3 Replies Latest reply: Jul 30, 2013 4:42 PM by tofubeth RSS

How do you engage your English Language Learners in collaborative activities?

mso Novice
Currently Being Moderated

I recently came across a set of questions, in a WIDA publication, that are related to Common Core, collaboration and English Language Learners. They include:

  • Do your students have opportunities to engage in academic conversation?
  • How might collaborative interactions help students meet the U.S. college- and career-readiness standards?
  • How might they help English language learners (ELLs) master the language of the disciplines?
  • What are some promising ways to support group-based learning in your classroom?

The following excerpt from a WIDA Focus Bulletin responds to these questions and offers an extensive resource list for further exploration of related strategies and research.

Please consider how you engage your ELLs in collaborative activities...

WIDA FOCUS ON Group Work for Content Learning

WIDA Focus on Group Work for Content Learning | WCER | University of Wisconsin–Madison | www.wida.us

 

 

The U.S. college- and career-readiness standards expect all students, including ELLs, to communicate about and work collaboratively on academic topics. These new expectations reflect two important insights. First, learning is primarily a social rather than an individual process (Haynes, 2012). Second, skills in communication and collaboration are indispensable for participating in 21st century workplaces and in civic life. The new standards have important implications for instruction, given that students in U.S. classrooms traditionally spend most of their school day in teacher-fronted, whole-class instructional environments, where the teacher is positioned at the front of the classroom, and students’ desks face the teacher. Classroom discourse tends to follow a sequence referred to as ‘initiation-reply-evaluation’ (Meehan, 1979; Cazden, 2001). In this discourse pattern, the teacher asks a close-ended question, a single student is selected to respond, the student responds, and the teacher evaluates the student’s response for correctness.

To prepare students for the communicative and collaborative demands of college, career, and adult life, educators should be encouraged to replace a portion of traditional teacher-fronted, whole-class instruction with group learning opportunities. However, careful thought must be put into designing group learning activities for all students, especially for ELLs, who can meet the new standards if teachers adequately support their language development.

Collaboration in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about [kindergarten, grade 1, 2] topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups (p. 23).

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade [3, 4, 5] topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly (p. 24).

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade [6, 7, 8] topics, texts, and issues, building on other’s ideas and expressing their own clearly (p. 49).

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades [9-10, 11-12] topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (p. 50).

 

One activity that my second and third graders enjoyed was the preparing of a survey, conducting the survey in their mainstream classes and creating a presentation on the data.

They worked together to:

  • determine/identify pond animals from a shared reading article
  • create a list of the most common pond animals
  • create a set of questions about favorite pond animals for class survey
  • conduct the survey as a team - visiting mainstream classrooms
  • collate the data and create a graph of survey results
  • present their findings as a team

They thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and were so proud upon completion of their group project/presentation.  They acquired social skills, as well as content area knowledge.

 

Please share your thoughts on this timely topic.  What activities and resources do you use?

 

(I will post the full bulletin in our Reaching ELLs documents/resources section.)

Marie

  • Re: How do you engage your English Language Learners in collaborative activities?
    tofubeth New User
    Currently Being Moderated

    I've been reading a lot about using academic language of late. There are a couple of great articles, one by Kate Kinsella, in language magazine. There is also a great article by Jeff Zwiers that illustrates something that he's been working on in introducing academic vocabulary.

     

    Personally, I've not been reaching the levels that I'm reading about. I have high hopes for next year, though. One thing I do to make sure students are working together is to have them make movies. I've found that unless there are specific deadlines for each step (script writing, practice, filming, editing) that there is not much progress made.

     

    With my beginners, I use sentence frames and ask them to use iPads to talk about books they are reading. I started this late in the year, but I'm going to be doing it more often to gauge progress in oral language and to get students to use new vocabulary words. You can see some of our work here.    They help each other videotape and give feedback.


    • Re: How do you engage your English Language Learners in collaborative activities?
      mso Novice
      Currently Being Moderated

      Beth, these are outstanding resources!

      It is confession time...use of, as Kinsella says, "generic vocabulary" is probably one of my greatest faults...sometimes thinking simple vocabulary is more helpful for my ELLs.  I will definitely focus on more academically specific vocabulary.

      Zwier's rubric for academic conversation and use of chart/academic conversation features are two materials that I look forward to introducing in my classrooms...

      Thanks for posting student work - tellagami "Making Paper" is priceless...but had trouble viewing the others...(perhaps I have to update something)

      Your students are so fortunate to have such a tech savvy teacher!

      Please consider uploading your instructional videos to our Reaching ELLs group...they are full of such valuable info and you present so well!

      BTW - do you ever flip your classroom, what are your thoughts on that for ELLs?

      • Re: How do you engage your English Language Learners in collaborative activities?
        tofubeth New User
        Currently Being Moderated

        This is my first year back in high school after a long stint at the elementary level. I think I will likely be more inclined to flip my classroom when I have been there for another year. It's something I've considered. I have a friend who has flipped her upper level Spanish classes. This year I'm looking at bringing drama into the classroom (see A Reason to Read, part of the ArtsLiteracy Project), and I'm taking on a few other things--as busy people usually do--but flipping is definitely in my future since our school is working on a 1:1 iPad conversion...

         

        Thanks for the compliments! I am going to WIDA training all next week. Perhaps I'll find time in the evenings to upload...

More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...

Legend

  • Correct Answers - 4 points
  • Helpful Answers - 2 points