Classroom Instruction: Unit and Lesson Plans


Instructional planning in two-way immersion classrooms presents some special challenges, particularly for the new teacher. In addition to the variation in students’ academic abilities, learning styles, and knowledge that all teachers encounter,  TWI teachers also must be sensitive to linguistic variation. Students in TWI programs may have widely varying language proficiency levels in both their first and second languages, and teachers must balance the need to push native speakers to high levels of language and literacy development with the need to keep the linguistic load manageable for second language learners. Moreover, teachers in these settings are working to promote high levels of language and literacy ability in two languages.

Effective instruction in two-way immersion settings is complex and is achieved through a constellation of strategies. To address both content and language objectives, the successful TWI teacher activates learners’ prior knowledge; engages students in culturally relevant activities; employs hands-on learning; uses authentic, performance-based assessments; and supports comprehension through a variety of techniques, such as scaffolding, comprehensible input, wait time, and language frames (Calderón & Minaya-Rowe, 2003; Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000; Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2004; Freeman, Freeman, & Mercuri, 2005; Soltero, 2004). All of these strategies are necessary for achieving the high-level academic goals set by state and district standards that all program types are accountable for, regardless of the language of instruction. The specific choices teachers make in content standards and themes will, of course, vary from program to program, reflecting local standards, curricula, and student knowledge.

Because TWI programs must help students meet both academic and linguistic goals, lessons for TWI classes—as exemplified by the lessons in this Toolkit—include both content and language objectives. For the English side of the program, basing lesson objectives on English language arts standards is fairly straightforward, as most states and districts have adopted English language arts standards for native speakers, and adaptations for English language learners can be found in state standards or in the TESOL standards. For the non-English side of the program, whether Spanish or another language, the situation is less straightforward. Because standards are, for the most part, not available for the partner language (although New York, for example, does have native language arts standards for language other than English, programs tend to use ACTFL’s foreign language standards. These standards may have limited applicability to English language learners studying their own language (e.g., native Spanish-speaking students studying Spanish) and to students in immersion programs in general. An added challenge for the TWI teacher is that language objectives must also be appropriate to the program model. What is appropriate for a 90/10 model will not always be appropriate for a 50/50 model, particularly in the primary grades when the ratios of instruction in the two program languages are very different in the two models.

There are several published frameworks for lesson planning for linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms. The template used in this Toolkit draws heavily from two of them—the SIOP model (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2004) and the Give Me Five Framework (Gordon, 2005).  Further modifications have been made based on discussions of lesson planning in the literature (Calderón & Minaya-Rowe, 2003; Cloud, Genesee, & Hamayan, 2000), and feedback from Marleny Perdomo, a teacher at the Arlington (VA) Public Schools and Ester de Jong, a researcher at the University of Florida. The template is not intended to replace lesson planning frameworks that teachers may already be using. Rather, it is used here to highlight key features of lesson planning and delivery that need special attention in TWI settings.

The teachers who contributed their unit and lesson plans are all experienced in dual language instruction and have successfully taught these lessons in dual language settings. Together the lessons demonstrate effective dual language instruction at different grade levels, in different languages, and in different contexts. There are no lessons from a 90/10 program because to the extent possible, the lessons were solicited from programs within the area serviced by the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Lab at Brown University, and the majority of 90/10 programs are on the West Coast. The lessons are meant to be illustrative and are not meant to be applied without adaptation to other classrooms. Rather, they are meant to be analyzed and discussed (perhaps in a teacher study group with the aide of the Study Guide), with particular attention to how the lesson might be modified for a particular classroom. It is also important to keep in mind that these lessons  represent a snapshot of learning. Content and language concepts taught in these lessons are revisited and reinforced throughout the year by the teachers who developed them.

Each of the plans includes background information about the school in which it was taught, a unit plan that provides a context for the lesson, and a lesson plan that covers a single lesson within the unit. Each plan is followed by a “Teaching the Lesson” section that provides more detail on how the lesson has been delivered in a TWI classroom. The section elaborates on the materials used, the scaffolding and prior knowledge activation that is required, lesson adaptations for special populations within the class, elicitation of higher order thinking, student grouping, and ways to connect the lesson to the larger context of the school and the student’s life. The section is meant to provide the thinking behind each lesson, both to enhance the reader’s understanding of the unit and lesson plan, and to highlight ties to best practices and the theoretical underpinnings informing these practices.

The six lessons vary with regard to the language of instruction, grade level, and content area. They also highlight different strategies and components of dual language instruction. We suggest that teachers read through all of the model lessons for components that they may find useful in their teaching, as many of the techniques and suggestions can be applied across languages, grade levels, and content areas.

The first two lessons provide examples of math instruction. The first lesson is a first grade math lesson on telling time, taught in Japanese. It provides a good example of a lesson in a partner language other than Spanish, as well as an example of pair work, hands-on learning, and integrated language and content instruction. The second lesson is a third grade math lesson on Tangrams, taught in English. This lesson is an excellent example of thematic instruction, as it makes connection between math, art, and social studies. It also incorporates pair work, hands-on learning, and language/content integration.

The third and fourth lessons provide examples of content area instruction in ‘specials’ (e.g. physical education, art, music, and library). The third lesson is a third grade performing arts lesson on dance maps, taught in Spanish. This lesson also provides an excellent example of thematic instruction (dance and social studies), as well as an example of the use of Total Physical Response (TPR). The fourth lesson is a second grade lesson, this time focusing on library skills. The unit is taught through both English and Spanish, but the focal lesson included here is taught in English. This lesson provides a nice example of a cooperative activity that helps to foster connections across languages through an emphasis on cognates. Samples of student work are also included with this lesson.

The last two lessons focus on language arts instruction. The fifth lesson is a fourth-grade lesson taught in English, although the larger unit from which it is drawn is taught through both English and Spanish. This lesson demonstrates an effective use of Readers’ Theater to promote comprehension of text, and also shows how to foster cross-cultural awareness, one of the three primary goals of TWI instruction. The sixth and final lesson is a fifth grade language arts lesson taught in Spanish with references to a parallel (but not identical) lesson on proverbs taught in English. This lesson is a wonderful example of how to foster connections and transfer knowledge across languages. It is also a good example of how to use cooperative groups. This lesson is accompanied by supplementary instructional materials and video segments that show this lesson being taught by one of the co-authors, Marleny Perdomo, in a classroom at Key Elementary, a 50/50 program in Arlington, VA. Examples of student work are also included with this lesson.


Calderón, M. E. & Minaya-Rowe, L. (2003). Designing and implementing two-way bilingual programs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Cloud, N., Genesee, F., & Hamayan, E. (2000). Dual language instruction:  A handbook for enriched education. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M. E., & Short, D. (2004). Making content comprehensible for English language learners: The SIOP Model (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Freeman, Y. S., Freeman, D. E., & Mercuri, S. P. (2005). Dual Language Essentials for Teachers and Administrators. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Gordon, J. (2005). Give Me Five: Instructional Planning for Diverse Learners. Des Plaines, IL: Illinois Resource Center

Soltero, S. W. (2004). Dual Language: Teaching and Learning in Two Languages. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.