Activities to Support Language Development

Ashley Ziemer
Ashley Ziemer
27 Aug
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Gone are the days when English Learners are the sole responsibility of the ESL/ESOL teacher.  Today, our English Learners belong to everyone in the building and everybody plays an integral role in supporting and advancing language development for these students.  You know what they say; all hands on deck. 

Activities that help promote classroom interaction

There are many activities that a classroom teacher can utilize to help promote classroom interaction. These activities will pay big dividends in increasing language proficiency for his/her English Learners. I have used the Inside/Outside Circle from the 99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with the SIOP® Model book to promote practice with key concepts and develop oral language. It works!

Inside / Outside Circle

An Inside/Outside Circle is an interaction technique that allows students to respond to questions and/or discuss information with their classmates. It is successful for many reasons, but I believe the main one is that it lowers the affective filter for English Learners because they are not speaking to the entire class, they are only speaking to one or two peers. Another key success factor is that it allows for oral rehearsal for your lowest levels of English proficiency. Students get multiple opportunities to speak using academic language within the content areas. It surprised me how much students enjoyed the activity and have asked to replicate it. I also learned that it can be used as a wonderful formative assessment tool for the teacher when summarizing key concepts from a lesson. As a teacher, I was able to circulate the room and listen to student responses to inform my future instruction.

Process / Protocol

It will be important that you teach the process/protocol to your students prior to setting them loose on the Inside/Outside Circle. I found that using something that was not content ladden and more basic in language was an easier way to introduce the protocol. We practiced several times before we put it to use with content and language-specific tasks. Procedurally speaking, a teacher could set this up by dividing the class in half and start with two lines instead of a circle. Students on the two lines would face each other and take turns answering their prompt/question. The teacher would have one of the lines move while the other remained stationary to speak to their new partner. Once the students are proficient at the process with two lines, it would be an easy transition to create the circles—same exact process, just changing the line to a circle. The circle will take up less space in the room and could allow for several inside/outside circles to happen concurrently, depending on the task.

Request more information on the SIOP® Model Professional Learning for your school or district today.


About the author: Ashley Ziemer is a highly motivated, passionate,  and energetic educator.  She has 18 years of experience working in various roles in the field of education ranging from the pre-K to 12th grade.  She is currently a grades 6-12 ESOL District Instructional Coach in the 44th largest school district in our nation, Greenville County School District.  Ashley’s instructional background also includes experience as a classroom teacher, ESOL teacher at the elementary school level, and District ESOL Program Director for grades K-12.  Ashley has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a masters degree in TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages).   She is a national board certified educator.

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