Pathways Reading & Writing Plans

Last week I shared with you my lesson plans and supplemental materials for National Geographic’s Pathways Listening and Speaking books. This week I have plans for the second half of the Pathways series, the reading and writing books. I haven’t had as much opportunity to teach these books, so there aren’t as many supplemental materials, but I’m happy to share what I have.

Lesson Plans

As with the listening and speaking plans, these are brief note/outline format plans of everything I do with the students, in the order I do it. I provided links to all of the supplemental games/activities, videos, websites, and other resources I use. I like to start lessons out with some type of discussion question or interesting fact set related to the theme. Even though speaking isn’t our primary focus, I like to incorporate as much spontaneous speech practice as possible so students have the opportunity to use and build context for the vocabulary they are learning. The discussion also helps to activate prior knowledge and increases student comprehension of the readings.

Another thing to note about these plans is that they are almost exclusively for the reading sections of the book. The schools I’ve taught at have a separate class for grammar and writing so I didn’t deal with that part of each unit. I do briefly go over and practice most of the grammar, but I never take the time for a full writing lesson. Quite honestly, I don’t know how I’d fit it in if I had to, four hours of class time isn’t enough to do everything I would like with just the readings. The students are always highly engaged and we have a lot of great discussion about each one.

Digital Vocabulary Glossary

While writing is primarily covered in another class, vocabulary is one of the primary focuses of these classes at our school. In fact, though I’ve created digital vocabulary glossaries for the listening and speaking books, the reason I started making them was for the reading classes. These glossaries work exactly like the ones I shared about last week (check the linked post for all the details), only the words are different. My students are often overwhelmed by the amount of vocabulary these courses cover, but the glossaries help them to feel a little more confident. The glossaries, in combination with a heavy focus on context clue skills (we practice them every unit), have made a big difference for my students and by the end of the semester their skills have really grown!

The Links

Unfortunately, that’s it for now. As I said, I haven’t had as much opportunity to teach these books, thus I have yet to create review menus and other curriculum-specific resources for them. Maybe I’ll get the opportunity sometime in the future. For now, here are the links to download your free copies of the lesson plans and vocabulary glossaries. Happy teaching, everyone!

IAs much as possible, I linked to free resources in the plans, but there are some paid resources as well. If you, like me, teach multiple levels of the books, and want an easy one-stop way to get the resources you need (and I created), then I have two options for you. The first option is a bundle that includes all of the Pathways Reading & Writing books (25% discount). The second is a bundle that includes all eight of the Pathways books, both listening/speaking and reading writing (30% discount).

Pathways Listening & Speaking Plans

It’s no secret that my favorite publisher of ESL curriculum is National Geographic. I used their Inside curriculum with middle school and really enjoyed it. My students found the readings to be engaging and we had a lot of great discussions. When I left middle school and started teaching at the college level, working with those books was one of the many things I missed.

Fortunately, I did not have to leave my favorite publisher behind though! Both of the colleges I’ve been teaching for use National Geographic’s Pathways series for several of their courses. Over the years I’ve developed plans for all eight of the Pathways books, as well as some supplemental materials for students. In this post, I want to share with you some of those plans and supplemental materials. All of them are free and I’ll provide links at the bottom for you to be able to download any that would be helpful for you and your students. This week I’m concentrating on the four listening and speaking books. Next week I’ll share what I have for the reading and writing books.

Lesson Plans

These are not scripted plans for non-teachers. These plans are more along the lines of unit outlines. I list out the various things I do with my students: discussion questions (I like to start the unit with a question or set of interesting facts related to the theme. It always produces a lot of good discussion, perfect spontaneous speaking practice.), book activities, videos, supplemental activities, handouts, and games. I do this in the order I plan to use them in class. It’s what I teach from every day. What I did do is go back and add in links for you so you know exactly which YouTube video I used, exactly which handout I printed, etc. Many of the activities, handouts, games, and other resources are free, some are not. I also have a tendency to use the same activities, especially games, multiple times in a semester. Sometimes I’ll tweak the rules to have more targeted practice, other times I won’t. The reusing of activities and games saves me time (explaining the directions is easier the second, third, fourth…time around) and allows the students to revisit some of their favorite activities (just this week I reused a game and my students said, “Oh, good, I really liked this one!”).

There’s A Video About That

I first mentioned this additional resource in January of 2021. At that time, I had only completed PDFs for books one and three. You can catch up on all the details in the two previous blog posts (New Resources for a New Semester and Student Reference Tools), but let me give you the quick overview here. This single page PDF is a play off the phrase, “There’s an app for that!” I wanted students to have a one-stop location to be able to review the grammar concepts we talked about in class. I also wanted them to be able to hear a different explanation from the one I gave in class. When I first started teaching, I felt as though I’d failed in some way if a student didn’t “get it” from my explanation, but he/she did from someone else’s. Since then I’ve learned that this just means everyone learns differently and the important thing is the student learned–not who they learned it from. There’s a Video About That allows students to hear another explanation in another voice without having to worry the person in the video is giving them bad information (a common concern among my students).

