How to make your class welcoming for ELLs

As the new school year in Ontario begins in a month I know that I am thinking about week 1 activities.  As I don’t have my class list yet I don’t know the needs of my students.  However, I remember that it is very important to plan inclusive lessons for all of our students especially our ELLs.  These students can so easily be left out or excluded from these fun and important activities. Some of my guiding questions that I keep in mind when planning activities for week one is:

 How do I ensure that I create a welcoming environment for ALL  students.

I believe that a welcoming environment is created when all students feel engaged, included and accepted. Traditional welcoming activities often include getting to know you activities and games, journal entries about summer experiences, games etc.  Here are some suggestions for how to include ELLs in your 1st week.

  • Interview Triads: Students in groups of three will interview each other. Two students interview and the third records.  The class then shares what they learned about their new classmate. This works with ELL students when you have proficient speakers with the same first language as the ELL.  
  • Interview Through Pictures – The whole class in groups of two interviews each other by drawing about their interests.  Each student draws a picture in response to a series of questions.  For the ELL student they can be paired with a lead students who can modify the interview with the guide.  I like…….. you like……..  With the help of a dual language dictionary the student can have some prompts for this activity.  
  • Self Portrait  This activity can be great for ELL students as there is little language needed.  All of your students can participate.  Make sure that the expectations are modeled for your students as this will help the ELL understand the expectations.  Provide the ELL with a picture dictionary to help them with ideas to include in their picture.  
  • Label the Classroom Treasure Hunt – Don’t label your classroom areas until after the students arrive.  Pre-make your labels, or have the students make them, including pictures, and space for first languages if necessary.  Provide students with a ‘treasure map’ with riddles that will help them to find the correct area to label in the classroom.  This will also help them to learn where everything is in your room.  You could even include the rules into the riddles. This will help the ELL learn the names of the different materials in the classroom as well as helping them to learn where everything is.  It is especially important that pictures are included on these labels as this will help the ELL make connections between their first language and English.  
  • Summertime Journal – For this activity students can write a journal about their summertime experiences.  Allow the ELL to write a journal in their first language.  If the student is unable to write in their first language assist them by giving them some sentence frames to complete.  I played… I ate…..  I see….. etc. 
  • Read Aloud – Using a great read aloud with your class provides a rich opportunity for the ELLs in your class to be immersed in the language.  As with every read aloud it is important to pre-teach important vocabulary and review character names.  It may be helpful to provide ELLs with copy of some of the key pages (2-3) or page from the book.  Choose one which will allow the ELL to correctly label the main characters from the story.  The level of language proficiency of the ELL will determine how much of the book will be understood.  For many beginning ELLs it is important to know the broad strokes of the story such as Main Characters, Gist, or Lesson.  Some great books that I plan on using are 
  • Miss Nelson Is Missing!
    Kissing Hand
    The Important Book
    No, David!

I will use some of these strategies as I finalize my plans for the beginning week of school.  As teachers it is so important that we remember to plan activities that include instead of mistakenly exclude ELL students. 
How do you plan on including ELLs into your plans? How do you make your classroom a welcoming place?
ELL Parent Communication: Translator Cards

ELL Parent Communication: Translator Cards

Communicating with ELL parents is so important but can also be difficult.  There are always many papers that go home in English that can not be easily understood by parents.  It is important that we make these forms accessible for parents.  One great way to make these forms accessible is by attaching a translated card to the form to let parents know what type of form is being sent home.  In 8 languages each card has a picture to help parents quickly see what type of form is being sent home.  These can also be attached in student agendas or printed on labels and stuck to the various documents that are sent home.  I have used form letters before that are translated but these are often difficult to store as they take up a lot of room.  I have also used strips but these are often too small and not very convenient to use as you need to print out the whole document for one language.

This resource will be uploaded on my TPT store tomorrow!  
The site to upload it seems to be down today.
The file is now uploaded!!! Click the picture to link to the resource to purchase this resource. 

How to use….

  1. Print and cut out the cards of your students first language.
  2. Staple the card to the document being sent home
  3. Send home to student.

Each label has the translated saying, a picture and the English translation on each card.  There are 10 different messages to parents including.


  • This is important, please find someone to help you translate it.
  • Please join us for a special event at the school.
  • Good News
  • I would like to meet with you….please contact me at….
  • Please complete this document
  • Assessment Report
  • Report Card
  • Please contact me if you have any questions
  • Please return this to the school
  • Please sign

English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Bengali, Urdu, Chinese Simplified, Vietnamese

Any suggestions or comment on how this resource can be improved?
Please leave a comment!
Help! I’ve got a new ELL student.

Help! I’ve got a new ELL student.

This can be a stressful time for a classroom teacher.  The office calls and tells you that you are getting a new student.  Add to this that the new student is new to the country and doesn’t speak the language.  What do you do first? How do you help?

What to Do for a New ELL Student

The first step is easy… welcome them to your class with a smile. A smile is almost universal and helps to ease the anxiety that the newcomer may feel.  Second step they need to be able to survive.  Here are some cards that you can print and cut out for your new student.  Once they are all cut out you can make a flip book or put them on a binder ring.  The student can use this to communicate their needs to you in the first few weeks while they learn the words themselves.

What do you do for a new ELL student? Click through for a free flip book you can prepare and use for any new ELL student you welcome to your class.
Click the image to link to more and to print them off.
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