A school library orientation influences our relationship with students for the entire school year, so it’s important to have orientation with all students in the school. Early on I realized that, even with customized grade-level orientations for ELA classes, Newcomer English Language Learners need an orientation with specific differentiation strategies. So, I created a
Read-Aloud Orientation plan using WIDA-ELD Standards and Can-Do Descriptors that met their needs.
3 Great Read-Alouds for ELL Newcomers
A new school is an even more “alien environment” for ELL Newcomers (who also face a new city, state, country, and language), so I spread their library orientation across 3 weekly visits that help them get to know me better and gradually build their understanding of using the School Library.
I believe ELL Newcomers need to hear English spoken fluidly—not ‘fluently’, but ‘fluidly’—so the pacing and tone of the language becomes ingrained in their minds. For that reason I read aloud a picture book about the library at each of their 3 library visits:
- Visit #1: Tomás & the Library Lady shares the Newcomers’ situation because Tomás and his family move from his home in Texas to Iowa. The local librarian helps him find wonderful books to read to his family, and this encourages our Newcomers to take their books home and practice learning English by reading to their own family.
- Visit #2: The Librarian from the Black Lagoon addresses Newcomers’ fear of things they’ve not yet experienced and helps reduce that worry through humor, as well as preparing them to learn the do’s and don’t’s of the school library.
- Visit #3: The Library Dragon highlights the joy and power of a library read-aloud. The words & phrases related to fire preview synonyms & idioms for ELA and where students can locate different books in the library.
Meaningful Hands-On Activities
Yes, students, especially ELL Newcomers, love read-alouds, but ALL library visits must be purposeful if we want teachers to use valuable class time to support our library program. Follow-up hands-on activities help ELLs meet English Language Arts and library lesson objectives for ELL Level 1 students through:
- ELD Topic-related & Academic Language, and word/phrase level Vocabulary Usage, sentence level Language Forms & Conventions, and discourse level Linguistic Complexity.
- Can-Do Descriptors for performance tasks in Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading.
- Differentiation strategies that offer sensory, graphic, and interactive support.
I chose these 3 stories because they naturally lead into activities that support classroom learning and help ELLs develop useful library skills. After the read-aloud, my Modeling & guided practice has ELLs associate concrete visual stimuli with English language terms:
- Visit #1 supports ELA concepts of story plot and compare/contrast
- I Have, Who Has roundabout game begins with a student reading aloud the first plot question. I prompt “Who has the answer?” A student says “I have it,” reads their event, then their Who Has question. The game continues through the story, ending with the student who began.
- Tomás and Me Venn diagram helps each student recall details of the story using compare/contrast by entering how they and Tomás are the same as or different from each other.
- Visit #2 presents library expectations with a concept attainment task allowing table groups to collaborate on sorting 12 pictorial cards into YES or NO categories for actions that are OK or unacceptable.
- Visit #3 supports ELA recall of story details and similarities using a simple word search grid of story words related to fire, and supports ELD learning about idioms with fire-related phrases from the story.
The Venn diagram and the word search/idioms worksheets
can both be used as daily grades for the ELL teacher.
Next, Independent practice gives students an opportunity to use what they’ve learned.
- Visit #1: Rather than confuse ELLs with navigating an unfamiliar environment, I hand-pick and lay out on adjacent tables a variety of picture books for students to browse. We have quite a diverse language population, so I display our bilingual picture books (in Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Japanese, Khmer, Vietnamese, Arabic, Persian, Tagalog) along with a selection of English picture books with stories from or about other countries and cultures. These selections help ELLs feel comfortable using our school library, and I encourage them to choose a book to check out and take home to read to their families, as Tomás did.
- Visit #2 also gives students plenty of time to browse for books, but in addition to books laid out on tables I show them the location of the bilingual, ELL, and picture books—shelved in adjoining sections—along with our graphic novels. Some students prefer the tables and some venture to the bookshelves, but again, all students are able to choose at least 1 book. They also receive a special ELL bookmark of library information that includes some of their learned expectations.
- Visit #3 reinforces ELA compare/contrast and helps ELLS have pride in learning a new language, while retaining pride in their home language and culture. Students use English word/picture card prompts for things and events in the library and write the terms in their home language on the reverse side of the card. Then they affix tape and take the card to the proper location in the library and tape the card up to share their home language with the rest of the school.
Other students love seeing the cards and it gives them a conversation starter with ELL Newcomers in their classes. And I love having the “Welcome” and “Hello” cards in several languages (and alphabets!) displayed on my library doors every year!
A Fine Beginning…
This set of lessons is a positive and productive library orientation for ELL Level 1 Newcomers. They especially like Visit #3 about The Library Dragon because I have a huge stuffed dragon that students sit around during the read-aloud.
After these lessons students feel very comfortable talking to me and using the library, so ensuing library visits are every other week like other ELA classes. Although we’ve had different ELL teachers through the years, they all look forward to beginning the school year with their Newcomers in this way.
If this set of lessons appeals to you, the full package of the ELL Level 1 Newcomers Library Orientation lesson plan, printouts, and worksheets are available at No Sweat Library Lessons, my TPT store.