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There are many strategies that teachers can implement to help support the language and literacy development of their multilingual learners. By implementing specific strategies, we can give our ML students the linguistic support needed to access grade-level content and have a greater chance at mastery.

Each week we will share one strategy that you could adapt to meet the needs of your diverse multilingual students. As you read through the strategy, you can keep in mind your specific ML students to determine how the strategy shared can support your learners during Tier 1 instruction. You can implement these instructional strategies to provide every learner with what they need to have academic and linguistic success!

This week we are going to help our students describe target vocabulary through descriptions, gestures, examples, or definitions. This strategy will focus on our speaking and listening domains. It takes around 10 minutes and the strategy can be done with small groups of students or with a whole class!

Instructional Strategy: Heads Up Vocabulary

This strategy is a fun and engaging way for students to practice their speaking & listening while reviewing vocabulary words from Wonders, IntoMath, or your science & social studies curriculum. In Heads Up, a student or teacher holds up one of the vocabulary words to their forehead displaying the term for the class to see. The student or the teacher holding the card has to guess the term based on the definition, clues, gestures, or questions their peers offer them. Here are a few fun ways to use this strategy!

Small Groups

Students are placed in small groups and given a set of vocabulary words. One student goes first and draws a card. Without looking at the vocabulary card, the students lift the help of the coordination of the ears, eyes, head, and word to their forehead and allow their peers to describe the term. Once the student correctly identifies the term, the next student draws a card with a vocabulary term.

Whole Class

Another way to play involves the whole class. Every student gets a card with a word on it. Without looking at their word, they hold it to their forehead. At the same time, everyone walks around the classroom giving clues. When a student has identified their word, they can remove it. Keep playing until every student has guessed their word.

Challenging Students

You can challenge students to give clues without using gestures or without using the straight definition. This activity will help your ML students practice their speaking skills by describing content-related information, asking and answering questions about specific terms, and providing descriptive details related to identified vocabulary. This activity is one your students will love and can be easily adapted to any set of academic vocabulary terms!

You can also provide additional scaffolded support for your ML students by frontloading the vocabulary terms, giving time for students to rehearse their clues for each term, providing a list of the terms students will be playing with that remain projected during gameplay, and providing sentence frames/pictures.

Have fun using this strategy! We’d love to hear any positive experiences you have trying it! Please email your school Title 1 coordinator, facilitator, assistant principal, or Tiffany Evans


Educators who have developed an approved HB 489 plan have the option to be compensated $1440 on...