Saturday, February 15, 2014

Planning for ELLs - Teaching a Unit on Weather

Next semester I am likely to be teaching a kindergarten unit on the weather.

Unit Objective:
Understand different types of weather, what causes it and the four seasons.

Language Acquisition stages (Haynes): 

  1. Pre-Produciton: This is the silent period. Students will acquire about 500 words in their vocabulary but are not speaking in English yet. Will begin to repeat things you say, not a sign of learning.
  2. Early Production: Students can usually only speak in one or two word sentences in which many of these have been memorized and may not be used in the correct way. Will develop active vocabulary of about 1000 words in this stage.
  3. Speech Emergent: Students will have 3000 word vocabulary. Will speak in simple phrases and sentences. Are able to ask questions and hold short conversations with peers. They will understand basic stories read aloud.
  4. Intermediate Fluency: Vocabulary of 6000 words. Will use more complex sentences when speaking and writing. Will be able to express opinions, share thoughts, and ask questions to clarify what they are learning. Writing skills will still be filled with a lot of errors.
  5. Advanced Fluency: Takes 4-10 years to reach this level. They will be near native in their ability to use English. Will no longer need ELL support programs.
Strategies for teaching this lesson (Haynes):

  • Actively listen to the lesson — The teacher will actively describe the different types of weather and what causes it.
  • Copy words from the board — While orally describing the lesson, the teacher will write down key words like hot, cold, rain, snow, dry, ice, etc and have the student write them down as well.
  • Use pictures to show understanding — Provide the students with pictures of different types of weather to use when answering questions.
  • Total Physical Response Method — Have students act out how they might react to different types of weather, like shivering in the cold, fanning themselves when it is hot, and finding cover from the rain (“Total Physical Response”).
Early Production:
  • Ask yes or no questions — While teaching the lesson verbally, ask students questions about the weather like, “Is it raining outside right now?” or “ Would you rather it be hot outside or cold?”
  • Have students use pictures to respond-Have students sort out different types of weather using pictures and place them under the correct season.
  • Focus on key vocabulary — Use a word wall for key words.
Speech Emergent:
  • Have the student sound out a related story phonetically in pairs — Read a short story about the weather.
  • Complete activities using word banks — Create a worksheet that uses fill in the blank words from a word bank to describe the picture of the weather.
  • Use flash cards — Flash cards created with pictures and the associated word.
  • Write short story with pictures — ask the students to write a story about their favorite season and weather.
Intermediate Fluency:
  • Have student actively participate in class discussion on topic —  Ask more in-depth questions, other than yes/no or either/or. For example, ask the student to orally describe the current weather.
  • Use more complex topics like critical thinking, but expect grammatical errors — Have the student write how weather occurs using both pictures and sentences.


Haynes, Judy. “Stages of Second Language Acquisition”. Web 15 Feb 2014. <>

“Total Physical Response” Wikipedia. Web 15 Feb 2014 <>

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