Part 1: Lesson Description
Traffic and Road Signs in Basic English: Preparing for the Driver's Test
This lesson is geared towards beginning English language learners who plan to take a U.S. driving test. The goal of this lesson is for learners to be able to recognize traffic and road signs, recognize and describe their meanings, and practice multiple-choice test-taking to prepare for passing a U.S. driving test.
Learner Audience / Primary Users
The primary audience is the beginning adult English as a Second Language learner who plans to take a U.S. driving test.
- Curriculum / Instruction
College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment
- Level: Adult Education
- Grade Level: A
- Subject: English Language Arts / Literacy
- Strands: Reading and Speaking
- Sub-Strand: Reading Informational Text
- Standard Description: CCR Anchor 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
- RI 1.7: Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas (e.g. maps,charts, photographs, political cartons,etc.).
- Instructional Material
- Lesson Plans
- Homework and Assignments
- Images and Illustrations
The purpose of this lesson is for learners to be able to:
- Recognize and describe the meaning of various U.S. traffic and road signs
- Designers for Learning
- Adult Education
- Road Signs
- Traffic Signals
- Traffic Lights
- Traffic Signs
- Multiple Choice Testing
Time Required for Lesson
Driving Related Verbs (Stop, Go, Turn, etc.)
Colors (Red, Yellow, Green, etc.)
Directional Vocabulary (Ahead, Straight, Left, etc.)
Shapes (Triangle, Rectangle, X-gon,etc.)
Negative Forms (No, not)
Official Drivers Manual for Appropriate U.S. State
Images from "Presentation Preparation" handout and/or "Evaluation Preparation" handout
Paper, low-stick glue or tape, pencils/pens
Handouts as described below
Computer for automated multiple-choice testing
Lesson Author & License
- Lesson Author: Lina Christie
- License: Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license
Part 2: Lesson
By the end of this lesson, the learner should be able to:
- Recognize and verbally state the meaning of 5 to 10 U.S. traffic and/or road signs
- Successfully complete a short automated multiple-choice test
Key topics covered in this lesson include:
- Traffic signal lights
- Pedestrian signal lights
- Traffic signs
- Multiple-choice testing
This lesson may be implemented in a basic or beginning ESL class designed to teach general life skills or one specifically related to driving.
Relevance to Practice
Adult ESL learners often immigrate to the U.S. to access better economic opportunities. In addition to their command of English being a primary challenge in securing employment, these learners can have trouble accessing transportation, which means that outside major metropolitan centers that have public transportation, they need to be licensed to drive a car in order to transport themselves to classes, job interviews, etc. Because most states automate the written part of this test using multiple choice testing, this skill is also important for successfully earning the license.
Key Terms and Concepts
The following definitions and terms are taken from the 2016 California Driver Handbook (http://dmv.ca.gov/web/eng_pdf/dl600.pdf), pages 22-26. Please consult the driving manual or handbook for your own state as terms may vary. Handbooks other resources are found online by using Driver test and/or Driver handbook as key search terms.
- Sharp (as in turn)
- Winding, windy
Instructional Strategies and Activities
Time: 10 minutes
Display examples of American road signs common in your area. The file 'Road Signs" contains the twelve road signs tested in the online quiz (beginner) mentioned below found at
Other signs can be found with the following links:
Elicit discussion regarding the signs. Ask students to identify the signs that they know, what the proper response to the signs are, and tell any stories they might have from their own experience about seeing other drivers ignore road signs. For students who are not capable of this, ask any questions that will get each student talking. Where have or can they see these signs? How can they describe the signs? What do they look like? Use questions that will activate knowledge of the signs as well as previously learned vocabulary (e.g. colors, shapes).
Time: 20 minutes
Distribute a handout with the above terms (Key Terms and concepts) and others that are important for the signs you have chosen. Have the students identify words they do not know. Ask others in the class to define these words and fill in definitions for terms no student offers up.
Distribute a handout with some street signs on it and have the students identify the signs that they do not know.
