How to Adapt Lessons for English Language Learners

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  • 0:00 When to Adapt
  • 0:59 How to Adapt
  • 2:18 Deliver the Adapted Lesson
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

When you're teaching English language learners (ELLs), it's sometimes necessary to adapt lessons to meet their needs. This lesson provides tips and techniques you can use to adapt lessons for ELLs.

When to Adapt

If you've been teaching for a while, chances are you've built up a personal library of lesson plans and activities for your students. You'll also know that a single lesson can almost never be reused without undergoing some changes.

If you're using a lesson plan that was not specifically intended for use with ELLs or needs to be adapted, don't worry. There's no need to start over. However, before you adapt a lesson for ELLs, be sure to identify that the lesson needs to be. Reasons you may want to do so include:

  • Difficulty level too high; for example, this may include choice of vocabulary, difficulty of reading or research material, pace of lesson, and required assessments
  • Lesson originally designed for native English speakers and doesn't address the specific needs of ELLs

Once you've identified why you need to adapt, the next step is figuring out how to adapt. This is not as difficult as it sounds.

How to Adapt

The first step when adapting a lesson is to identify its strengths and weaknesses. You'll also want to review the key points versus the details of the lesson. ELLs initially benefit from focusing on the bigger picture rather than the details. Regardless of the subject you teach, you should try to highlight key points and concepts slowly and clearly.

When you adapt a lesson, think about incorporating the following suggestions.

There's nothing wrong with 'dumbing it down' a bit if it helps ELLs understand the concepts you are teaching. However, don't omit any key vocabulary terms. Just be sure to explain them clearly.

Consider doubling the ELL version of any lesson. If the pace is too slow, you'll feel the students dragging. Also, leave ample time for questions. Give students the option of submitting anonymous written questions. Some students may be hesitant to ask questions in class for fear of losing face.

ELLs need as much practice as possible, so ensure that supplementary exercises are available. Also, repeat and review key lesson concepts as needed. Always review the key points of the previous lesson at the beginning of a new one.

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