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How to Catch up a Late-Arriving ESL Newcomer

We’ve all been there. You’re grooving with your newcomers when October rolls around and, all the sudden, another newcomer arrives with zero English. I used to have no plan for this scenario and just flew by the seat of my pants.


Now I have a curriculum that newly arrived students can get to work on, no matter what their English language proficiency is at the time. I have been selling this curriculum online for about a year as of this post, and here is how to use it with a student who is not at the same level as your others.

Let’s assume the student has no English. He or she begins with Unit 1: Introduction to School. In my filing cabinet, I have a folder with all Unit 1 materials printed. I have started color-coding each unit, so Unit 1 uses all blue paper, and I have several stapled packets of Unit 1 exercise worksheets ready to go in case a newbie arrives. I have also printed out all speaking slideshows (one slide per page), and I have any other games or activities in smaller-sized, manilla envelopes.


For the flashcards, I have several copies of each set on hand as well as the KEY for the flashcards. This means the student can complete the flashcards on his or her own time while I am working with my other students.


Once class begins, I simply hop back and forth between my different groups of students completing the different activities in each unit. Even better, I sometimes have my higher achieving students who finish things first work with our newest newcomer. I love this because both students benefit academically, and it also builds relationships with students who are at different levels. I sometimes have the luxury of having bilingual tutors. As a high school ESL teacher, I have students sometimes take my class for credit as a bilingual assistant lab assistant. When I have access to these students, they sit with my newest newcomer and work through each unit. I, of course, check in frequently and take the lead at times.


I have had many students arrive late in the school year, and the best part is when they eventually catch up to the others! Typically, they are motivated to move quickly because they want to catch up. Additionally, you can move on when you see they have mastered the concepts in the unit. This means you may be moving faster than you would with a larger group who moves through the curriculum at the same pace.


To read more about this curriculum, please visit this blog. Happy teaching!

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