Newcomer ESL Curriculum Outline

To all the ESL, EFL, and ESOL teachers out there, thank you for the work you do.  It takes a big heart to shape little minds, and it takes an even bigger heart to help newcomers adjust to life in the United States.  Whether you’re teaching 5 year olds or 17 year olds, you know that some students come to school lacking the basic foundations of education.  It’s then up to us to bring them up to grade level in just a few short months. When I received my first class of newcomers, I searched high and low for a pacing guide, an outline, anything, and came up short. So I decided to share the one I created over the course of two school years.

This curriculum outline is just that- an outline.  I have topics divided by units, but these four units took us two full school years to complete. They may take your class one month, one year, or four years.  No two classes are alike.  


My students were 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 7th graders, and none had ever been to school before.  One had never even held a pencil before.  When I say we started at the very beginning, I am not exaggerating.  We started with learning to spell and write our names, learning the ABC’s, and learning to count to 10. Some things took us a week to learn, some things took us 4 months. 


In full disclosure, it took us almost two full school years to even get close to a third grade Common Core standard.  I can hear the gasps.  Go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor.  Here’s why: students need to survive before they can thrive.  In terms of language acquisition, that means they need to be able to communicate verbally before they can become readers and writers. I always say, “If they can speak it, they can read it.  If they can read it, they can  write it.” It’s tempting to drill students on sight words and grammar structures to have them keep up with the class, but doing so without teaching strong verbal communication skills may delay a student’s progress. 

This outline is in no way intended to replace an existing curriculum you may be using, nor is it intended to ensure student success for all learners.  It’s just what worked for me! And if there’s someone out there struggling with newcomer students, then I hope it works for you too!

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