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Teaching English Language Learners K-12

Teaching English Language Learners K-12
A Quick-Start Guide for the New Teacher

  • Jerry Jesness - Clear Creek Independent School District, League City, TX

Foreword by Rosalie Pedalino Porter

May 2004 | 176 pages | Corwin
This is a quick-start manual for teachers who are working with bilingual learners for the first time or who want a refresher course. The book is practical, jargon free, easy to navigate, and it contains strategies that teachers can implement immediately and without fuss. The book is not tied to state-specific immersion programmes but instead offers strategies that can be used in all bilingual settings to cover such topics as:

} teaching methods and materials ("your toolbox")

} working with the learner's native language and culture

} working within the context of the community's language and culture

} working with school administrators, speech therapists, and volunteers

} essential skills: vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading, writing, content classes, including "sheltered" content lessons

} grading, testing, self-assessments, and preparing students for standardized tests

} placements in bilingual/ESL programmes and exiting back to regular classrooms

} placements in special education programmes when appropriate

· timing the students' return to regular classrooms

} the ESL teacher's ongoing professional development

Special features include sidebars for customizing instruction to be developmentally appropriate for younger learners; resources and recommended readings; a glossary to explain common linguistic terms and bilingual alphabet soup (TESOL, NABE, ELD, LEP, ESL, EFL, ELL); and a terrific collection of vocabulary checklists for common English words and concepts, which teachers will be able to use during first few months.

About the Author
1. The Joys and Challenges of Teaching English as a Second Language
The Joys of Teaching ESL

The Challenges of Teaching ESL

Travel the World With or Without Leaving Your Classroom

It's More Than a Job, It's a Mission

2. Your Students
ESL, ELL, LEP, and Other Acronyms

Placement in Bilingual and ESL Programs

SEP Students (Someone Else's Problem)

Inclusion and Support in Regular Classrooms

3. Your Toolbox
The Textbook

Other Books

Realia: Pictures, Maps, Charts, Toys, and More

Audio Tapes and CDs

Gadgets Galore

Paying for Your Tools

Getting Help from Volunteers

Getting Advice and Help from School Personnel

4. How Much? How Soon? How Fast?

Pie-in-the-Sky Goals

Is One Year Enough?

When Should Students Exit to Regular Classes?

Steep Hills and Frustrating Plateaus

Motivation Inside and Outside of Class

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

5. Using the Learners' Native Language in the Classroom
Don't Force Them to Go Mute

What Works Best in the Students' Native Language

Consider the Language and Culture of the Community

Use Time Limits

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

6. Natural and Unnatural Approaches to Learning English
The Natural Approach: Learning English by Hearing It and Speaking It

Applying First Language Skills to Second Language Learning

Balancing Experiential and Analytic Approaches

Using Total Physical Response (TPR)

Language in the Foreground and the Background

Winning Over the Skeptics in Your School

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

7. Building Vocabulary: They'll Need Lots
Enjoying the Path to a Large Vocabulary

Learning from the Movies

Teaching Vocabulary with Picture Dictionaries

Using Vocabulary from the Native Language
Using Vocabulary From the Native Language

Using Vocabulary from the Native Language

Building Vocabulary with Word Blocks

Idioms and Other Confusing Expressions

Look It Up!: Learning English with Dictionaries

Electronic Dictionaries

Those Boring Vocabulary Lists

Layered Vocabulary Learning

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students
Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

8. Grammar: The Skeletal System of the Language
Me Very Grammar

When to Start Grammar Lessons

English Grammar Isn't as Tough as We Think

Freebies: When English Grammar Matches the Learner's Native Language

The Garden Path to English Grammar

Pronoun Cases

Implicit and Explicit Grammar Instruction

Pattern Practice Makes Perfect: Well, not Really, But It Works

Grammar in Action: Questions, Answers, Jokes, and Conversation

Tag, You're It: Converting Statements to Tag Questions

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

9. Listening Skills: The Gateway to Language
Learning with a Tape Recorder or CD Player

Learning with Software: The Rosetta Stone, Instant Immersion, and Other Programs

The Great ESL Film Festival


Encouraging Listening as a Stand-Alone Skill

Teaching with Minimal Pairs: Bit, Bet, Bait, Beet, Bite

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

Chapter 10. Now Say It: Teaching Spoken English
The Direct Method

Controlled Conversation

Role Playing

Student-to-Student Teaching


Using Media and the Language Lab

Teaching Pronunciation (Speech Therapists Can Help!)

