Personalized Newcomer Photo Book

Welcome English Learner student newcomer students into the school with a personalized photo book
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About This Strategy

This strategy involves taking digital photos of an EL student in various important places around the school. For example, take photos of the student in the library, cafeteria, at the restroom door, etc., as well as photos of the student with key people in the school. Once the photos are taken and uploaded, the teacher and student can work together to type captions under each photo (e.g. “Yamungu is in the cafeteria.” or “This is Yamungu and Mr. Brown, the art teacher.”) The personalized book can then be printed or used digitally for various lessons, including English directionality in reading, introducing and practicing school vocabulary, and helping the student become familiar with the people and places in their new school. This strategy is particularly helpful to newcomers and refugees as they become comfortable with their new learning environment, especially if this is their first experience with formal schooling.

Implementation Steps

1. Take digital photos of the newcomer/refugee student in various important places around the school building. For example, take photos of the student in the library, cafeteria, at the restroom door, etc., as well as photos of the student with key people in the school.

2. Upload photos to your choice of document  or application.

  • Consider using Google Slides, Google Docs, Adobe Spark, or Canva.

3. Collaborate with the student to type captions for each photo. 

4. Print and assemble the photo book, or save to use digitally.

5. Utilize the book in various ways to help the student become familiar with the new school, as well as to support lessons in other subjects. 

  • For example: directionality of English text, beginning sight word reading, subject and predicate, complete sentences, capitalization, punctuation, and other beginning English skills.

6. Students can use their personalized book to: 

  • Share with family members what their school day is like
  • Read to native English speaking peers
  • Practice conversational English with peers, teachers, and school staff.

EL Modification

This strategy supports Newcomer/refugee students as they arrive in their new school environment with unique needs in the areas of academics, language, and social-emotional learning. 

Newcomers benefit from visual supports, building upon their background knowledge, and inclusion in the school and classroom community. 

English learners benefit from strategies and materials that allow them to connect their home culture to their new school. They need opportunities to support their academic learning with social-emotional and community building activities.

Implementation steps:

  1.  After creating the book, read the book aloud with the student to help EL students develop listening comprehension. The process of listening to a fluent reader read can also support ELs fluency. 

  2. Consider providing structured space for students to practice reading aloud their own book to develop their reading fluency. Students can partner-read or record themselves reading using Vocaroo and then evaluate themselves on a fluency checklist. See the resources below. 

Special Education Modification

A newcomer photo book is a great way to help students with disabilities feel welcome in the school, as well as to practice key early literacy skills. This strategy can be used to help ease the transition of any student with any disability into a new school environment.

Implementation steps:

  1. For students who struggle to get started on a task, consider providing sentence frames to help initiate writing. See the resource below. 

  2. For emerging readers, provide picture support for selected vocabulary.

  3. For non-readers, provide voice recording of the text for the students to listen and echo read. Consider Loom or Vocaroo.

Newcomer Photo Book for Distance Learning

This strategy can be adapted to distance learning for newcomer students by bringing in home and family vocabulary in English.

Implementation steps:

  1. Encourage the  student to take "selfies" in different rooms of their home and with members of their family

  2. The student sends the photos to the teacher electronically

  3. The teacher inserts the photos into the photo book template

  4. The teacher and the student work together to type captions for each of the photos

  5. Encourage the student to share their book with family members and peers.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my Photo Matching Lesson Plan because EL students need opportunities to produce language with visual supports
  • This strategy can be used with my Reading Lesson Plan because beginning readers who are also EL students need explicit support in learning to read in English.