Review Menu

These menus came into being at the same time as There’s A Video About That (you can get all the details in the same two blog posts, linked above). They are meant to be a more in depth companion to the one page PDF. The PowerPoint menu (it uploads well to Google Slides) has two slides for each grammar concept. The first is an explanation of the concept (a review of what we went over in class). The second slide has a YouTube video (different from the video on There’s a Video About That) and links to free sites with games and/or exercises to practice the skill. Many of the games and activities are geared toward children, especially for levels one and two. I always talk to students on the first day of class and explain I’m not trying to insult them in any way, I simply want to provide them with free practice and these are the sites I could find. My students have never had a problem with it, and many of them will tell me how much fun it was to play the games. In fact, I introduced my pronunciation class, all adult advanced speakers of English, to Storyline Online just last night. I warned them that all of the books were picture books but, in a not unsurprising occurrence to someone who’s been using picture books with older learners for a long time, the only complaint I got was I wouldn’t take more class time for them to watch more videos.

Digital Glossary

This is a brand new resource for this semester. I took my Master the Term Vocabulary Graphic Organizer and made it the background of a PowerPoint slide, adding textboxes for each of the sections. I added in a table of contents and hyperlinked each letter of the alphabet to a slide that lists all of the vocabulary starting with that letter from the book. Each vocabulary word is hyperlinked to a slide with the graphic organizer background and the term. Each vocabulary word slide also includes links back to the table of contents and letter slide. Students can then complete the graphic organizer to help them review the vocabulary. This is not something I’m requiring for homework at this time, but I have had students tell me they are using it and finding it helpful for reviewing terms from the book. Since the graphic organizer slide was created as a slide master, it’s easy for students to add additional terms to their glossaries (they will have to copy and paste the table of contents buttons from another slide). I honestly doubt I’ll ever require completion of the glossary as homework, but it is an option for the future. A note regarding conversion to Google Slides: I did try it and most of the features worked fine. The only problem was on the alphabetical listing of the words pages. In PowerPoint I set the textbox to have three columns. The columns did not transfer to Slides and the words appeared in one long list, running past the bottom of the slide. So, if you choose to convert the PowerPoint file to a Slides file, you will need to go back and adjust the 26 alphabetical listing slides to be either a table or multiple textboxes.

The Links

Now that you have a basic idea of what’s available, here are the download links! As I said, all of these resources are free. I hope you and your students find them as helpful as my students and I do. Happy teaching, everyone!

As much as possible, I linked to free resources in the plans, but there are some paid resources as well. If you, like me, teach multiple levels of the books, and want an easy one-stop way to get the resources you need (and I created), then I have two options for you. The first option is a bundle that includes all of the Pathways Listening and Speaking books at a 25% discount. The second is a bundle that includes all eight of the Pathways books, both listening/speaking and reading/writing at a 30% discount.

National Geographic Inside Lesson Plans

One of my favorite curriculums to use with middle school students is National Geographic’s Inside series. I love how it is cross-curricular, with most of the units directly connecting to science and social studies, and it is aligned to CCSS ELA standards. My students have always found the readings to be highly engaging. I also appreciate how budget-friendly it is. It is possible to teach the curriculum with only the student books. The online materials, workbooks, and writing curriculum are all nice, but not necessary, and as I spent most of my career working at schools with a budget of $0, having a curriculum that worked well without all of the “extras” was a necessity. I only have two concerns with the series: academic vocabulary and grammar.

The series does include academic vocabulary, but I find it is poorly developed. The practice activities usually consisted of one or two worksheets, which were included in the workbook (which I often did not have access to). Thankfully, I already have a standard set of vocabulary activities I know work well and my students enjoy. I used my 30-weeks of Academic Vocabulary as inspiration, and created academic vocabulary units for each unit of levels A (blue book) and B (green book). Each unit includes the eight academic vocabulary words for each of the eight units. Since the curriculum repeats some words, this resource also repeats some words. In my class I start each unit by working together to complete the chart and scatter the other activities throughout the unit (each activity takes about 5-10 minutes). The assessment is given near the end of the unit, separate from the unit assessment. The activities consist of the aforementioned chart, cards to add to our word wall, sort cards, clip cards, match-it cards, worksheets, a scrambled word recording sheet, and an assessment.

When it came to dealing with the grammar, I decided to supplement unit-by-unit. Over the years I developed fairly extensive plans for each unit that included a variety of grammar (and other) supplemental activities. When I found myself having to change districts mid-year, leaving my class in the hands of a long-term sub (who happened to be my best language tutor) who wasn’t trained as a teacher, my principal asked me to leave as many plans as possible. I quite happily turned over my entire unit plans for the rest of the year, including what supplemental resources I could leave. Those plans were later used by a mid-year hire teacher who told me how helpful they were. This got me thinking and I realized my unit plans could be useful for other teachers.

