Tiered Activities for Early Elementary English Learners

A planning process that sets all students up for success in progressing toward grade level standards
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About This Strategy

In this strategy, teachers create a planning framework which provides a means for guiding English Learners from their current proficiency and readiness levels toward early elementary grade level objectives and achievements. By building tiered scaffolds into lesson plans teachers create the support students need for success. By employing this strategy, teachers provide the equity students deserve in their education. Tasks are modified without sacrificing complexity.

Implementation Steps

  1. Choose the objective/standard and corresponding lesson plan to teach the objective. This is the tier one instruction which then becomes the basis for all other tiers.

  2. Consider these factors to determine tier two and tier three resources:

    •  Student readiness by reviewing data.

    • English language proficiency based on annual test data

    • Reading level data

    • Student background, culture, and vocabulary

  3. Unpack the objective with all students to:

    • Determining student background knowledge

    • Identifying and illustrating tricky vocabulary within the objective

    • Connecting to prior learning

  4. Prepare resources for tier two students using planning template, for example:

    • Blank graphic organizers

    • Leveled text

    • Cloze sentences for note taking. Read more about cloze passages in the resources below. 

    • Strategic grouping with peers

  5. Prepare resources for tier three students using planning template, for example:

    • Graphic organizers with picture and/or word support

    • Leveled text with added picture support

    • Personalized picture dictionary for vocabulary support

    • Writing templates for tracing or highlighting

    • Strategic pairing with peers

  6. Conduct a post lesson reflection on the success and efficacy of the scaffolds and make adjustments for future lessons. Consider asking students: 

    • What made you feel successful today? 

    • What helped your learning the most? 

    • What was most challenging for you?

EL Modification

English learners who may also have learning disabilities benefit from language scaffolds, as well as the activation of prior learning and background knowledge. Learners of all language proficiency levels can be successful in mastering content standards through the implementation of the proper scaffolds.

Implementation steps:

  1. Consider the language proficiency levels of individual students based on annual language testing and current classroom performance Consult English learners language levels to create the most effective tiered resource for students. See the “Descriptions of What English Learners “Can Do” at Various Language Levels” resource in the resource section below for more information. If the student also has an IEP, be sure to consult their IEP for more information on their language abilities. 

  2. Personalize student resources based on proficiency level. For example, 

    • Choose picture level texts for beginning ELs

    • Choose shorter texts with picture support for mid level ELs

    • Choose texts with vocabulary support for ELs that are nearly fluent

  3. Pair students by considering the advantages of:

    • Common language groups

    • Pairing ELs with native English-speaking peers

  4. Provide graphic organizers to guide students through reading and annotating their text

  5. Invite pre and emerging writers to draw instead of or in addition to writing

Special Education Modification

Students with disabilities can access and master grade level content through the use of supports and scaffolds. By matching the readiness level of the students with the appropriate tier of text or activity, all students can be successful without compromising the integrity of the content standard.

Implementation steps:

  1. Determine the reading level and level of readiness of each student based on current data and IEP. Reach out to the Special Education teacher for any help determining students' level and readiness. 

  2. Based on data and IEP specifications, choose tiered activities by considering:

    • The students' IEP goals 

    • Providing multiple means for the student to engage in the task

    • Providing multiple means of representing new information

    • Providing multiple means of action and expression 

  3. Provide speech to text or text to speech support for students with a variety of processing disabilities

Tiered Activities for Early Elementary English Learners for Distance Learning

Tiering and personalizing text and material for distance learners helps to ensure their success even when their teacher and peers are not available for face-to-face support.

Implementation steps:

  1. Choose resources that the student can easily access independently or through synchronous breakout rooms. If available, use paras, special education teachers, or ESL teachers to monitor breakout rooms that are focused on specific tiered assignments.

  2. Utilize digital platforms to deliver personalized materials to students, such as Seesaw, Class Dojo, or Google Classroom. 

  3. For students completing work asynchronously in the same tier, considering using a shared google document, Padlet, or Flipgrid for students to reflect on their learning when done with the task.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my Main Idea and Details Lesson because all students benefit from tiered opportunities when beginning work with an unfamiliar skill or topic.
  • This strategy can be used with my Story Grammar Lesson because even students who are reading below grade level can master the content skill as well as the language objective with the proper supports.