It's spring and students may or may not have a little bit of spring fever! Regardless, it's a great time to do outdoor activities and get out of the classroom. And what a great way to bring some language development into a real-world event.
Earth Day is rich with language development activities. Here are just a few ideas to get you started; they can be done along with going outside, or if you can't go outside, they can still be done in the classroom. We will be discussing these language development activities with the Language Experience Approach.
The Language Experience Approach is a great strategy that has been around since the 1960s. According to the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition, it is a whole language approach that promotes reading and writing through the use of personal experiences and oral language. This strategy is great for language learners because it gets students to SWiRL (speak, write, interact, read, and listen).
Bring in your realia or go outside!
If you are going to try out the Language Experience Approach, or LEA, you can go ahead and skip building background and start your class's experience! If you are going outside, you could show students how composting works. Explain to students that leftover fruits or vegetables can be recycled by composting. This also reduces waste and reuses nutrients for our soil! Do you see a prefix theme here? These words can be used during the experience and reviewed when back inside the classroom.
Another idea for having an experience inside is to bring in reusable bags, a small compost such as this one, and/or a recycling bin. You can bring in produce for students to see how items can be composted, recycled, or carried in a reusable bag instead of a plastic one.
Whichever experience you choose, make sure to document and take photos, with student consent of course. These photos can be used for their student-generated texts later.
Review your Earth Day vocabulary.
As we saw in the example above, words with "re" such as reduce, reuse, and recycle can be our focus for review and explicitly teaching. In our ESL lesson plan, Taking Care of Our Earth, those three words are pre-taught along with the words composting and improve. We also have a writing extension activity about composting!
One of my favorite ways to explicitly teach vocabulary is by using Margarita Calderon's 7-step method. It's a great routine to implement with our English Learners since it gets them SWiRLing (speaking, writing, interacting, reading, and listening). It's also super quick to do!
Get students talking.
Once you've had your experience with students and discussed some key vocabulary, it's time to get them talking! You can do any speaking activity, but a quick turn and talk will work. The key is to provide sentence stems or frames along with some of the vocabulary they used to discuss the experience.
After students turn and talk, they can share out what they discussed and the teacher writes down their sentences, either on chart paper, a whiteboard, or a projected slide. This will be their student-generated text that they will practice reading with. One of the aspects of the Language Experience Approach is to have students use their own generated text for reading.
Read your Earth Day text.
Students will use the text they helped generate to read! Not only is it high interest since they just had the experience, but it is also at their level. If you would like for students to have copies of the generated text, they can easily just copy the text on their own paper, or you can have them make their own little booklet. Canva has great templates for this! Provide students the photos of the experience to include if they wish.
The key is to have students read their books several times to get familiar with the vocabulary and sentence structures they helped write. Once they have done several readings with the text, they can then move on to a different text not generated by them about Earth Day, such as one in this Earth Day lesson plan.
Write about it.
I like to have students engage in some form of writing every day. It can be as simple as turning a turn and talk into a turn, talk, then write, or you can have students write a response after each reading. After the experience and reading the text, students can then engage in writing in the following ways:
These are just some ways to get students to SWiRL about Earth Day using the LEA. Whether you have a set curriculum or you are using the LEA as your main way to develop language, holidays like this are great opportunities to make learning fun and relevant!
If you don't have a curriculum and are looking for ESL lesson plans, check out a free lesson here or check out our High School ESL Teacher Membership where you can get monthly lesson plans and support.
What are your favorite ways to celebrate Earth Day with your Multilingual Learners? Comment below!
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