What do you do when you have a class size of 36 including both ELLs (different levels of English proficiency) and native speakers of English? Many teachers face this situation nowadays and struggle with trying to deliver content and language. Though there are many approaches which claim to work, one of the most effective is cooperative learning (formally called "group work" in high school). When done correctly, it provides content and language in small group settings with the teacher facilitating the learning process, but not dominating it. ELLs in this type of setting feel less intimidated by their English speaking peers. Due to this risk-free setting, ELLs are generally actively engaged in the learning process while receiving language support from their EO peers (or ELLs with more English).
So, how does a teacher set up the class to thrive with this strategy? How can this tool be used to break down not only language barriers, but also ethnic/racial ones? This post will provide you with definitions, techniques, strategies for providing equity for all, and a video. As with all other posts in this blog, everything is free:)
Cooperative Learning offers many different creative venues for students to excel. This strategy promotes student learning, increases student retention, makes the learning experience a rewarding one, strengthens the social skills of ELLs and EOs, and boosts student self-esteem. Some strategies include numbered heads together and jigsaw. With numbered heads, students count off the numbers 1-4 (this will probably give you 8 or 9 groups of 4). The teacher then tells all the 4's to work on one aspect of the assignment, 3's another, etc. These students become experts in their assigned topic. When the time is up, they return to their home groups and then each student teaches the group about the area he/she became an expert in. There are variations of this of course so you pick what works for you. Jigsaw is another favorite. Here reading material is divided into sections (one section of each teacher created group). The small groups study their assigned part. The teacher can then call on any one member of a group to answer the key question. Since all students know that any one of them could be called on, all the group members practice to make sure that whoever is called on (including ELLs) will be able to answer the teacher's question. Very effective in accountability!
Cooperative Learning Techniques This link provides additional strategies that can be used to in a cooperative learning classroom. Think-pair-share is a very popular one here and it can be used at any grade level. Again, this is a setting that is safe for an ELL since the student is working with a partner who will assist him/her in analyzing the assigned material. A variation of this is "elbow partner" where students sit side-by-side to read a passage (the stronger reader supports the weaker one) or edit work as a team. Discover what works for you and your students and use it:)
Now, the last question on every teachers mind is how do you assess an ELL's progress in such a setting. This last website is furnished through TEACHER TUBE (free to join and if you do, you don't have to watch the commercials). It covers ASSESSING ELLs The author offers great tips on how to use varied assessment techniques to get a true picture of ELL's understanding of content and growth in language.
I hope you find these links useful:)
ELL Teacher Pros