progress effectively, and design engaging lessons that resonate with real-life contexts. We'll also explore the power of ongoing observation and proficiency level descriptors to fine-tune your teaching strategy. Whether you're a seasoned ESL teacher or just starting, this episode equips you with such valuable, practical insights to empower your multilingual learners and elevate your teaching game. No more stress, no more wasting time!



Today we're going to be talking about a success path for

lesson planning. And this is something that I really am passionate

about. Helping you streamline your lesson planning. I want you to

be spending less time lesson planning and more time showing up

with confidence that what you're doing is exactly what your

students need and just enjoying teaching. I mean, that's what we

all get into this. We love teaching. We love inspiring our

students. We love meeting their needs and reaching them where

they're at and seeing them grow. And sometimes I have found that

lesson planning when we don't have a good framework and a good

guide, especially when it comes to. What to do with our

multilingual learners, what we should be teaching them. It can

feel really overwhelming. And really clog our days with just. This

anxiety of okay. What are we teaching? I have to plan tonight. I

have to spend hours after school getting ready. I'm only one day

ahead of my lesson plans. I'm spending my weekends. Lesson

planning. Can anybody relate to that? If that is you, today's

episode is for you, we're going to be walking through a success

path of what to do, how to have. Clear just targets and goals and

know exactly what your students are doing. And then we're going to

talk about. A four week cycle that I want to encourage you to

implement this year so that. You can really refine the work that

you're doing with your students, the lessons that you're planning

and decide if you're on track with what they need, or if you need

to make some adjustments. So let's dive in.

All right. So you've probably heard me say this a million times

here on the podcast. But teaching ells is not a one size fits all.

And so. We really cannot come and approach this year and say, oh,

well, I taught this grade level last year. I taught this group

last year, I taught this language level last year, I'm going to

just do everything I did last year. And it really doesn't work

that way when we work with multilingual learners because each

multilingual multilingual learner is bringing in. Different

cultural experience and different educational experiences and

different background knowledge. In different native languages.

That really impacts the support that they need from us in the

classroom. And so it's really important that we are constantly

checking in. And we're going to be talking about that today, how

to do that. So let's talk about first the first thing you should

do now a lot of times we look at the whole year. But honestly,

when we're working with multilingual learners, I like to break it

down in quarters. Because so much change can happen and either so

much growth can happen that you want to be ready to keep pushing

them forward at the speed that they're going, or there's times and

there's language levels where you kind of hit a plateau and. You

really need to spend time going deeper on something. Maybe with

those newcomers, some of those kids can really pick up quickly.

They start to progress super fast. And so you want to be going as

fast as they're willing to go, and as fast as they can handle. But

sometimes when you get to those level twos and threes, they

definitely hit a plateau. And so we need to be ready for that. We

need to be ready to see what it is. They need. To go deeper or to

spend more time working on and practicing so that they move

forward and they don't become stagnant. And so having a clear idea

in those check ins is really important. So instead of looking the

whole year. I like to recommend to look at a quarter at a time. So

the first step in lesson planning the success path is to look at

your first quarter. And I want you to come up with goals of where

you want the students that you're working with to be at the end of

the first quarter. This makes it much more manageable. And the big

thing now is going to be to checking in on their progress. And so

when we look at it in the quarter view, we can look at it and have

a clear idea that's not so far away, the end of the year is far

away. And sometimes you feel like, oh, that's just so far. We

don't really have a good grasp on the time that we have to get

them to. That point. But when we have a quarter view. It helps us

to get excited, to get motivated. Because this is what, nine

weeks, maybe ten weeks. Let's. Get them to reaching these goals in

ten weeks. And so look at your quarter view and define some goals

that you want. And this is a great opportunity I recommend before

the school year begins. Looking at defining these goals is a great

time to. Talk, especially if you're co teaching or just working

with homeroom teachers sitting down together and saying, okay.

