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Colorful Writing

Tip: Colorful Writing

How do I do it?
When students are doing writing projects (e.g. narratives, spelling sentences, journal entries, etc.), encourage them to use “colorful” words.  Model this by showing the students a simple sentence such as “The nice boy let me use his toy.”  Help them brainstorm different ways to say this or to add more detail, such as “The generous boy shared his new Star Wars toy with me.”  Ask them, which sentence sounds more interesting? Which one creates a better image in your head?

If you want them to use this strategy in story telling, have them rewrite the sentence “‘Nice to meet you,’ she said.”  Is there a more interesting way to say this?  What about “‘It’s a pleasure to meet you!’ she exclaimed.”

Post this list of colorful adjectives and verbs somewhere in the classroom (or make your own) for them to refer to if they get stuck, or encourage them to use a thesaurus.  

Try this list for younger students.

Variations & Extensions:
Have students create their own “colorful” thesaurus with a variety of different verbs and adjectives they can use to make their writing more interesting.  Have them start the entry with “Instead of saying nice, I can use….. kind, generous, giving, pleasant” etc.  Remind them to leave room on the page for when they find new colorful words to add to each entry!

Common Core ELA Language Standard 3
Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Build A Character


Tip: Build a Character

How do I do it?
Language learners can benefit from monitoring their reading with visualization to help them comprehend a text.  Visualizing a character and then constructing one from different faces, body parts, and props (with evidence for their choices) is a good way for students to describe characters in a story and make sure they are comprehending the text.  Download our handy build a character worksheet for students to utilize.  As students read the narrative, direct them to choose a character and build a picture of them as they read (or afterwards).  As they read or following reading, students choose body parts and props to build their character.  They must include words with page numbers to support their choices.  For example, if choosing “sad” eyes they can write, “The timid mouse cried a lot.” (pg. 3) next to their choice.

Variations & Extensions
In pairs or triads, students compare and contrast their 2 or 3 characters with a double or triple Venn diagram explaining what traits the characters have in common and how they differ.  The can use place words, phrases, or sentences on slips of paper on Venn diagrams.  Use a “build a character” program online such as on PBS Kids and have students build and print the same character with different eyes, expressions and props etc. and then write words or sentences to compare the characters in a Venn diagram.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 3
Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

10 Steps to the Main Idea


Tip: Ten Steps to The Main Idea

How do I do it?
Finding the theme or main idea of a story can be a challenge for language learners and can require significant support.  The following process will help language learners determine the theme or main idea of a piece of literature and identify the details that support that theme or main idea.
    Step 1: Preview the text. Look at the cover and any pictures.  Read the title.  What are key words?  What do you think the text will be about?  What will happen?
    Step 2: Preview key vocabulary.  Choose 5-10 words you don’t know.  What do they mean?  Write them down or talk about them.
    Step 3: Read the text.  (With the teacher, a partner, or in a literature circle.)  
    Step 4: Reread the text.  
    Step 5. Look for repetition.  What words are repeated?
    Step 6. What was the problem?
    Step 7. What was the solution?
    Step 8. Finish these sentences about the story: “First,...”  “In the middle,...” “Finally,...”
    Step 9. Finish one of these sentences: “This story reminds me...” “This story is about...”
    Step 10. Look over your answers to steps 1-9.  What is the story mostly about?  Finish this sentence: “The main idea is...”

Continue around the circle until ideas are exhausted or time is up.

Variations & Extensions
For students who may not need as much support, shorten the process by omitting steps or exempting particular students from steps.  Students can work in pairs.  After students finish their steps have them compare with a partner or in a triad to refine and support their statements with evidence.

Download the 10 Steps Worksheet with space for writing answers and recording details from the text.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Question Wheel for Literature

Question Wheel for Literature
How do I do it?

