Happy Summer 2021, Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals – there’s still a month left before the start of school. Here’s a plan to plan your first upcoming unit!
I hope you all have been having a long and restful break. This past year was perhaps the most difficult year of your careers physically, spiritually, and mentally.
With September close at hand, you may have begun thinking about the coming year: Will schools open? What about masks? Will my students be OK? How can I plan for instruction with so much uncertainty?
A plan to plan your first unit of the year.
While we don’t know all the answers now, we can go back to the basics of good pedagogy for emergent bilinguals and all students: teaching units that develop students’ oral language skills and background knowledge around a topic, and use that as a launching pad into developing readers and writers.
You need a plan to plan your unit.
So often, teachers are not given the time for strategic thinking about their units, resulting in lesson-by-lesson planning mode. I want to give you a tool to do some Big Picture thinking (and I will help you with planning lessons next week) in order to see a path to advancing your students forward in their language and literacy skills.
Remember: literacy can’t happen without oral language acquisition!
Please download my blank Integrated Content and ENL Unit Planner to get you started. What it is: a 6 week model plan outlining, week by week, how to take students from oral language to reading to writing, with a template and questions to work from to create or adapt your own unit. The plan is designed with Grades 3 and above in mind. However, it can easily be adapted for a K-2 unit.
This is the most important week in your unit: without background knowledge and vocabulary, reading comprehension can’t happen.
In Week 1, you will introduce your students to the unit topic (e.g., Exploring Identity through a reading of I Am Malala). If you’re an elementary teacher, curricula often organize units around Common Core skills rather than a concrete topic. In this case, just focus on the central text and identify the background knowledge and vocabulary your students need to understand the text.
This will be a pre-reading week: Students will be working with pictures, videos, and other activities to build vocabulary and schema around the text. If you wish, your class will create a pictionary that students will be responsible for maintaining and that will serve as a reference throughout the unit.
You may not be able to devote an entire week to background knowledge and vocabulary. Just break Week 1 up into individual lessons or half-lessons throughout your unit.
Week 1 has students tapping into what they already know about this topic. They’re also acquiring the academic vocabulary necessary for critical thinking and discussion. Together, this allows them to build a picture in their minds (a schema) for reading comprehension.
In Week 2, students begin Close Reading the text. They’re still learning 3-5 new words before reading the passage (from your text excerpts). They’re also reviewing Big Picture concepts, responding to text using target vocabulary, and learning how to annotate text.
WeekS 3 & 4
In Weeks 3 and 4, students are going deep into their Close Reads. They’re responding to text orally and in writing at both the sentence and paragraph level. We can’t wait till the end of the unit for students to write. They have to learn how to write in response to what they’re reading about.
WeekS 5 & 6
Typically, units for Grade 3 and above end in a writing task. I’d like to spend a lot of time on outlining at the paragraph and essay level. This is what students need to gain skill in written expression. I also want to do a lot of shared writing with my class – students need to see me modeling the brainstorming and organization process, as well as fluent language.
In my upcoming posts, I will take you through more planning and linguistics and share with you detailed examples of oral language, reading and writing instruction.
Comment below and let me know if you have any questions!