What do we want these students to be able to do by the end of the

first quarter? If you're newcomers, define for listening,

speaking, reading, and writing. You can even add in some social

goals. Things like for a newcomer that they're able to greet

somebody and say their name by the end of the first quarter, it's

completely appropriate. So really looking at the language level,

looking at the domains and defining goals for the students you're

working with for your intermediate students, that's where it's

really helpful to have those conversations. With the homeroom

teachers and saying, okay, let's define some goals for the

language domains for this group of students. And let's talk about

what they're going to be learning in the homeroom classroom, and

what goals can we create about that? So maybe it's being able to

use academic vocabulary on the topic. Of matter if that's what

they're going to be learning about the first quarter, or maybe

it's being able to identify. In. An appropriate passage that's at

their reading level the main idea in detail. So this is where it's

really helpful to come alongside and support what's happening in

the homeroom classroom. And using that to be your goal, then if

they know that these are the goals for those students and you

know, these are the goals for the students. Now, everyone's

working towards those goals in that first quarter. That's where

we're going to have more success. Then in the homeroom classroom,

they're doing one thing in your pull out sessions. They're doing

something completely different. And there's really no unity. And

there's no overlap. So having those discussions, having those

goals is really crucial. And I recommend. To have those

discussions with your students. Then when they come into the

school year and that first week or two, you're going to say,

here's our goals. Here's what we're trying to aim for, make it kid

friendly, maybe have them have a portfolio or a binder and you put

their goals in and at the beginning and they can track their goals

throughout the quarter. You want them to see the progress that

they're making. This is really important for these students to not

feel this deficit approach all the time. That oh, because I don't

know English yet I'm behind or I'm never going to catch up or I

don't have any value because I don't know English. Sometimes that

is the sentiment that is in the classrooms, in the schools. But if

we flip it and we say, like, wow, look at the progress you're

making. Look at what we've been doing. And we really encourage the

small wins that's going to continue to project them on a course of

success that's going to help them build confidence. So having

something for the students to check in on those quarterly goals is

going to be really helpful to keep them on track and keep you on

track. Now. If you're wondering, Where do I find these quarterly

goals? I don't know what to do.

Well, I would say first, start with if you're a weed estate, look

at the weeda. I know it can be very overwhelming. Sometimes. Look

at your elps. Look at whatever your state language. Standards are

that's a great place to start. And then also, we will share with

you in the show. Notes. I have some quarterly goals broken down by

grade level, by language level, by domains. And so that's kind of

just a quick way if you're really struggling. On ideas and where

to get started. That's a great way to get started. There's drop

Downs you can look and choose by each of the four quarters. And

that's a great place to get started. So we'll share that freebie

in the show notes. But just get started get some goals on paper

because when you have that. Now what you're going to do is. You're

going to turn. Your lesson plans into. A four week cycle. Okay.

And so what does this four week cycle look like? This four week

cycle begins with an assessment. It can be a very quick check in.

You're going to do a progress monitor. Check. It you want to focus

on what are your goals and give them a good you want a good

glimpse at if they're able to do that. And this doesn't have to be

that complicated. An assessment does not have to be complicated.

Using something like a picture. Use a picture of the content

you're going to be working on this quarter, see if they can tell

you any words that are in the picture. If they can name any nouns

in the picture, any. Verbs if they can share a sentence about that

picture, or if they really have. They really are not sure of any

of the vocabulary seeing that picture. Okay, that gives you a good

gauge of where they're at when they start. You could use that same

picture in the middle to check in, but we're going to get to that

in a second. So I don't want to get ahead. So the first thing in

our four week cycle is to do an assessment of some sort. This

could even be doing a speaking assessment or doing a writing

assessment. And using a generic rubric, we have some available in

the store that we can link to where you're just observing and

you're using a rubric to give you some data points. All right. So

when we start. There when we start with the assessment. We now can

guide our lessons we can now see. Where our students need more

support when it comes to this topic or this unit, and that's where

we're going to go. This is really crucial because. We have very

limited time to work with our students. And so if we're using our

time on things that they do not need the support in. Then we're

wasting our time. So if I am focusing on nouns for this first

quarter and this is one of my goals. I'm working with a second

grade. Level two and three group. And so one of my goals is that

they can define what nouns are and give examples. Through

speaking, or through writing. And let's say in this first check in

this first assessment. I see that eight out of ten of my students.

Are already really solid on nouns. They were able to maybe they

did a noun sort, and they were able to do it. Or maybe they were

able. To come up with some nouns from a picture and write a

sentence about it independently. Whatever. I'm doing, a quick

check in. I'm doing an assessment to see where they're at. I see.

Guess what most of these students already know. Nouns. So should I

spend the next couple of weeks on nouns? No. Maybe I'll do one

lesson. That's a quick review. But that's really not where I'm

going to spend my time. And so when you do an assessment like

this, when you do. A quick check in you now can see where you

should be spending your time. So instead of spending three weeks

on teaching nouns, I might do a quick review. And now I might move

into some harder skills when it comes to that. Maybe. We're going

to do.

So instead of spending my time on doing nouns. And just the basic

overview of nouns. I might now see that. This group. They're ready

to go into some higher level skills of nouns. Maybe they're ready

for some abstract nouns. Maybe they're ready for some common nouns

versus proper nouns. And the difference and applying that in their

writing, maybe they're ready for possessive nouns. So there's

different ways that I can still cover that goal I have, but

already move them on of what they need, the support in. And that's

why in this four week. Cycle. Beginning with an assessment and a

quick check in. And this can be something as simple as doing. An

activity where students are moving and working together and you're

walking around and you're observing. And that's where you can kind

of see. Okay. These students are really understanding nouns. It

seems really easy for them. Maybe the small group I might pull

them and review this at a different time because I can see they're

still struggling. Having your eyes on how your group is working.

