ELL Activity Collection

Published on Nov 20, 2018

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ELL Activity Collection

Tara Hieggelke

1. Total Physical Response Storytelling

  • Start with basic TPR
  • Use gestures to represent words
  • Ask questions that can be answered with one word
  • With student help, create a mini story and have students repeat it.
I use the strategy, Total Physical Response (TPR), for almost every unit I teach. This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary to the students. After teaching vocabulary using TPR, I then have students, with my guidance, create a mini story where they can apply the vocabulary into a story, answer questions, etc. After we have created the story, together we write the story into their notebook where I am able to highlight some grammar points that I want them to understand. This is a fun, interactive and engaging activity that students enjoy learning from and I enjoy teaching.

"TPRS is also highly effective in teaching vocabulary associated with content-area knowledge." (Herrell & Jordan, 2015, p. 32)

Photo by haagenjerrys

2. Leveled Questions

  • Observe and document students' language levels
  • Gather visuals
  • Plan a hierarchy of questions
  • Involve all students
  • Assess student progress/understanding
  • Add technology
  • Use a rubric to monitor your own progress in leveling questions
I use leveled questions when teaching any unit for my classes. I plan ahead the type of questions I want students to understand. For example, in my last unit for my second year Japanese class, we started with a basic sentence, "there is a dog". Then we moved to "there is a dog at the house". The the sentence included a preposition, "there is a dog on the house." And finally, we included "there are three dogs on the house". Students began practicing with the sentence in stages and for each stage, I would ask questions that would increasingly become harder. This is an example of leveled questions. This strategy gives students a structure that is easy to work with and understand.
Photo by Leo Reynolds

"The use of leveled questions in the classroom requires that teachers know the stage of language development at which each student is functioning." (Herrell & Jordan, 2015, p. 110)

Photo by Rex Pe

3. Culture Studies

  • Find an appropriate project
  • Set details, goals, parameters
  • Clear expectations
  • Add technology
  • Assess growth and progress
In my first year Japanese class, I have my students chose a topic that they would like to explore about Japanese culture. They have to do their own individual research and then give a speech about their topic. Included with their speech, they have to include a slide show that represents their topic. This is a very engaging project because students are very interested in learning more about their topic and it allows for students to have some freedom in their own academic learning. At the beginning of the project I set up clear expectations for what I want the project to look like, so students know what is expected of them. You can add this type of project into any curriculum area to fit the needs of the course you are teaching.

"Culture studies provide a way for teachers to build the classroom community while engaging their student in an in-depth social studies project that requires research." (Herrell & Jordan, 2015, p. 227)

Photo by eriktorner

4. Cooperative Learning

  • Divide class into groups
  • Assign specific roles
  • Assign task to complete
  • Monitor group participation
  • Group share out
  • Reflect and debrief
Cooperative learning is another engaging and successful strategy that I use in my classroom. I use this in a variety of ways. One example is at the beginning of the year I do a cooperative learning activity as a review. I divide the class into groups. The focus of the activity is to figure out who did what, where, when and why. The students only have a limited amount of information so they must ask me to fill in the blanks. They must take turns asking questions and they must work together to find the answers. At the end of the activity, I have the students share out about the answers, process, etc. Students enjoy this activity and I continue to do activities like this throughout the year but modified to meet the learning objective at that time.
Photo by yeowatzup

"The groups are not just learning content but also valuable interpersonal interaction skills." (Herrell & Jordan, 2015, p. 269)

Photo by aquopshilton

5. Graphic Organizers

  • Identify the text to be supported with an organizer
  • Explain the purpose of the organizer
  • Teach the students how to use/create an organizer
  • Teach different options or organizers
My final activity is graphic organizers. This is an excellent strategy that allow students to organize and understand the text. Graphic organizers can come in many different ways, Venn diagrams, concept maps, etc. I try to implement three different organizers into my classes so that students can have experience with more than one. Towards the end of the year, I allow students to chose one organizer that they prefer to synthesize the text. I find that when students use graphic organizers, students are able to break down the material into easy to understand chunks. As a result, students do not seem overwhelmed by the material and they are able to understand the material much better.
Photo by projectidea

"Using graphic organizers has been shown to encourage students to become more analytic in their reading and to reflect more deeply on the meaning and contextual clues found in the text." (Herrell & Jordan, 2015, p. 193)

Photo by npslibrarian


  • Herrell, A., & Jordan, M. (2015). 50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners. Pearson.

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