Structuring your Standalone Time by Katie Leven

Back to Blog

Structuring your Standalone Time by Katie Leven

Structuring your Standalone Time by Katie Leven


Who wouldn’t want a less stressful day? Who wouldn’t want their day to just flow? The key to that is to simplify, simplify, simplify! When you teach across four buildings a day, you learn the key is having routines, routines, routines!

In my Standalone ENL classroom, I have the most opportunity to help my emergent bilinguals where they are at and to bring them up to the grade-level curriculum. I want them to feel successful. I want them to grow as quickly and painlessly as possible. I know the choices I make are the key to all of this. Therefore, I need to pack in as much learning as I can into our 40 minutes together.


    First, I welcome them to my classroom and check-in about their day. This is to give them a chance to talk, express their emotions, and build relationships, so they feel connected. Tan Huynh gives some great ideas in his blogpost about incorporating Social and Emotional Learning. I have an anchor chart on the wall for my lowest learners, which contains sentence starters for support. Learners can use either Google or Microsoft translate if they are feeling emotions that are difficult to express. The learners can play the translation aloud as a model for future communication while maintaining a social distance. That way, their feelings are being understood if they speak a language, I don’t. 



Next, we focus on word work. The activity I choose for the child depends on what they need (based on my observations and their classroom teacher’s feedback). My favorite activity is using the Words Their Way program, which uses word sorts for students to learn spelling patterns at their developmental level (after an initial assessment). I’ve used Jamboard to make virtual sorts and duplicate the page for the number of learners I have. By expanding the top bar on Jamboard, I can watch about four learner’s progress at the same time and intervene/reteach where necessary. I do incorporate pictures to ensure my learners know the meaning of the words they are sort. Other word work options depending on my learners’ needs are:


  1. Write Rights (various simplified skills) on Writing A-Z (paid subscription).
  2. Daily Language Review (a workbook that focuses editing).
  3. General Phonics Skills (build words, cut/paste or slide, blend the words, write the words, etc. see pre-made activities from Simply Skilled in Second.
  4. IRLA Power Words (lists found in BRIDGES to Academic Success: Foundational Skills Center).

    Then, we read together. This is the chance to bring in student interests. I alternate between guided reading (Tuesday/Wednesday) and close reading (Thursday/Friday). I focus on texts at their developmental level for guided reading, flip-flopping between fiction and nonfiction. For close reading, I generally use shortened texts from classroom materials or math word problems to analyze/annotate the text using more routines, either ?/! Or CATCH. If you want to hear more about the difference between close and guided reading, please watch a great video here from Simply Skilled in Second.

    Finally, we respond in writing (usually with oral rehearsal first unless if it’s an assessment) to the text. Again, we have the built-in routines of RADD or RACE depending on the grade and proficiency level. RADD stands for Restate, Answer (in your own words--frequently using many ways, many things, many people, or many places), Detail, Detail (AKA two pieces of textual evidence. RACE(R) is an acronym for Restate, Answer (in your own words), Cite, Explain or Example, Restate or Reread. I tell my students the explanations should be for a five-year-old, so they understand how they need to connect/describe their ideas.

    That is my routine in a nutshell. I’ve been honing it over the past eight years. I hope you see how simple it is, but how easy it is to differentiate your plans based on your individual student needs and interests. By keeping what you do inside the same templates/routines, students will be able to focus on the language, not on figuring out what you want them to do. It will make your life and theirs so much simpler.

Katie Leven is an ENL teacher from the Western region of New York.  She's a certified Spanish and ESL teacher with 15 years of experience in urban, suburban, and rural settings across grades K through 12.  She currently teaches ENL in grades 3,5,7,8 and High School 12:1:1 and is the ENL Share Group Coordinator for the Orleans/Niagara Teacher Center.   She believes that by working together we can all achieve more! Today she will be presenting on how she structures her Stand Alone ENL instruction with many research-based strategies that could strengthen your instruction into a clear, simple, and flexible routine.

Post a new comment
Refresh Image