Graphic Organizers Galore!

If I can organize my thoughts, ideas, questions, feelings into graphics, then I’m all about it. Language learning is so much more enriching when pictures can be associated to word concepts. Sometimes it takes a short video clip to see the concept in motion or maybe an action that can be associated with the meaning of the word. All of these elements, whether used alone or in combination, help to further instill language and new terminology. 

We can talk all day about healthy foods and read about eating a rainbow of foods. But it doesn’t really help us if we only know a few of each colored food. I created this food color wheel to go along with our book from Reading A to Z, A Rainbow of Foods. I put up a picture of some colorful foods, we referenced our book and completed this healthy food wheel. This helped my students a lot with more ways to eat healthy and better snack choices. 

This organizer came straight from the Reading A to Z activities with the non-fiction text, The Foods We Eat. In this text we learned about where different foods come from and how they are made. Students had to brainstorm some of their favorite foods and figure out if they were plant eaters or meat eaters. Again associating a word with a picture and even a partial definition in this case with explaining the where. Some students took it a step further by telling where exactly their food came from.  

A story we read from the My Sidewalks on Reading Street collection had a similar picture that I drew up as a labeling activity. The book had this diagram at the end of the section for students to look over and read. I created this document for the students to physically label the plant parts between a flower and a vegetable. This activity was completed with first graders but can easily be modified for up to third grade, depending on how many parts you’d like to label.  

Not every graphic organizer has to include graphics. Sometimes just the movement and separation of words and phrases gives the visual or kinesthetic learner a different approach to understanding. This is where good old Venn diagrams,  t-charts, or KWL (know, want, learned) charts come in handy.

These types of graphic organizers are my absolute fave! They are so versatile and of course can be tailored to anyone’s needs. I first discovered them through Vocabulary A to Z, a branch of the Reading A to Z collection. Sometimes I choose the words to be defined and other times I make a list of vocab words for the students to pick the words they need a more clear understanding of. Students look up images on Google, our text, or from our discussions. For the more advanced students, we take our words and illustrations to the next level by writing a sentence about them.  

And then there are always more graphic organizers that are just more visually pleasing ways to share and keep track of information. Sometimes it’s good to physically see the connections between different things and how they correlate with like topics. Other times it’s good to make a timeline or number line to list out events in chronological order to get a grasp on time itself and the significance of events. 

Whatever works best for your students and you is something to take and run with.  My personal favorite is the vocab words with matching illustrations, which can be used across the board in various content areas and learning abilities.  I hope this blog will help you and your students to further develop language skills and comprehension overall. These are definetly big hits with my kiddos. 


Actions Speak Louder Than (Other) Words

What are you doing right now? Thinking, writing/typing, sitting, breathing, blinking….those are verbs. Those action words that get us up and moving.those helping words that motivate and encourage us to build with ourselves and our words. 

Parts of speech are often left by the way side with ELL students because they are only learning in the United States for so long. But it’s also an important task to take on with any student who is fairly fluent with their writing and understand basic grammar and punctuation rules. It’s just good to know the difference between nouns and verbs. I usually don’t express that every sentence needs a subject noun and verb because that’s just beyond their reach at this point in their education. But knowing the difference between action words and people, places, things , and ideas are a terrific place to start adding to that learning curve and further develop their thinking. 

After brainstorming various verbs together, students worked on reading through sentences and deciphering which words are verbs. Many times we found ourselves asking questions like “who is doing what?” or “what is happening here?” These questions helped the students to read closer as to what actions are actually taking place in each sentence they read. Students then got to write a sentence of their own being conscious of their use of verbs as they go. Verb usage was never an issue before, other than subject verb agreements–but that’s an issue with most people learning a new language. It’s all a part of the learning process. 


On a Personal Note

I decided to change it up and take a look into myself, my teaching abilities, as well as my strengths. It’s good to take a step back, self-evaluate, and give yourself the credit you deserve sometimes. So many people in this world are so negative and will try to talk you down, but you have to remember who you are, where you are, what you are, and where you want to be. So Michael Scott asks, “Why are you the way that you are?”

I really enjoy working with ELL students and learning from them about their unique and diverse cultures. They are so young but have already experienced so much, which gives them different worldly concerns that most of us don’t necessarily think about. Like the fact that some of our students don’t know what a bath tub is or their parents don’t bake anything. Some students fear returning to their home country from a harsh and strict living situation. Some students from an African heritage practically run their families; they become independent at a very young age and are responsible for themselves and their siblings. Once you’ve established a relationship with these individuals and built up their confidence in English, you start to hear more and more about their day-to-day lives either back in their native country or their American home life. It’s such an eye-opening experience for all of us.

I love how different my role can be as a teacher of English as a second language. Some days we are working with flash cards and manipulatives, phonics word work, matching pictures to text or definitions to text, reading and writing responses, and even inquiry topics. Depending on the student(s) abilities and understanding of content areas varies how much we can actually do which allows for more individualized lesson plans and more enriching experiences for learning. We are doing so much in just 30 minutes, but it’s extremely conducive to learning. 

I’m currently in a role where I’m pulling 10-11 small groups a day to work in 30 minute increments on speaking, reading, writing, and listening in English. I’m working with first through fourth grade at the moment with various skill levels. Some students are just getting settled into America and the school; whereas some students have been here anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. Each group is very different and working on something completely different. 

Each group is pieced together based off everyone’s abilities. Sometimes I have third graders working with second graders. Sometimes you have students that just lack the maturity to focus and move forward, due to their age or refugee status,  so they get bumped down to a group that better fits their needs. Maybe a beginner is moving and learning so quickly that they need to be placed in a more challenging group. Nothing is set in stone because everything I do is completely based on what each child knows and can comfortably do. It’s what is necessary for their learning and for my teaching. I do what I love and I love what I do!