To design activities for kindergarten-level learners, it is vital to consider the characteristics of ELL students and language acquisition principles. The New York State Identification Test for English Language Learners (NYSITELL) was established to measure the English language proficiency (ELP) of New York state ELL students. According to the NYSITELL, kindergarten students may be defined as Level I or Level II learners based on the results of the test (New York State Education Department 2014). The students’ progress depends on their motivation, interest, and interaction with other learners. Therefore, the goal of the activities is to improve the listening, speaking, reading, and writing abilities of the learners, while responding to the needs of ELL students.
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The reading activity will be based on a culturally-relevant children’s book and the following supported discussion of its content using illustrations for comprehension. According to the Common Core Standards’ ELA performance objectives, students should be able to read fluently to support comprehension (Common Core State Standards Initiative 2020). Thus, the English Language Learners (ELL) with basic language proficiency levels will be asked to point at or pronounce familiar words from the book introduced at the beginning of the class and supported by illustrations. To address the characteristics of ELL learners, such as limited vocabulary and listening skills, the teacher should speak slowly and use short words.
The reading activity will be followed by a series of listening and speaking tasks. The learning objectives suggest that the students should be able to understand the text read aloud or presented through media by asking and answering questions (Common Standards Initiative 2020). ELL students are expected to participate in the video-based pair activity by either pointing at the story characters or by using short words to answer the questions. Additionally, written scaffolds such as keyword captions might be integrated into the activity to improve listening comprehension and decoding skills (Abobaker 2017). Since ELL students have limited speaking ability and rely on their listening skills, the activity will help them to remember a written caption with its pronunciation and meaning and utilize the vocabulary during future lessons.
The writing activity will be based on the story previously introduced during listening and reading lessons. The learning objectives for kindergarten-level writing abilities include opinion pieces where students use drawings and supported writing to provide their reaction (Common Standards Initiative 2020). ELL children benefit the most from visual and auditory instruction, so the illustrations and video materials provided during listening and reading activities may serve as an adequate language-building foundation (Alshahrani 2019). ELL students might find it challenging to convey their understanding of the story, so the teacher should assist them in writing and allow the use of drawings and simple words.
The activities’ design follows language acquisition principles, such as the importance of communication for speaking, improved pronunciation for listening, and the frequency of language use for proficiency. Interaction between the students during pair activities and story discussions provides effective communication and improved speaking skills. Listening to the teacher or watching videos with captions helps to establish pronunciation and vocabulary, as the amount of language that the students hear during the class influences language acquisition (Kidd, Donnelly, and Christiansen 2018). Therefore, regular listening activities, simple reading, and writing exercises might significantly improve ELL students’ proficiency.
The stages of pre-production and early production should be taken into consideration for effective activity design. During the pre-production stage, which lasts about six weeks, the students listen to the language but do not speak it (Robertson and Ford 2020). The early production period is characterized by the students’ ability to use short words and sentences, while listening is still the main feature of the stage. Thus, the strategies to differentiate the activities should include the emphasis on listening comprehension during the pre-production stage, and the supported speaking during the early stage. Moreover, the pre-production activities accompanied by visuals and slowly-pronounced short words might help the students to remember and act out vocabulary. Finally, the early production stage activities should incorporate simple questions and increase student interaction through pair work during writing and speaking tasks.
Abobaker, Reima. 2017. “Improving ELL’s Listening Competence Through Written Scaffolds.” TESOL Journal 8 (4).
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Alshahrani, Haya Ali. 2019. “Strategies to Improve English Vocabulary and Spelling in the Classroom for ELL, ESL, EO, and LD Students.” International Journal of Modern Education Studies 3 (2): 65–81.
Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2020. English Language Arts Standards. Common Core State Standards Website.
Kidd, Evan, Seamus Donnelly, and Morten H. Christiansen. 2018. “Individual Differences in Language Acquisition and Processing.” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 22 (2): 154–169.
New York State Education Department. 2014. “Guide to the NYSITELL.” Apple Valley: Questar Assessment, Inc.
Robertson, Kristina, and Karen Ford. 2020. “Language Acquisition: An Overview.” Coloring Colorado.