Newcomer/RAEL Orientation Checklist



Induction programming is a best practices approach to Newcomer ESL/Recent Arriver English Learner (RAEL) education, as it acts as an essential framework for positive, integrated socio-academic participation.   These processes are a means of orientating the student to his or her new school surroundings. As an added component, Newcomer/Recent Arriver learners are introduced to essential concepts and understandings that are critical to success in a school-specific environment.   Guiding questions: 

  • Who welcomes students and parents as they enter the school?

  • Who is the first school contact for Newcomer families? The second?

  • How are new students and parents introduced to the school and its staff? Are these processes amended when working with Newcomer families?

  • How are all students, including Newcomers, made to feel welcomed and safe at school?

  • What type of record-keeping systems ensures that no students are overlooked in the orientation process?

Orientation systems can be complex or straightforward.  They can stem from the office staff; may include teachers, parents, and other students; or may originate at a Welcome Center site.  We’ll focus our energies for this chapter on a few simple strategies that have a demonstrated effectiveness and are easy to implement.  Then, if you’re interested in going further in developing your own orientation plan, I encourage you to visit the The Newcomer Student: An Educator’s Guide to Aid Transition.


Did you ever have to move schools when you were younger?  Or, what about that (huge) jump from the elementary grounds to the middle/high school campus?  Overwhelming, right? I remember the first time I visited my high school as a soon-to-be-ninth-grader. I was so convinced that I would never be able to find my classes.  Or my locker. Or my friends. I actually had nightmares about it.

And here’s the thing: I spoke English.  I’d been in American schools my entire life and enjoyed a network of peers, all scheduled to endure the transition with me.  Still, I was shaking in my boots.

For a moment, consider the experience of school transition from a Recent Arriver EL perspective.  We’re not talking about moving across town, or even from another state. Imagine that nothing is the same.  Nothing is predictable.  Everything is lost in a cloud of newness: language, mannerisms, climate, clothing, school.  How would you react in this situation?  What would you most wish for? What actions could a school take to help to ease your anxiety?

Let’s first examine the most critical aspects of school orientation.  As you read through the following checklist, some of items might seem erroneous.  That’s common sense.  Right- it’s common sense from our perspective, based on our own previous exposure to localized normative values.  But “normal” isn’t normal everywhere.  

Normal is a completely subjective concept.  

And so, it is important to practice viewing our school and classrooms with raw eyes.  We must remind ourselves that cultural misunderstandings are not a reflection of intelligence.  They are a reflection of vast world experience- and that’s a really cool thing! When I find myself in a cultural cross-tangle with one of my students, I like to ask my class: “Can you imagine if I visited your country?  Would I know how to do everything right away? Could I speak your language with your grandmother or cook sambusa as well as your father? Would I even be able to find my way to the market or to the school by myself?”  

This usually garners some laughter and a hearty conversation about how I wouldn’t even know that I was supposed to bow or kiss three times instead of shaking hands.  “Nooooo waayyy!” But, when I ask if they would help me to feel safe by teaching me the things I would need to know, my students all eagerly agree! Just taking a moment to recognize our students’ perspectives exposes our willingness to understand and relate to our students.  This kind of effort can really break ground and lead to trust building.  

Where can we anticipate questions, concerns or confusion?  Here are some starters!

Download a printable Google Doc of the Newcomer Family Orientation Checklist HERE.

Newcomer Family Orientation Checklist


☐ Layout and map of the school

☐ School hours

☐ Student course schedule

☐ Meals at school (cafeteria options, subsidized meal applications)

☐ School transportation

School Contact Information:

☐ Location and phone number of the main office

☐ Attendance line contact, if different

☐ Names and locations of key administrative personnel

☐ Name, location and contact information of teacher(s)

☐ Name and location of key resource personnel: nurse, ELD teacher, counselor, etc.


☐ Immunizations

☐ Attendance

☐ Dress code (including winter and gym attire)

☐ Homework

☐ Supplies

☐ Behavior & Discipline

☐ Health and Wellness

☐ Cell Phones

☐ Safety (Weapons, Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs)

☐ Field Trips

Student Participation:

☐ Co-ed learning expectations

☐ Sitting for long periods of time

☐ Carpet meetings/sitting on the floor (where applicable)

☐ Lining up as a class 

☐ Raising hand to speak

☐ Lockers (where applicable)

☐ Bell policy and tardiness

☐ Bathroom and hand washing routines

☐ Independent and group work routines

School-based Events:

☐ Back-to-School Night

☐ Report Cards 

☐ Parent Conferencing 

☐ Concerts

☐ School dances

☐ International Night, if applicable

Student Engagement: 

☐ Sports and Recreation 

☐ After School Tutoring

☐ Summer School

Parent Engagement: 

☐ Classroom volunteer opportunities

☐ Field trip volunteer opportunities

☐ Adult ESL

☐ Translation services

© The Newcomer Fieldbook, 2017