Is really important to how you're lesson planning. So in our four

week cycle, we're going to assess first, we're going to check in.

We're then going to plan our lessons based off of that assessment.

And we're going to teach. For three weeks. We're going to provide

them with engaging materials. We're going to scaffold our

materials. We're going to be very planned on this topic. And

really take the time it needs. To teach it. So again, if I'm doing

nouns, then I might be focusing on different reading passages that

relate to the content they're learning in the mainstream

classroom, or just topics that they're really excited about. And

we're going to be focusing on nouns and different types of nouns

as we do these other reading activities. And then we're going to

do some application through maybe some speaking activities and

some writing activities. So you can choose how you want to plan

the lesson. Maybe it's based off of that grammar skill, or maybe

it's based off that content. But finding activities that go

together that you can use the content. And the context to learn

the language. So for three weeks, you're going to teach now, what

should you be doing during those three weeks. You should be

observing. I think this is an area that we really need to boost,

because this is where. You really are going to have a pulse on

your students and where they're at and then you're going to be

able to. Shift. Your lessons as needed and so. This works really


If you're working in small groups, this is a lot harder. In a

homeroom classroom of 25 students. To kind of constantly be

observing all the time, but in a small group setting. Every time

you're working with your students, I want to challenge you to be

writing down what you're noticing. I want to challenge you to

streamline this. Okay. When I would do this, I would have posted

and I would put them all over and then usually I'd end up losing

them. If I was very organized, sometimes I would put the post it

right in that student's folder. And every time I went to do

reports or had to have a meeting about the student, I was always

so thankful. When I opened that folder and saw that I already had

observations about that student because we don't remember, we have

so much going on, we can't possibly keep that in our brain, and we

don't need to we don't need to give that space for our brain to

remember all these things the students are doing. So create a

system of how you're going to record observations. Maybe that is

maybe you like to write down on pencil paper. Maybe you have a

notebook with each student's name and that you just flip to that

student's page and you write down your observations that can work.

Maybe you do the posted thing and you have a folder for each

student. I think one of the easiest ways is to set up. An excel.

Or something on your computer where at the end of every group

session you quickly go in and you write any observations you see

and why I love doing something in a digital form is because then.

The teachers you're working with can check in. And you guys can

collaborate easily through those observations. They can be writing

observations. They're seeing. You can be writing observations. And

then you have one place that you know, all those observations are

going to be so like I said, when a meeting comes up about the

student or. It's reports time. You can quickly just pull up that

student and look on your excel sheet and see all these

observations that you've taken. During this first quarter. So

let's go back to that four week cycle week. The first week you're

going to begin by assessing. And then that's how you're going to

guide your lessons. You're then going to teach for three weeks.

And during those three weeks. You're going to be doing

observations, writing down things that you see. After that four

weeks or whenever it's a good break, it doesn't have to be exactly

a four week cycle. You are going to then check in again. And one

of the things that I have found to be really difficult. With

teaching English Language learners is just having that pinpointing

where they're at. So if you're going to continue you can do this

in two ways when you're going to check in again. You can either

give them that same assessment that you did at the beginning and

see if there's been growth and improvement, if they're ready to

move on, or if. They really need to continue. With the same skills

that you're targeting. Okay, you're going to review those

quarterly goals. Now you're four weeks into the quarter. You have

maybe six weeks left. So you really want to stay focused on those

goals. Here's. Just a side note. Don't make too many goals.

Sometimes you get really ambitious and think, okay, in this first

quarter, we're going to do this and this and this and especially

in the first quarter, it's very hard to hit all those goals

because it takes time to assess. It takes time to put your

students in groups. It takes time to get your schedule together.

So you're losing a lot of time. In that first quarter. So be

realistic. Set maybe two or three goals for each language domain.

As the quarters develop and you've set up routines with your

students, they know what to expect from you. You've built that

rapport with them. You're going to be able to cover more goals

during a quarter. But for this first one, really keep it limited

because of the time that you're going to have. So after you teach

for three weeks, you're going to do a check in. Like I said, you

could do the same assessment as before. Or if you know you're

ready to switch, you're going to move on to a different topic, a

different unit. You're going to cover some different things. Then

you might want to give them a new assessment. Now, the other thing

that I want to recommend is during these cycles, and then you're

going to start it all over again. Okay. So that's what we want to

have. We want to have assessment. Teaching observations. And keep

going. Okay, then do it again. Assessment, teaching, observe. Keep

going. And that's really where you're going to find the freedom in

your lesson planning is because you're going to have a clear idea

of what your students need from you. And that's how you're going

to figure out what lessons you're going to teach. Now something

else that I want to encourage you to do. During the year. It

doesn't have to be exactly after those four weeks so you can do

that four week cycle all throughout the year. And you're going to

see how powerful this is to really be guiding your lessons based

on what your students need from you. And you're going to see how

successful they are because you're going to be providing what they

need. Now, the other thing that I recommend you doing throughout

the year is. Doing some progress trackers. Okay. And these are a

little bit different. Than progress monitoring. Check. Ins.

