Effective Back-to-school Nights

Effective Back-to-school Nights

by Judie Haynes

Represent the diversity of your school's ESL population with this low cost suggestion on how to put together an effective 'Back to School Night.'

One of the realities of teaching for all of us is "Back to School Night." On this night, teachers explain their programs and classroom rules to parents. It is generally well-attended in an elementary school. Due to ESL screening and testing, I have hardly begun to teach when "Back to School Night" rolls around. Many of my students are not yet producing work which can be displayed. However, I like to put something on the wall outside my room that represents the diversity of my school's ESL population.

Thanks to computer technology I have found several creative "Back to School Night" activities at a minimal cost.

  • Take a picture of each student in your ESL program. If you have a large number of students, you can limit the project to those who are new to your school.
  • Crop and print out pictures of each student using your computer. Keep a head shot of each student on file to use for various projects during the school year.
  • Brainstorm with students what language they speak at home. Teach them to say "I speak Korean." Many students know that they are from Korea, or Russia but they do not know how to say the name of their language in English. Students from China and India, where there are many dialects, do not often know the name of the language they speak. The ESL teacher needs to find this out before the lesson is taught.
  • Depending on the ability and grade level, have students write or copy a few simple sentences: "Hello, my name is....." "I speak ....." My family is from....." In the first blank, students can write their name in native language if they wish. If a student is not able to write his/her name, write it for them to trace. The students' writings and photos can be put on a sheet of construction paper which has been cut out in the shape of the map of their country or their flag (see theordora.com's "Quick Maps of the World" for help on this).
  • I am careful to say "My family is from..." because I often have students who were born in the United States.
  • To make the display put the world map in the center of the bulletin board or wall space and place the pictures around the map. Run pieces of yarn from the picture to the country on the map.
  • You can make an ESL quilt by giving each child a 6"x6" paper square and having them paste on their picture and write a sentence about their language. The paper can be sewn together with yarn and displayed.
  • If you prefer to do a project with your whole ESL population you may want to do the following:

    If you don't have a digital camera...

    If you do not have access to a digital camera, you can still complete this project with a camera and scanner.

    Related Links

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