An ELL Teacher's Back-to-School Checklist

Getting ready for the new school year offers a great opportunity to think about how you can best help your English language learners succeed in the classroom. Here are some ideas to get you started!

For more great ideas, take a look at How to Create a Welcoming Classroom Environment for ELLs.

Getting the Classroom Ready

Classroom signs and desks

  • Put your name outside the door.
  • Make a class list to post on door.
  • Make signs for the classroom, either translated or with visuals.
  • Post labels on classroom furniture.
  • Keep some wall space clear for a word wall if you will be using one.
  • Make student name tags for desks (or have them make their own on the first day of school).
  • Set up student desks, thinking about which kind of set-up will work best for your ELLs.

Bulletin boards

As you plan to set up your bulletin boards, decide:

  • Where to post student schedules, announcements, the lunch menu, and calendar
  • What kind of welcome-back display to make
  • Which boards will be for subject-area work
  • Where to display students' original work
  • Which boards students will design

Learning centers and classroom library

  • Set up learning centers, perhaps with some cultural themes for "getting to know you" activities.
  • Set up a classroom library with textbooks, supplemental materials, storybooks, picture books, and audio books/CDs. Look for books in the students' first languages and about their countries, and remember that even older students can benefit from access to a wide variety of books as they build reading skills.

Classroom supplies

Check to see whether you have the following on hand. If you are short on funding, you may be able to find some assistance through Donors Choose.

  • Plan books
  • Grade book
  • Attendance materials
  • Paper clips
  • Rubber bands
  • Construction paper
  • Manila folders
  • Different kinds of tape
  • Stapler and staples
  • Spare pencils/pens
  • Tissues
  • Handwriting paper
  • Extra writing paper — if you have beginning-level students in upper grades you may want to stock some elementary "wide lined" notebook paper for developing literacy skills

Getting Your Files Ready

Student Files

  • Prepare class rolls and permanent records.
  • Check to see which students may be going to special classes.
  • Prepare a file for correspondence from parents.
  • Prepare a calling log for record of contact with bilingual parents who may not be comfortable with written correspondence.
  • Make a checklist for returned forms that can be used later for report cards, permission slips, etc.

Student Packets

Prepare packets, or "Welcome Kits," for students to take home the first day. When possible, create packets in the student's native language. Most districts have these forms in a variety of languages. If your school doesn't have them, you may want to check with your district office. Packets should include:

  • Emergency forms
  • School rules
  • Supplies
  • Bus or transportation rules
  • Note to parents/request for room-parents
  • Information about attendance, holidays, and lunch

Getting Ready for the First Week of School

  • Write tentative lesson plans for the first week. You can find a lot of ideas in Gear Up for a New School Year.
  • Duplicate materials needed for the first few days.
  • Write your name and other important information on the board.
  • Check out library books and read-alouds.
  • Meet with mainstream, content, ESL/bilingual, and Special Ed. colleagues, as well as paraprofessionals, to discuss collaboration opportunities.
  • Prepare a file for faculty bulletins.
  • Find out schedules for lunch, gym, art, music, and the library.

Substitute Folder

Set up a folder for a substitute to use in case of emergency. Include:

  • Daily schedule (fill in as soon as possible)
  • Seating chart (fill in as soon as possible)
  • Reproducible activities
  • Helpful phrases in ELL students' first language or the name of a bilingual staff member who can provide support if needed


You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Colorín Colorado and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [email protected].

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