Back to School: Fun ELL reading and writing game!

I played this game with a bunch of small group friends last night and the whole time I was thinking that it would be an awesome game for ELL students to practice their reading and writing skills as well as vocabulary. I think it would be especially fun for a 1st day of school ice-breaker/get to know each other kind of game!

Materials you will need: 

  • small pieces of scratch paper (if there are 5 students playing, each student will get 5 pieces of paper, 6 students 6 pieces, etc. )
  • pencils

I would quickly prep the paper before hand and have it ready for the students. The example I will demonstrate today will be as if I was playing with 3 students so I will 4 pieces of paper and each student will have 4 pieces of paper as well.


  1. Tell the students to either draw a detailed picture or write a sentence with a lot of details on their paper. Give them around a minute to draw/write their sentence. In this example, I will start with a sentence. Once they have their sentence, they will pass their stack to the right.


    This is the sentence I came up with, the more detailed the better. If they just write a word, not too much would change!

     2. The next person will read the sentence and then draw a picture based on the            sentence.  Each round can last one minute so it is kind of fast and fun.


This is the picture that accompanied the sentence above drawn by the next person.

      3. The process continues so the student would now pass the picture they drew to the           next person and the next person would write a sentence based on the picture.  Eventually, it gets back to the original writer and then the game is over.


The next person interpreted the picture above as this so they wrote what they saw.


This was the final picture drawn based on the sentence! This is very different from the first sentence.

As you can see, this game is kind of like telephone but with drawing, reading, and writing. It is hilarious at the end when the students get their stack back and see how their original sentence has changed through the other student’s interpretations of the sentences and drawings. I plan on playing this the first day I have my groups to get to know their personalities and little bit and to get a very informal writing assessment.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you would play this with your students!

Things you did not learn in Spanish class… Apologizing!

IMG_20161224_130859Lo siento… Sorry in Spanish, right? Wrong! Well kind of… It depends on the context. Today, I want to write about something that has confused me in Spanish for the longest time and share my thoughts and some tips if you are a Spanish learner. I started learning Spanish in high school and have been practicing and learning ever since. As a pre-k assistant, I had to constantly tell my students to apologize to their friends, for hitting each other, stealing their toys, or cutting in line. I would always say, “Dile lo siento…” thinking it meant our equivalent of “Tell him sorry” or “Say sorry.”

After saying this a few hundred times and hearing native speakers, I realized this was not the best way to apologize and the Spanish language had a few different ways to express being sorry.  Here are the three I have found that might help if you are wondering the best way to apologize in different contexts or ask students to apologize.

  1. Lo siento

The literal meaning of this means ” I feel it.” This would be appropriate if someone is telling you about losing a family member or complaining about their life. You are offering sympathy when you say this. The English equivalent might be something like ” I am sorry to hear that.”

2. Perdón, Perdóname, Perdóneme 

The literal meaning of the first one would be “Sorry” and the next two would be “Forgive me”  in the informal and formal conjugations. If you bump into someone, you would just say “perdón” and that would just act as an English “excuse me,” “pardon me,” or just “sorry.” The other two you would use if you are asking someone for forgiveness after you made a mistake. You can also use disculpa/disculpe for these situations but it seems a little formal.

3. Pedir disculpas, pedir perdón 

This is what I should have been saying to my students when I wanted them to apologize to each other. “Pedir” means to ask so these would literally mean, ” to ask for apologies” and “to ask forgiveness.”

So… when you want to tell a student to apologize to another student, instead of “dile lo siento” you can say anyone of these:

  • tienes que pedirle disculpas/perdón
  • quiero que le pidas disculpas/perdón
  • Pídele perdón/ Pídele disculpas


Thank you for reading! I hope this helped and as you know, I am not a native speaker so if you see something incorrect here, please let me know! Gracias 🙂

Non-Fiction Text Structures + Features Review

Today, I am sharing an activity I did the last school year with one of my ELL groups. These five girls were students between a level 4-5 on the WIDA scale. They have great social language but struggle with academic writing and vocabulary. Their classroom teacher was going over Text Structures (Compare and Contrast, Problem Solution, Cause and Effect, etc.) I wanted a fun activity to go over text structures as well as help the girls write some solid paragraphs. I, of course, went to Pinterest and found an awesome idea. I adapted it a little bit and this is what we came up with: awesome magazines!


In science, the girls were studying weather and natural disasters so I decided each girl would pick a natural disaster to study and write 5 mini articles based on the text structures. Before hand, I found a bunch of appropriate articles and books they could use to do their research. Once they finished reading the articles, I allowed them to look for a video to find information from. I created a simple graphic organizer with some guiding questions and each day (I had them for around 20 minutes) we would review one text structure and research information about the natural disaster.


Some examples of the articles

I wanted the girls to also review non- fiction text features ( glossary, captions, subtitles) so I required them to add some text features into their magazines. They really enjoyed the activity and were excited to have their own magazine at the end! I will definitely do this next year as well.


Multiple choice quiz and the glossary on the back!

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you would do this or ever have.