These go along with your observations and just any activities that

you're doing in the classroom. What a progress tracker is is using

something like. If you're a whita state, and if you're not, that's

okay, you can still use these. They're free. They're available.

And they're really helpful. But if you're a WhitA state you might

be familiar with.

Okay. So you might be familiar with the proficiency level

descriptors. And like I said, if you are not in a WhitA state,

these are still something extremely helpful that you want to use.

And actually, next week on the podcast, we're having courtney

Morgan, who's just incredible and so knowledgeable. She's coming

on to share more about how to use these because I do. Think it

will transform your teaching and your lesson planning. So

throughout the year you will want to pull out these proficiency

level descriptors. These are for different grade levels, different

grade level clusters. And it really breaks down. Interpretive

skills. And expressive skills. So, interpretive skills. Are our

listening and our reading and our expressive skills are our

speaking and our writing. And what is really powerful with this is

it tells you. By the end of. Level one. A student should be able

to do this. At the end of level Two, a student should be able to

do this. Why I think this is so crucial and helpful. Is because.

When we do the access testing or whatever your language testing is

that's done once a year, usually in the middle of the year and we

don't get the reports back for a long time. So. We're basing our

instruction of their language level off of. An assessment that was

done. Six months earlier. And then we use that same benchline

throughout the entire year. But that's not how language learning

works. There's ebbs and flows. But hopefully our students are

moving forward, right. And some might be we might be teaching the

student that we think. Okay. On access. They scored at a level two

in speaking. So I'm going to just focus on the student at being at

a level two. Well, that's not necessarily always accurate. They

might advance in one domain, and they still might need support.

They might still might be at a level two, maybe in reading or

writing. And it's going to go like that where you need to have a

good pulse on our students. And seeing how they're progressing.

And so that's why I love these plds. Because. You can see. I can

observe my student and see. Wow. Okay, let's see if this is a

level two student. Well, let's see on my pld here. It says that at

the end of level two, this student should be able to understand

how coherent texts are created around topics with repetition,

rhyming, and common language patterns. And when I'm observing the

student or giving them activities to do that, I see that the

student's really doing well with that. He's actually really

excelling with this. So he really needs me to move into level

three on the interpretive. But if I didn't have this gauge, if I

didn't have this rubric and this framework, I'm going to be stuck

on really just focusing. On level Two skills for him the entire

year, and so I'm keeping him back when he's ready to go forward.

And I know that's not what we want to do, but if we don't have a

framework or a rubric to guide us. This is really hard to do. So

as you're going through this four week cycle of the assessment,

the teaching, the observations. Throw these in there. This might

be at the end of the quarter. Do a check in. On. Their proficiency

levels. C. Are there any students who are showing that you know

what. They're really strong in this. I think we're ready to move

them forward to the next level. Because that's how they're going

to not that's how they're going to rise the level that you're

giving them, the expectations that you're providing for them, that

you're expecting of them. And that's how they're going to really

want to continue to move forward when you have a good pulse on

when they're ready to move forward or when they're ready or when

they need more support. And these plds really will help give you

that framework and that guidance to do that. So next week, we'll

be going deeper on these with courtney. It's an episode you won't

want to miss out on, but that's it. That's really how. You're

going to plan your year. Is by beginning first with quarterly

goals and then breaking it into a cycle of assessing, teaching,

observing. Repeat. And then at those quarterly marks, check in on

the goals, see how they're doing. And check in on their

proficiency levels and see who needs to move forward, who needs to

stay the same, or who maybe needs to go backward for a little bit

to build that confidence, build that foundation so that then they

can excel forward sometimes that's okay, too. But it's when we

have that pulse that we can really make those decisions. And know

that. Our students are getting what they need from us. So like I

said. We have some quarterly goals already ready for you and you

can find this in the Show notes. You can also sign up if you're

looking for more of these types of things of just really getting

set up for this year. Check out our esl Teacher toolkit. We've

provided you with the goals. With some can do descriptors to

really break down what the students should be able to do at each

language level and grade level. And we've provided some other

materials in there for you to really get prepared for this

upcoming school year so you can check those out in the show notes.

And I'll be back next week with an episode with courtney Morgan

about how we can use plds in our teaching.