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Adjust Your Teaching Styles for English Language Learners (ELL) in ESL/Bilingual Classrooms

Understanding Global Poverty: A 5th Grade or ELL/ESL Unit
Tobey Bassoff

Unifying theme:
Human condition

NCSS Thematic Strand (9): Global Connections
(e) provide for the study of global connections and interdependence

As our world becomes increasingly more global, students have a responsibility to see how economic development and human rights intersect. According to the NCSS,

“The realities of global interdependence require understanding the increasingly important and diverse global connections among world societies.”

Understanding Global Poverty is a unit that uses poetry to segue into a discussion of the causes of extreme poverty worldwide. Students will be guided in their understanding by the teaching model of reflective thinking. Each of the three lessons that follow will build on itself as a part of the reflective process.

Lesson One will be identifying the problem: Poverty exists. Why? Should poverty be eradicated? Why?

Lesson Two will involve speculating possible causes and testing the validity of those causes by researching current events where global poverty is addressed. This step will lead students to make assertions about why poverty exists and to decide if it is “fair” for it to exist.

Lesson Three will require students to come up with positive solutions that would move us closer to ending global poverty.

Model of Teaching: Reflective Thinking

In this unit students will learn that poverty is not just an issue that faces our community. In fact, poverty is a global issue that connects the human race. The focus in the unit is to raise the students’ consciousness about global poverty and how decisions that citizens of one country make can affect the lives of people in a country across the globe.

Lesson 1: What is poverty?

(I) Introductory Activities
Unit Introduction: Read “Poor” by Myra Cohn Livingston from the poetry collection Knock on a Star (Kennedy 1999).

Content Objectives: Students will be asked to listen to the poem being read aloud. They will then receive a copy of the poem to read with the teacher. They will be asked, “What do you know about poverty or the condition of being poor? Why did the author write this poem? Does poverty affect the person who is poor or does it affect the whole community? Why?”

Process Objectives: Students will recall what they know about poverty, and they will be asked to consider the affects of poverty at a local level.

  1. Have students read the poem. Break the students up into pairs. Ask each student to discuss the poem with their talking partner. Have them answer the following questions: What is the poet saying about poverty? Do you agree? Why or why not?
  2. Bring the students back to the rug (or big meeting area) and have each one share what their partner said. Make a list of the ideas on the dry erase board. Ask for a volunteer to say what he/she notices about the list. He/she should be able to see that “loneliness, emptiness (emotional and physical), etc” are common themes. Ask the students to talk about the presence of poverty in their community or in their country.
  3. Have students illustrate the poem. Make sure to include a grading rubric that incorporates the poem’s theme into the illustration. Set a time limit and leave time to share. Post the illustrations with a copy of the poem on the board.

Lesson 2

Global Connections: Think about possible causes of poverty and research current events for evidence of extreme poverty in the world.

Content Objectives: Children will expand their knowledge of poverty to include global implications.

Process Objectives: Students will recall the poem “Poor,” and they will share their illustrations. This will lead to a discussion about where poverty exists and why. Students will think about the causes and then conduct a guided research exercise to “test” their theories.

  1. Begin by remembering what the class discussed the day before about poverty. Read the poem aloud together and look at their illustrations.
  2. Ask the students to journal for 10 minutes about where in the world they think poverty exists and why it exists.
  3. Lead the students to a computer lab to conduct an internet search using yahooligans.com. Give them a sheet that requires them to identify three places in the world where poverty exists and reasons why it exists there.

Link to NCSS Strand and Unifying Theme
Through the process of investigation, children will discover on their own where poverty exists and why. They will then be able to answer this question: How do the actions of economic superpowers affect the condition of global poverty in the world?

Lesson 3

Content Objectives: Students will identify ways in which countries can work together to address the issue of global poverty.

Process Objectives: Students will share their research and talk about the causes of poverty. They will begin to see ways in which people and governments could work together to address the needs of people and economic progress.

  1. Have the students take post-it flags and mark the places where they found articles on global poverty.
  2. Ask the students what they notice on the map. Do they see patterns? What strikes them as they look at the map?
  3. Have students share their research. Ask them to discuss the causes of poverty?
  4. Divide the students into groups of four and give each group a large sheet of paper. Ask them to come up with solutions to the issue of global poverty. Have them think about the causes and how governments could work together to solve these problems.
  5. Bring them back together and share the solutions.

Lesson 4 will turn the students’ ideas to pro-active response. Students will identify one way in which they can combat poverty. They will be empowered to make a difference on the condition of poverty by executing their idea.


In assessing the students’ progress in this lesson, I want to learn as much about the students as possible and provide them with multiple entry points for learning (Goodwin 1997). The focus of these lessons is on reflection and leading children to believe that they have control of their learning and discovery of knowledge.

Each activity is designed to allow children to build on previous knowledge and apply it to a new activity. To this end, as an assessment tool, I will chart the responses of the children to see if they are internalizing what they learned from one activity to the next. I will also use the children’s journals and their illustrations as a way to gauge whether or not they applied written and/or pictorial comprehension to their ideas.

As always, if you have ideas to share please e-mail me at tbassoff@yahoo.com.

Best of luck! Tobey


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