How Does “To Kill A Mockingbird” Translate into [insert language here]?

As a 10th grade English teacher, I am likely to teach To Kill a Mockingbird at some point. Since it’s a realistic story rooted in justice and equality for all, I see it as an excellent introduction for ESL/ELLs to English literature. To teach this story to an “early production” ESL (def: ESL student knows very little vocabulary, mostly just listens quietly), I would partner the student with another student who speaks their native language to provide clarity and insight (Robertson 2008). Further, I would try to find a copy of the book in their native language, so they can at least know the story, though not in English. Along with this special copy, I would provide a crucial list of English vocabulary related to the story, along with their translations. For homework, I would assign simple questions with simple answers, along with the opportunity to doodle (or look up pictures on the internet) what’s going on. That way, even if language is lacking, the student can still demonstrate that they know what is going on. For a “speech emergent” ESL (def: has more vocabulary than early production, but sticks mostly with “familiar topics” when communicating), I treat them the same as an early producer but with more difficult questions (Robertson 2008). To cement their English skills, I would have them not only answer questions about the story but also have them share how they relate to the story. How do they feel about Atticus standing up for Tom? What do they think about Boo Radley? At this point, I would also ask their ESL teacher what they were currently studying and would try to make the students include certain words, phrases or verb tenses from their ESL class in their assignments. For a “beginning fluency” ESL (def: can communicate well socially, but not academically), I would have them work with their native language partner in a regular copy of the book (Robertson 2008). In class, I would have the student, their partner and an English-fluent classmate participate in small group discussions about each assigned segment. For homework, the student would answer questions about and illustrate each segment creatively; these would be shared with their reading groups and will (hopefully) prompt meaningful discussions which would challenge the ESL’s vocabulary. At the end of the book, I would assign group presentations where everyone must speak for at least a minute. This hones the ESL’s academic vocabulary and gives them experience in English public speaking. For an “intermediate fluency” ESL (def: almost fluent, yet coupled with some “gaps” in vocabulary and understanding), I might still pair them with a native language partner, but solely for companionship (Robertson 2008). As the student would still grapple with some vocabulary, their partner would help bolster confidence in English language mastery. They would be given the same assignments as English fluent students, but would be graded more on content and less on language. Coupled with their regular assignments would be vocabulary exercises from the book, with emphasis here on language mastery.

Main Sources:

Haynes, J. (2005, January 1). Stages of Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from

Robertson, K., & Ford, K. (2008, January 1). Language Acquisition: An Overview | ELL Topics from A-Z | Colorín Colorado. Retrieved November 5, 2014, from

Sources of Inspiration:

Ferlazzo, L. (2012, March 12). Do’s & Don’ts For Teaching English-Language Learners. Retrieved November 6, 2014, from

Flannery, M. (2006, January 21). Language Can’t Be a Barrier. Retrieved November 6, 2014, from


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