Using the International Phonetic Alphabet

Error Correction: When and How Often

Let Your Students Correct You Too

Speaking Practice Outside of Class

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

11. Teaching Reading
When Students Are Struggling Readers in Their Native Language

Quick-Start Phonics for English Learners

The Constant Consonants

Those Tricky Vowels

Decoding Skills and Background Knowledge

Graphic Organizers

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

12. Writing It Right
Getting Started

Writing Begins with Spelling

Gadgets and Media Again

The Vanishing Word Technique

Picture and Word Cards

Punctuation and Capitalization


In Their Own Words

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

13. How We Know What the Students Know: Grading and Testing
Grading in Mixed Ability Classrooms

Individualized Education Plans

Multi-Track Grading: Same Class, Different Goals

No, You Aren't Cheating: What Counts for General Learners and College Prep Learners

Keeping Noses to the Grindstone

Testing Vocabulary

Testing Spelling

Testing Speaking and Listening

Testing Grammar

Self-Assessment: Giving Students Their Own Checklists

Preparing Students for Standardized Tests (Please Don't)

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

14. Teaching English Learners with Special Needs
Prior Education, Semilingualism, and Learning Disabilities

What Does Special Education Offer Your Students?

When They Need a Special Education Referral But Haven't Gotten One

Determining the Appropriate Program

Sidebar: Working with Younger Students

15. English Learners in Content Classes
English Throughout the Curriculum

Sheltered English Content Classes

Content Objectives and Language Objectives

A Sample Sheltered Science Lesson

A Sample Sheltered Vocabulary Lesson

Using Sheltered English to Teach and Practice Grammar

When Are Students Ready to Wade into the Mainstream?

The Power of Prior Knowledge

The Power of Incidental Learning

Reasonable and Unreasonable Modifications in the Inclusive Classroom

The F Word (Failure)

The Bright Side: Enriched Class Discussions

Out-of-Class Support for English Learners in Regular Content Classes

16. Helping Everyone Else Understand Your Students
Attitudes Make the Difference: Racism and Xenophobia

I'm Here, So Shut the Door Already

Exposing Other Students to Your Students' Culture

Avoiding Trivial Pursuit and Superficial Multiculturalism

Illuminating with Literary Classics From Other Traditions

Living Social Studies

Graphic Art and Music

Mutual Tutoring and Dual Immersion

17. Preparing Yourself to Be a Better ESL Teacher
Catching Up and Keeping Up with Advances in the Field

Acquainting Yourself with Your Students' Culture

Trying on Your Students' Shoes

And If You Teach at the Base of the Tower of Babel...

Vocabulary Lists
Numbers 1 - 10


Numbers 11-20

People and Things

Numbers by Tens


All Numbers to 100

U.S. Currency


Classroom Nouns

Classroom Verbs

Large Numbers: Hundred and Thousands

Arithmetic I: Addition and Subtraction

Alphabet A - H

Arithmetic II: Multiplication and Division

Alphabet I - P

School Supplies

Alphabet Q - Z

Computer Nouns

Computer Verbs

Human Body


Home Nouns

Home Verbs

Park and Playground

Pets and Pet Accessories

Farm Animals

Wild Animals

World Geography: Continents and Countries

U.S. Geography: Oceans, Rivers, Mountain Ranges, Borders

Ordinal Numbers

City Geography: Streets, Avenues, Buildings, Directions, Travel

Fruit and Vegetables

Meat and Seafood

Bakery Products

Dairy Products

Women's Clothing

Men's Clothing



Possessive Pronouns

Prepositions and Their Objects

Recommended Reading
Recommended Websites

The valuable classroom experience in the author’s background and a genuine sensitivity for his students’ needs are evident on every page of clear prose. The practical information included here addresses the major issues in educating language minority students, without overloading the new teacher with extraneous matter.

From the Foreword by Rosalie Pedalino Porter

What a gift this book will be to ESL teachers . . . How I would have loved such a book when I was charged with the responsibility of teaching ESL students in years past.

Donna Garner, English and Spanish Teacher
Hewitt, TX

Entertaining and straightforward, Teaching English Language Learners K-12 guides teachers past common pitfalls and into what actually works for English learners, whether they are learning through immersion or bilingual methods.

Johanna Haver
Author, Structured English Immersion

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jerry Jesness's commonsense guidebook for teachers of English Language Learners. It is easy to read, jargon-free, and clear. Anyone who helps children learn English as a second language will find this book to be immensely helpful.

Diane Ravitch
Author, "The Language Police"

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