Back-to-school ESL Ideas

Back-to-school ESL Ideas

by Judie Haynes

Help your English language learners develop pride in their heritage with these Back-to-School ESL ideas.

The diversity in many classrooms provides a starting point to help children from diverse backgrounds develop pride in their heritage. When students see their home cultures and languages being studied in the classroom, their culture has been validated. This helps to develop positive self- esteem in culturally and linguistically diverse English language learners.

Discuss with your students the names of the countries their families come from and the languages they speak. Keep in mind that many of our ESL students were born in the United States and are American citizens. It's a good idea to have pertinent information available before you teach this lesson. Many students don't know how to say the name of their countries or languages in English.

Help students differentiate between the name of their country and the name of the language. For example, "I'm from China. I speak Mandarin." It is necessary to find out what dialect students from India and China speak. It is not correct for them to say "I speak Indian.

Download the Country and Language sheet. Help students fill out the form. For kindergarten students you can fill the form out for them and have students trace over the writing with a marker. Students should practice repeating the sentences on their page. Ask advanced beginners questions such as, "Vadim, where is Dong Lim from?"

Hang the world map on a bulletin board. Show students the map and help them find their countries. The students' writings 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's "Quick Maps of the World" for help on this). Place the students' writings around the map. Run pieces of yarn from their writing to their country.

Have students find their countries' flags on Colouring Book Flags Index. Print out flags and help students identify the colors in English for their flags. If you want your students to color a blank flag, go to ABC.Teach and see Coloring Book Flag Patterns.

  • Develop a flag quiz on a bulletin board outside your door. Ask the question "How many flags do you recognize?" Display the flags so that the country they represent is not visible. Have mainstream students try to identify as many flags as they can.

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    Effective Back-to-school Nights
    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.'