It took awhile to find the time, but about a year ago I finally got all of my plans written up in a format that is easier to use, and understandable to more than just me. Each zip file (one for level A and one for level B) contains plan tables (day, class activities, homework) for each unit. Whenever a supplemental activity is mentioned I try to link to it so you can easily download it for yourself. The zip file also includes templates/handouts for whatever assignments and resources I could freely share without violating copyright laws. Not included in the lesson plan download are the word wall cards I made for the vocabulary in the various readings. These are available as a free download, or from my post Vocabulary Word Wall (which describes in detail how I use them). Another thing I did not provide was a lot of detail on how I implement each activity. We are all professionals and have our own styles, how you implement the activities will be different from how I implement them, and that’s OK–even good! Unfortunately I cannot put zip files on this blog for direct download, so I had to post the plans on Teachers Pay Teachers, but they are free.

It is my hope that these plans will be of use and benefit to other teachers. I greatly miss working with this particular curriculum (though I do enjoy National Geographic’s Pathways, the curriculum I use with my adult students) and am always excited when I teach a similarly themed unit and get to delve back into some of the resources and activities. Happy teaching, everyone!

Need some of those links again? Here they are:

To make things even easier for you, I’ve put together a bundle for each level. The bundles contain all of the plans and supplemental activities that I’ve developed for each book. This allows you to get all of the supplemental resources I’ve created for each book at a 20% discount. Please note: some products are repeated in the bundles.

Teaching both books and don’t want to try and figure out which products are included in both bundles? No problem, there’s a bundle that has everything for both books, this one at a 25% discount.

Many people have contacted me about plans for Inside Fundamentals, the orange books. I only used that level very briefly and many years ago. In fact, I only taught the first six units from it. I haven’t had time to put together proper plans to share, but I did throw together an activity list for the six units I taught and a couple of bonus units (telling time and body parts). The list is a bit of a mess, and I couldn’t find links for all of the activities, but I’m happy to share what I have. Hopefully I’ll get some time later this semester to put together a proper “plan” and search for some of the missing links. Feel free to contact me with any questions and I’ll do my best to help.

Reading & Writing for Academic Purposes

It was less than two weeks before the start of the school year when I received a call from the district office. The district-level supervisor for my department wanted to see me, and the ESL program head, in her office. I was nervous, but since I didn’t really have a choice, I went. Turns out I was right to be nervous, not because I was in trouble, but because I was about to be asked to do the seemingly impossible. 

My wonderful supervisor had, without consulting anyone in the department, applied for a grant to help improve long-term English language learner’s academic reading and writing skills. The grant had been approved, and now it was time to put the program into place. The problem was, no program actually existed. ​​I was handed a blank sheet of paper and told to develop a program that would improve student scores in reading and writing, specifically on the WIDA, NWEA, and P-SAT tests. The target student was a long-term, high intermediate to advanced EL. You know the students, we all have them, those who have an excellent grasp of English, but always miss exiting the program just just a few points, usually in one or two skill areas. The types of data needing to be tracked was listed out, counselor cooperation to redo student schedules was promised, and I was told to keep everyone in the loop.

With no idea of where to start, I headed to school and started digging through our supply closet, looking for inspiration. In the back, unopened, and just waiting to be discovered, I found Fountas and Pinnell’s LLI Teal System, and inspiration struck. I moved the boxes to my classroom, pulled out all of the nonfiction texts, and started trying to find the titles I thought would most interest students. I continued pulling in resources from places such as Reading A-Z, NewsELA, my own library at home, and our primary curriculum series, National Geographic Inside. I spent the year planning out units, staying one step ahead of students, and trying to explain the hoped for benefits of the class to administrators, parents, and students.

By the end of the year, the students and I had had a lot of fun. Since there was no set curriculum, we were able to explore topics and themes that we were interested in. Each unit was themed around a book from the LLI series, supplemented with other resources, and culminated in a written paper of some kind. We learned about bionics, artificial intelligence, chocolate, and even famous April Fool’s Day pranks. The final data was better than we had hoped for, with students achieving their highest scores ever on the WIDA reading and writing sections. My sixth and seventh graders improved an average of 209% on their NWEA reading test, and the eighth graders all passed their P-SAT (average score of 410). Many of the students were finally able to exit the ESL program, which made everyone very happy.

Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to teach the class for one year. My position with the district was originally part time, but in January of that school year became full time. Full time work was not something I wanted to continue with, so at the end of the year I left the district. My successor did continue to use the materials, but I wanted to share them with a wider audience. The button above will link you to my Teachers Pay Teachers store, where you can download a zip file for free. In the file you will find a materials list with links for the various commercial resources (such as the LLI system) and a folder for each unit. Each unit’s folder contains a lesson plan and the materials I am able to disseminate for free. In the lesson plan I provide Word documents and links to other materials I used (most are free) and Google doc templates of the Word files. I’ve tried to be as clear as I can in the plans, but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Happy teaching, everyone.