Simple & Exciting Grade-Level ESL Literacy Lesson Plan

Lesson plan for teachers of English language learners

In this lesson plan...

...our goal is to get students accessing academically rigorous, grade-level texts in an engaging and effective way.

Let's jump right in!

Choose a grade-level text.

  1. This may come from the Gen Ed Teacher or from the ESL Curriculum Membership or some other source.
  2. If the text is long, break it up and work through it in sections.


Text on the Lewis & Clark Expedition

This is a text and topic appropriate for grades 4-6 from the Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum Membership Intermediate 2 Unit 4. You can break up the text into sections and work through it over the course of a few classes if needed.

Give students a list of vocabulary words and pictures. 

  1. The students' goal is to read through the passage and try to match the words with the pictures based on the context of the passage they are reading.
  2. You can make this a contest to see who can get the most words in the amount of time provided.


Vocabulary Words

Students attempt to match the words with the pictures based on the context of the reading passage.

At higher levels of the ESL Curriculum Membership, there are two pages of vocabulary words for each unit. The vocabulary words and reading passage connect well with the Reading Street story Lewis and Clark and Me which you can have students at a higher English language proficiency level work on if they complete this lesson more quickly than those at a lower-proficiency level.

Go through the vocabulary words.

  1. Make sure that the students have all matched the words and the pictures correctly.
  2. You can have students annotate the text, highlighting and defining the words the new words they've learned and any other words they want to know in the margins of the text.


Match the Words and Pictures

Students write the number of the corresponding picture next to the words at the bottom. 

Once completed, students can fold the words under and quiz each other.

Choose a content objective.

  1. Choose a content objective like answering 5w & 1h questions about the text, making inferences, comparing texts, etc. This objective should be a grade-level objective. 
  2. Use a graphic organizer to help students organize information from the text that they will need to complete a response to the text. Each text in the ESL Curriculum Membership includes multiple tiered graphic organizers for different grade-level content objectives. Choose to focus on one content objective in a class.


Choose a Content Objective

There are five different content objectives available for the Lewis and Clark Expedition text. Each content objective has a scaffolded graphic organizer for students at a lower English proficiency level and an un-scaffolded graphic organizer for students at a higher level. You'll also find extra resources for reading clozes, comprehension questions, and R.A.C.E.S.

Students can fill out a graphic organizer for the objective you have chosen and then get with a partner to compare notes. Later, they can write a response based on the completed graphic organizer.

Choose a language objective.

  1. Choose a language objective the students can use in their response to the text they are working on. For instance, if students need to write in the present simple tense as with most science texts, then you can have students review what is needed for the present simple tense. If students are relating a narrative, they may need to review past tense irregular verbs. 
  2. Have students practice the language objective by putting them with partners to ask and answer questions using the target language they will need to respond to the text.


Choose a Language Objective

We can choose comparisons and superlatives with two or more syllables for our language objective. This will help students with  comparing texts, characters, or settings which is an important content objective for grades 4-6. Included in this unit is an overview page, a note-taking page, sentence cut-outs and a sentence writing page with color-coded parts of speech.

Put it all together.

  1. Students have learned the vocabulary, concepts, and language they need to respond to the text in writing.
  2. Provide students with a list of challenges or a choice board they can choose from to show mastery of the day's content. You can assign points to each challenge and tell students they need to get 20 points in order to play a board game. That may look like the following:

Challenge List or Choice Board:


Choice Board Challenge Cards

This Choice Board Challenge Card sheet can be paired with almost any set of resources to create an engaging, differentiated, student-centered lesson plan with your students.

Here are some examples of what can go on your Choice Board Challenge Cards:

  • Read a paragraph to the teacher (a key paragraph chosen by the teacher). Identify the main point and supporting details. (5 points)
  • Identify the pictures for the related vocabulary words. With the materials from the ESL Curriculum Membership, you can fold the answers under so that students can only see the pictures. (5 points)
  • Make a sentence using the target language with a vocabulary word. (1 point for each correct sentence)
  • Say 10 sentences in the target language in under 1 minute. (5 points)
  • Write a paragraph summarizing the information from the graphic organizer using the target language and three target vocabulary. (10 points)
  • Write a five-paragraph essay summarizing the information from the graphic organizer, using the target language and key vocabulary. (20 points)
  • Record a conversation with a partner using the target language. (5 points)
  • Create a diagram and label key concepts discussed in the text. (5 points)
  • Help another student who is struggling to complete a task. (5 points)
  • Create a slideshow outlining the main points of a text and record a presentation of yourself explaining the topic. (15 points)


If you're a member...

...of the Kid-Inspired ESL Curriculum Membership, you can log in and head over to the homepage to grab materials to use with this lesson plan.

If you're NOT a member... can access to an effective, engaging ESL Curriculum with all of the tools you need to help your ELLs succeed at grade level by clicking the button below to sign up.

ESL Teaching Curriculum Membership for ELL Teachers (smaller)
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