Hello Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals! Last week I posted my plan to help you plan your upcoming unit this September/October. Today, I want to help you plan for language acquisition Monday through Friday: a template to help you take your students from oral language to reading to writing over the course of each week.
Emergent bilinguals need more time learning because language acquisition takes time. It takes an average of two to three years before students acquire basic communicative competency in English, and four to seven years to acquire academic language! If you’re wondering how I’m defining academic language, see my short video.
Forget the daily lesson plan and plan for language acquisition monday through friday
Many of you are already doing this – you have a lesson plan but usually don’t finish it with students in one period. Let’s strategize. I want you to start thinking of your weekly lessons as mini-units. Each week you will take your students through a 5-day cycle. You will start on Monday with oral language and vocabulary development, build students’ capacity up for reading and sentence writing over the next days, and end on Fridays with paragraph writing.
Let’s see what the plan for language acquisition Monday through Friday looks like:
step 1: build your students’ schema (background knowledge & vocabulary)
Monday: Using the example of a 6th grade ELA unit on I am Malala, our content objective this week is:
Students will demonstrate understanding of Malala’s position on burkas and what customs and traditions her society expects of women.
Students will first tap into previous learning:
- What do we already know about Malala? Pakistan? The Taliban? Students discuss visual images using a word bank with previously learned vocabulary.
Next, we will use the class period to build students’ schema around what a burka is, and the customs and traditions around women in Malala’s world using more images and videos. Students will be exposed to more vocabulary (burka vs. hijab, traditional, modesty, devout) and add to our class pictionary. Together as a class and/or in groups, we will create a concept map around the word burka, and create sentences both orally and in writing, e.g., ‘The Taliban are forcing women to wear burkas because they believe women should be covered’.
step 2: take them from oral language to text
Tuesday: Now that students have tapped into and built more knowledge in their schema around burkas, we want to bridge their oral language over to reading. We’ll tackle the following excerpt:
“Living under wraps seemed so unfair – and uncomfortable. From an early age, I told my parents that no matter what other girls did, I would never cover my face like that. My face was my identity. My mother, who is quite devout and traditional, was shocked. Our relatives thought I was very bold. (Some said rude.) But my father said I could do as I wished. “Malala will live as free as a bird,” he told everyone.” Chapter 1 pp.17-18
Pre-teach 3-6 new vocabulary words associated with this excerpt: unfair, uncomfortable, wraps, bold (students already know the word identity from the introduction to the memoir). The teacher will read the excerpt aloud, and students will be responsible for underlining new vocabulary words as they listen. Next, the teacher will break down key sentences, focusing on subjects (who/what?) and predicates (is or is doing what?), as well as other Wh- questions where? when? how? why? The teacher asks students to chorally read key sentences like “My mother…..was shocked” for fluency.
Students re-read the excerpt aloud in groups, and discuss and summarize to demonstrate comprehension; then they complete a graphic organizer or write sentences. Students with higher levels of oral proficiency and reading can read silently and should tackle a longer chunk of text that follows this key excerpt.
step 3: build up their reading stamina and start writing
Wednesday & Thursday: The focus is going from reading to writing. The teacher moves through the novel, selecting more excerpts like the one above (the excerpt should be critical to understanding Malala’s position on burkas, so you don’t have to read page by page). Students do more work on comprehension and analysis. Give students a bank of subject and predicates to work from so they can expand written sentences.
Malala believes that…
Her mother is shocked because…
On Wednesdays and Fridays, we’re also going to do 10 minutes of word work – read more about that next week.
step 4: write together
Friday: Fridays are for paragraph writing for the upper grades (please continue focusing on sentence writing in Grades K-3 – more on that in future posts). We’ve built up students’ background knowledge, vocabulary, oral and reading fluency, and sentence writing all week. Let’s do some shared writing on Friday and practice paragraph writing skills. First, we’ll analyze a writing prompt. Next, we’ll come up with topic and concluding sentences together. Then, students will use a vocabulary bank to complete important detail sentences in their paragraph. Finally, we’ll read together for reading fluency and circle back to our content objective to remind students about everything we’ve learned this week.
oral language to reading to writing – every week
Our goal is to support content acquisition with appropriate scaffolding for progression in linguistic skills every week. Our emergent bilingual students need consistent and repeated practice with linguistic skills – pragmatic and world knowledge, oral fluency and vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension, and writing fluency from sentence to paragraph level.
Let’s support their language acquisition with explicit, systematic instruction in linguistic skills. Download my Mon-Fri Weekly Planner here and ask me any questions down below!