Ask students to pick one that they do not know and ask the group if anyone knows it and have that person define the sign and what describe the proper response is. Suggest students take notes on their paper as they hear what the signs are.
Time: 20 minutes
Before Class, download a copy of your states driver's manual and copy the pages that cover traffic signs. In the Maryland Drivers Manual, these are found on pages 12-16.
These pages cover basic foundational information about the meanings of the different parts of the signs such as shapes, colors, symbols, figures, and flashing. Work with the students in the most efficient way for their reading level and ask them to read for information about the shapes and colors and/or the specific signs they still do not know. Be sure to solicit questions on vocabulary to insure everyone understands the information.
If the reading in the manual is too difficult for the learners, this handout has some of the same information presented at an easier level that can easily be modified to suit your students' needs.
You can create reading handouts for other concepts easily using graphics from the power point below, as needed.
Time: 20 minutes
After adapting the following powerpoint to cover the concepts you want to make sure are covered, initiate a discussion about the reading by asking them to talk about how they will know how to respond when encountering a sign they have not memorized.
Whatever you choose, you will want to consider the following:
- Symbol or Figure
Your job as the instructor to prepare for this lesson before class will be to “reverse engineer” each signal or sign that you want to teach into its basic units as stated above using construction paper and low-stick (removable) tape or glue.
Example: You want to teach about a traffic light. To create a representation of a traffic light using paper, you would need to break down a traffic light into the following: Rectangle, Red (Stop Message), Yellow (Slow Message), Green (Go Message, and Grey (Off Message) Circles, and Message for . In other words, you can “build” a traffic light as follows:
To introduce the concept of “flashing” or “blinking,” you could add the following shapes:
Once you have figured out the signals and/or signs you will teach, you will have a finished product similar to the following to present in class:
Time: 10 minutes
Have learners match signals and/signs to their definitions
After you finish presenting the signs, your guided practice will be to allow students to match the definition (message) to each sign or vice versa. Depending on how many sets of signals and/or signs you made, this can be an all class or small group activity, and you can make it casual (call a student to define a sign) or competitive (make a game out of it!).
Since you should have built your signs to be modular (meaning you can remove and restick pieces), you can rearrange your initial presentation into different combinations, and the activity you present could look like the following example::
Time: 10 minutes
After the Matching activity discuss the format of the written part of the drivers test with the students: automated multiple choice and elicit information on any previous experiences they have had with multiple choice tests, and tests in English. Ask them about strategies for succeeding with tests of these types an offer strategies that they do not bring up. This website has excellent strategies for review. http://www.studygs.net/tsttak3.htm
This site has several free automated multiple choice tests at different levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).
The beginner test includes the twelve sign included in the files attached above.
Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour (outside of class)
Photo essay assignment
Have students take pictures of the traffic signals and/or road signs presented in the class that they encounter to and/or from class, or that are in their neighborhood, and create a simple slide show to verbally narrate and present in the next class.
Part 3: Supplementary Resources & References
DMV.org - Find the driving manual for any U.S. state: http://www.dmv.org/driver-handbook.php
Manual of Traffic Signs - A comprehensive listing of the most commonly used traffic signs in the United States: http://www.trafficsign.us/
Free Road Sign Practice Test on DMV.org: http://www.dmv.org/road-sign-practice-test.php
Free Road Sign Quizzes: http://quizagogo.com/u-s-road-signs/
California Driver Handbook 2006: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/web/eng_pdf/dl600.pdf
Maryland Drivers Manual 2016: http://www.mva.maryland.gov/_resources/docs/DL-002.pdf
"Manual of Traffic Signs - A comprehensive listing of the most commonly
used traffic signs in the United States" http://www.trafficsign.us/ by Richard C. Moeur
"Pedestrian Walking free icon" icon created by "Scott de Jonge" under CC 3.0 BY license.
"Hold free icon" created by "Madebyoliver" under Flaticon Basic license.
"Curvy Road Warning Sign free icon" created by "Freepik" under Flaticon Basic license.
"Car front free icon" created by "Google" under CC 3.0 BY license.
This course content is offered by Designers for Learning under a CC Attribution license.
Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.