The beginning of the school year is an important time for creating a classroom community. It is also important to help students feel comfortable in the classroom. Here are some simple back to school activities that will help you support your ELLs and help them to get ready for a new school year.
The project can be as simple or complex as you wish, depending on the age of the students and materials that you have available. The general idea is to have students create a collage (or decorate a notebook) that represents themselves. One benefit for ELLs, is that this activity does not require writing. For students that struggle with writing, this is a low-stress way to start out the school year.
A Special Object
Have students bring in a special object (or a drawing or photograph of the object). First, with a partner or in a small group, have them share what makes the object special. Afterward, you can have students share with the class what is special about their object. You can also add in a listening component, and have students share about their partner’s object.
Some sentence frames to provide are:
My object is special because….
My partner’s object is special because…
I have a _____. It is _____.
He/she has a ____. It is______.
Review School Routines
One simple way to review school routines is to have students sort behaviors into those that are positive and negative. You can divide students into small groups or pair them up with a partner. The students talk about why they are putting each behavior into different categories. Then have the class complete the sort so that students can hear additional ideas.
You can have students model different behaviors and take pictures for the students to sort. I also have a set of ready-made school routine picture cards for students to sort with positive and negative behaviors.
Read aloud are a simple way to introduce students to different cultures and get back into the school routine. Many books lend themselves well to discussions of classroom community and accepting the diversity around them. I have a list of back to school books for ELLs and school books from around the world.
Set Language Goals
For all students, the beginning of the school year is a good time for goal setting. For ELLs, it is helpful to have them set language goals. One way to set language goals is to have students write or draw one thing that they are good at and one area they want to get better in each language domain (reading, writing, listening, speaking.) You can share examples of what they will be learning in the upcoming school year to help them decide on a goal. Some teachers like to share with students how they did on the previous year’s language assessment. They might also share what areas they need to work on to move up a level.
I have sets of ready-made goal-setting graphic organizers for each language domain. I also have short sentences or phrases that have examples of what is expected in each domain at different language levels.