Now we start creating a unit! A strong unit plan will make your lesson planning life much easier. I enjoy working with other teachers to create these, so we will do one together here.


After my ELL research, I learned about the Newcomers Academy. This is set up to acclimate non-native students to the American classroom. Several of my colleagues have created a “Survival” mini-unit at the beginning of the year. Let’s use that as our common unit to create together. Here we go!!!

Can Do Statements
What can they do at the end of the unit?
First we need to write student-friendly “Can do” goals for all the modes and skills. Keep in mind that there should be an input goal that matches each output goal. Also remember the proficiency level. Novice mid students are using words and phrases. They can list items and recognize more than they can produce.

What cultural topics will you use to teach?
This is where you excite them! Culture can be anything authentic like videos, songs, tweets, magazines, ads, pictures, etc.

What words are crucial to the unit?
This list could be huge, but we don’t want to overwhelm them. Keep focused on the “function.” For example, if a goal is “I can say what I need for class,” the the most important words are “I need.” Then students can pick the vocabulary that is important to them. Now, I will include the important words they need to recognize for my class (paper, binder, pencil, marker).

Yes. This is important too. Some think that proficiency-based teaching throws this out completely, false. There is nothing wrong with sprinkling in appropriate grammar, just don’t grade them on it. Some units only have the first person singular conjugations (I) as a grammar point. I wait until students ask about a grammar detail before I teach it. So when someone asks “Why does that have a “o” on it?”, I will explain it in 5 minutes or less and then move on. Some get it, some don’t. At a higher proficiency level it will make a difference, but not at the novice level.