Forests, Deserts & Grasslands
by Monica Schnee
Familiarize your ELLs with specific content and vocabulary related to biomes and ecosystems. Help them make connections to previous learning and draw from their background knowledge.
English Language Learners (ELLs) are taught this science unit on ecosystems and biomes during their ESL instruction. The students are third graders of mixed ability coming from a variety of language backgrounds. Instruction is focused on cross-content language development. In this case, links are made between science, social studies and literature. This class meets everyday for 40 minutes.
The objective of this unit is to pre-teach and reinforce science and social studies curricula. Students become familiarized with specific content and vocabulary related to biomes and ecosystems. They use higher order thinking skills to make connections with the unit previously taught which was communities and interdependence. The cross-curricular approach reinforces language, utilizes sheltered instruction strategies and functions as scaffolding for the mainstream classroom.
Content goals are based on the TESOL ESL Standards mentioned below to acquire and understand concepts and language used in the mainstream classroom: biomes, ecosystems, weather, animals and to use map skills to identify where these ecosystems are.
- Creating a word bank for each ecosystem with definitions to use as a dictionary/reference,
- Observing of realia to write reports. Students describe & classify different objects in pairs.
- Brainstorming, using pictures and content, to construct meaning. Students write definitions on flash cards.
- Gathering information using books, web sites, and magazines. Students describe and define animals, their habitats, diet and appearance in groups.
- Making up riddles of animals and sharing them orally. Students describe, infer and provide three clues based on reports.
- Creating a food chain and web. Students list, classify & make connections, use the idea of hierarchy of species, and study diets.
- Comparing and contrasting two books through the making of a trifold/Venn Diagram. We used Cactus Hotel and Log Hotel and students predicted, drew conclusions, inferred and made connections.
- Playing word game "Who has, I have" using flashcards with definitions. Students predict, draw conclusions, infer, and make connections.
- Making posters of the three ecosystems and presenting them to ESL and mainstream classes. This culminating activity incorporates all strategies and skills.
- Writing reflections individually. Students describe and explain what was learned from this experience.
A variety of activities are used to instruct students in language and content. The activities incorporate skills that increase in complexity according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. General vocabulary and concepts are introduced at the beginning of the unit. Specific vocabulary for each ecosystem: desert, forest, grassland/prairie is incorporated throughout.
Assessment is ongoing and performance-based. Through class participation, observations, daily debriefings and completion of tasks each student is assessed. Meetings with classroom teachers and observations in their own classrooms also serve to assess students’ progress.
TESOL's ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students
Goal 1 (Social)
- To share and request information in social settings
- To explore alternative ways of saying things
- To seek support and feedback from others
- To practice new language
- To use context to construct meaning
Goal 2.1 (Academic)
- To follow oral and written directions
- To participate in class discussions
- To ask and answer questions
- To request information and assistance.
- To compare and contrast information
- To gather information
- To retell information
- To select, connect and explain information
- To analyze synthesize and infer from information
- To understand and produce technical vocabulary and text features according to content area.
- To apply basic reading comprehension skills
- To actively connect new information to what was previously learned
© 1998-2004 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net