Discovering Democracy Units
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ESL Information

Classes will have a range of English as a Second Language (ESL) learners each with their own level of language experience and conceptual understanding. The following advice provides suggestions as to how teachers can support ESL learners completing Discovering Democracy units of work in the mainstream classroom.

ESL advice is also provided for each focus question within the units. It contains suggested modifications for each focus question and is designed to assist ESL learners to attain the unit indicators of student achievement. This advice can be accessed through the ESL links at the end of each unit.

Using the Key Terms glossary and topic vocabulary

ESL learners may need explanation of vocabulary in order to understand a topic or activity. Vocabulary has been organised into key terms, accessed in the contents menu, and topic vocabulary, which lists additional words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the ESL learner withn the ESL activities. Those that are unfamiliar should be recorded as they arise on a chart or board and meanings discussed and clarified. A picture clue can enhance understanding. The chart can remain on display for continuous student reference.

Some vocabulary activities, such as work requiring matching a word to its definition, or asking students to identify a correct definition from several choices, may be also useful.

Some of the texts designed to be read to or by students in an activity may be too demanding for ESL learners. Some pre-reading activities, such as prior explanation of concepts and tasks for an activity, can assist students' ability to participate in the classroom. During reading, teachers can adjust vocabulary used and provide additional explanation to assist students to make links to current knowledge.

Working in small groups or pairs

For some activities ESL learners can benefit by being placed in small groups or pairs, generally with students who provide strong English language models. At other times they may work best in a group working on a task with the teacher, for example a joint construction of text.

Using role-plays

Role-plays or re-enactments provide ESL learners with opportunities to practise language that has been modelled for them and learn concepts in a meaningful context. Options for these are included in a number of units. Teachers may choose to substitute a role-play for another activity. It is advisable to assign the ESL learner a familiar role within the context of the topic. Cards with suggested stock phrases can also provide support. Students should be given the opportunity to practise before a small group before presenting to a larger one.

Adapting activities

Some ESL learners may require further modifications or alternatives to those provided here or in the ESL activities. For example, written activities may need to be substituted with oral activities or supported by those cloze exercises, sentence starters, appropriate expressions (time expressions for example might include: 'in ancient times', 'first', 'then', 'after that') or joint construction with the group and teacher. In some units the optional further activity may suit ESL learners.

Using visual resources

Visual resources provide important support for ESL learners. The visual resources which are part of the Discovering Democracy Kits include videos, CD ROMs, posters, cards and websites. Teachers may know of additional resources, including commercial materials, and strategies that assist learning such as data charts, concept maps and lists indicating relationship. Where possible, teachers should incorporate these in the units.

Providing language models

Providing demonstrations of tasks or products may be necessary for students who have not had experience of the tools or task. For example, the teacher may need to provide a model of a report structure showing the key components, or demonstrate the steps required for a research project.


Oral reporting back can present significant demands for ESL learners. Teachers should provide opportunities for ESL learners to practise and should scaffold their efforts.


ESL activities provide suggested modifications to assessment tasks. Criteria for assessment will need to be adapted accordingly.

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