Using Task Cards With English Language Learners

I love teaching ESL. I’ve taught ESL students in first grade for eight years, and I am now teaching fifth grade ELLs. I’ve had so many rewarding experiences in both grade levels. Last year, one of my more apprehensive non-English speaking students left a picture on my desk. She hadn’t spoken to me much as she was fairly new and skeptical of her surroundings in the classroom, and at home in a new country. The picture said three words. “My teacher good.” I don’t think I can explain how much those three words meant to me. I still get choked up thinking about it! Those moments are why the more challenging ones are a little easier to handle.

But we all know there are challenges.

Modifying content for ELLs, being sure we are providing them with enough academic vocabulary, supporting them both individually and with peers, are all examples of things that will rack my brain sometimes into the night. The big question is, what do we do when they first come to us and have little, if any, language? I don’t have all of the answers that will work for you. But I have found my ESL task cards to be a huge support in helping students feel confident to read, speak and write English. This is how I use my cards and why I feel them to be beneficial.

There Are a Variety of Cards

My beginner task cards are broken into four different products: A basic vocabulary practice with a word bank, vocabulary using question words, vocabulary using verbs, and vocabulary using adjectives. Each set of cards uses real photos to help students make connections. Visuals are extremely important for ELL’s because it helps their comprehension.

The Tasks Are Not Intimidating for ELLs

The task cards break down grammar into non-intimidating, simple parts. They are reading small sentences which can help build confidence. Once they figure out the word to match the sentence or picture, they can repeat as many times as necessary with confidence. They are simple but certainly effective. Many of the pictures I have included with these cards are reflective of real-world situations that students of any language can connect with.

They Can Be Used With Flexibility 

A different way you can use the cards is to simply print them and glue them into notebooks. Then students can have them to work on when they are finished with work, or during independent practice or intervention. You can even have a group of students sit together and work on them. This fosters peer relationships and gives ELLs the confidence to speak in a group setting. If you only have black and white available, you can still add a little color to them to make each word pop for students.

*If the task cards seem too easy for students, you can encourage them to add more detail to their sentences and paragraphs. There are many ways to modify so they work for you and your ELLs!*

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