Create a question wheel to assist language learners when having conversations whole class, small group, or with partners about a story that they have read.  Students can share one question wheel or, make multiple wheels for students.  They take turns asking one another questions about parts of the story (setting(s), problem(s) & solution(s), events, chapters/scenes, character(s), and message/lesson).  Spin the center circle to reveal 2-3 questions related to making inferences about that aspect of the story.  Students choose a question to ask and read it to their partner.  To create a the wheel, on cardstock, draw a 7.5 inch diameter circle and smaller 6 inch circle.  Divide them into 6 pizza slice sections.  Write the story part heading at the outer edge of the large circle with questions below.  Be sure to use clip art or sketch to make the meaning of the heading more clear for language learners.  Cut out a window in the smaller circle and attach the two circles with a brad fastener.

Variations & Extensions
Students can be required to record their questions and/or their answers in writing.  Alternatively, a scribe can record questions and/or answers for the group.   Direct students to point to the page or pages in the story that they refer to when answering a question.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

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Answer Frames



Answer Frames

How do I do it?
When asking and answering questions about literature, language learners may need support to cite the specific evidence that supports conclusions or inferences.  After reading a text the laminated frames can be used as a whole class model and a volunteer can fill in the blanks with dry erase marker or individual students can use the frames when working in a small group or in pairs.  They are a good tool to scaffold speaking and writing in literature discussions.  The larger text size can make it easier for language learners to utilize the tool.

Variations & Extensions
Students can create their own answer and question frames for one another.  Students can record the questions and/or answers on another sheet of paper or strips of paper.  The strips can be rearranged by students or teacher into an essay or paragraphs after a 3 - 10 answers have been collected.  If sentence strips are used, then a pocket chart would be a great tool for rearranging them.  Additional transitional sentences can be written to flesh out the arguments provided by the answers.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Reference for example in photo: Seidler, T. (1986). A Rat’s Tale. HarperCollins Publishers.

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Basic Vocabulary Picture Bingo

How do I do it?
This is a great first week of school activity for your ESL learners.  You can engage them without asking them to speak yet but assess their basic vocabulary comprehension.  If they do not know the answer, they can use peer support to learn the word.  Here's how to set it up.  Use basic vocabulary picture cards, clip art, or simple line sketches of everyday objects (school items, clothes etc.).  Fold a blank 8.5 x 11 inch paper into 4, 6, 8 or 16 squares.  Use removable tape and tape a picture card into each square.  Photocopy this sheet for as many students who will be playing bingo.  Use simple classroom items for markers (e.g. paperclips, small scrap of paper etc.).  Say the word and/or describe it and students will cover it with their marker.  Continue until all squares are covered. 

Start over with another sheet or have students use the words in sentences.  For more of a challenge, start with difficult clues, use the word in a sentence, then say the word.  Pay attention to students who are able to place their marker at which level of difficulty and take notes on a clipboard.  For students with higher proficiency, write the word in the square without a picture. See Content Bingo teaching tip for more advanced ELLs.

Common Core ELA Speaking and Listening Standard 2
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

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Photo Bingo Classroom Nouns

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Basic Vocabulary Photo Card Set

Crowd Surfing A Text


Tip: Crowd Surfing A Text
by Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen

How do I do it?
After reading a text, introduce the idea of crowd surfing, perhaps with a quick video clip of a musician crowd surfing (explain that this is dangerous...)  Talk about how each person helps to hold up the surfer and without enough people to hold the surfer up, they will fall.  The same is true of a main point that an author will make.  The author must give enough evidence for their main point or no one will believe it - essentially, it will fall to the ground.  For example, if the main point is, “Rock music is interesting” then the author must support that claim with evidence like, “It has a long history.  There are many types of rock music.” etc.  Together with students, utilizing a document camera or overhead/LCD projector, identify the main point (the surfer) and the evidence (crowd members).

Variations & Extensions
Students can work in pairs to identify a “surfer” (main point) and “crowd members” (evidence) that will hold the surfer up.  Lower proficiency students should be able to do this task in their first language in order to attain the concept before attempting it in their second language.  After students have identified a main point and evidence, ask if they think the surfer will stay up or fall.  Essentially, you are asking them if their is sufficient evidence for the main point.

Common Core ELA Reading Standard 8
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

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