I have written several articles pertaining to the power of planners for educators, but have yet to discuss the ways to effectively use student planners in the classroom. It is easy to search the internet and find planning tools for learners in a pinch, and although convenient, it’s not enough to simply find a planner that looks pretty, print it off and give it to students without questioning the strength of the planner, what modifications the planner may need and how it can be used as a learning tool. Some things to keep in mind before classroom use are:
A. Curriculum Objectives
Does the planner match your curriculum objectives? If not, what modifications will the student planner need in order to achieve your goals? Perhaps you will need to change some of the wording, add an extra column or additional boxes.
There’s no rule that says that each learner in your class needs to use the exact same version of the student planner. Before providing your students with the planner, think about ways it may need to be modified to suit different learner needs in your classroom. Are there opportunities for extended learning to push certain students to a deeper understanding? What about ESL students in your classroom? Will they be able to follow the planner as is, or will any scaffolding need to be provided in order for them to complete the planner?
C. Links to Other Subject Areas
A planner may be designed to accommodate a certain subject area; however, depending on your units, it may be possible to incorporate elements from another subject area into the planner. For example, a planner may be designed for a research project in science and when reviewing your language curriculum objectives, you may be able to make some links.
D. Train of Thought
Before handing the planner out to students, try it yourself. While moving through the planner, ask yourself if it is logical, if the steps are in the order you wish your students to follow and if it will ultimately serve to meet the goals you have set.
E. Planners From a Previous Year
While it is easy to find new student planners on the internet, it may be also be tempting to re-use planners from another year to teach the same grade. And this is fine, however it is always a good idea to look at the students in your current class and decide if the planner meets their needs. If not, either a new planner may be required or modifications to the existing planner should be made.
F. Planners as a Teaching Tool
Planners are an excellent teaching tool, and meeting with your students to discuss their planners throughout a project or unit is a great way for you to see where your students are at in their learning. As you look at their planners, you will be able to see their areas of strength and areas for improvement by the amount of detail provided in each box. Perhaps you will notice that they are struggling with where to find their material or with coming up with a feasible timeline to complete their project and can offer the necessary support to help them succeed.
By taking the time to think about the specific learning needs in your classroom and making the necessary modifications to your planner, you will be helping your students succeed to the best of their abilities! How will you be modifying the next set of student planners you use in your classroom? Looking for customized planners to suit your learners' needs? Contact us!
In Early Years programs there is this tendency to assume that because an English as a Second Language (ESL) student is so young and their own language skills in their native tongue are still developing, the student will simply “assimilate” language-wise, and so often extra support isn’t provided for the classroom teacher. While it is true that younger learners do tend to pick up additional languages more easily than older students – meaning they probably won’t need pull-out sessions – this doesn’t mean that the classroom teacher couldn’t use a few extra strategies to help ESL students in developing their English language skills. Below are some helpful tips and ideas:
A. Visual Aids
Having a set of visual aids for concepts being taught is always helpful; this way ESL students can follow the main ideas of the lesson even if they can’t understand English yet. So, if you are talking about animals, being able to show a picture of each animal as you are talking about them can help the ESL student improve their understanding. Below are some websites offering printable flashcards for classroom use:
ESL Games +
ESL Kid Stuff
B. Flashcards on a Keyring
Providing ESL students with flashcards from the above-mentioned websites (on a keyring) depicting essential survival-English images with accompanying words can be very helpful in building independence. Providing words like “bathroom,” “drink” and “snack” can help ESL students communicate their needs and build confidence.
C. Hand Gestures
In addition to visual aids, hand gestures are also a great way to demonstrate meaning for ESL students: for example, waving to an ESL student when greeting them and putting your index finger on your lips to show that you would like them to be quiet.
D. Speaking Slowly
It is easy to forget that not all students understand the lesson and consequently speak at a faster pace, especially when caught up in an exciting learning moment. However, this makes it difficult for a non-native English speaker to follow along. By making a conscious effort to slow down speech, you will be greatly helping those ESL students hear and understand what you are saying.
Repeating key vocabulary words and phrases for ESL students is essential. The more they hear the vocabulary, the better chance they have of retaining it and using it in the proper context.
F. Listening Station
Setting up a listening station for ESL students is a great way to have them hear songs, nursery rhymes, etc. in English, all of which will serve to build on and improve their English skills in a fun way.
Partner ESL students with native English-speakers in the class and have them play simple games together.
Being flexible in how an ESL student chooses to demonstrate their knowledge is also essential. Perhaps a student understands what is being asked, but is too shy to speak. It is okay for students to demonstrate their knowledge by illustrating what they know or by using manipulatives.
Having ESL students in your Early Years program can be a very rewarding experience, and with the right strategies in place a classroom teacher can help their ESL students’ language skills blossom!
ESL Students and Specialist Classes
Ensuring Meaningful Modern Foreign Language Classes in the Early Years
At previous schools where I have worked, Modern Foreign Language (MFL) lessons in the Early Years have been disconnected from classroom learning. MFL lessons have involved a foreign language teacher coming into a class during a 30 to 45-minute time block, delivering a teacher-led lesson and leaving. This teacher-led lesson, as lovely and entertaining as it may be, usually has no connection to what has been happening in the classroom, and once the MFL teacher leaves it is forgotten by the students because they have no further exposure to the concepts learned until the next lesson. Is this the most effective way for students to learn a foreign language? In my opinion, no. Is there a better way? Absolutely, and the solution only requires that mainstream and MFL teachers communicate and work as a team! Below are some suggestions that could easily be implemented:
A. Team Planning/Access to Planners
Including an MFL teacher in unit planning is the best way to let them know what the focus of upcoming lessons will be so that relevant connections can be made. For example, if students will be learning about modes of transportation in their native tongue, the MFL teacher could focus on similar language. If team planning is not an option due to conflicting schedules, simply sharing planners with the MFL teachers in advance will also work.
B. Daily Foreign Language Exposure
Although the MFL teacher may not be present, simple things can be left for mainstream teachers to incorporate into their daily activities. For example:
C. Linking to Play-Based/Inquiry Based Curriculums
Even if you are following a play-based or inquiry-based approach in your Early Years classroom, the above ideas can still work but this involves the MFL teacher being open to the fact that not every class in the Early Years program will be learning about the same topics at the same time. It will also involve the MFL teacher being open to incorporating materials and spaces in the classroom as part of their lessons, limiting the amount of teacher-led activities, and developing projects for the students that tie into what they are interested in. For example, if the students are interested in ocean animals, the MFL teacher can:
D. Meeting Curriculum Objectives
While the main focus of the MFL teacher is evaluating the students on their language skills, it is helpful for them to be aware of other curriculum objectives being met in the classroom. For instance, an MFL teacher may plan to teach students how to count to 20 in the foreign language, while students aren’t able to do so in their native tongue. Student learning is advanced when a MFL teacher is aware of and can connect to curriculum objectives in other subject areas, as this exposes students to the same concepts multiple times. This will also help to prevent situations where students are forced to struggle with concepts they aren’t ready for.
Creating a meaningful Modern Foreign Language experience for students in the Early Years is easily achievable with a little teamwork and transparency, and the impact on students’ learning as they make connections between the foreign language and their native tongue will be worthwhile and rewarding!
Making the Language Connections in Modern Foreign Language Classes
How to Help Your Foreign Language Students Improve Their Speaking & Listening Skills
Tips for Teaching ESL Students in the Early Years