You are probably aware of the benefits of collaboration for the sake of English language learners. (ELLs)
Not only is the topic making headway but much emphasis is on how ESL teachers and other specialists, general education and special ed teachers, etc. can work collaboratively to raise the academic performance of ELLs by focusing on the quality of instruction.
Since school districts do not provide teachers with specific guidelines on how to collaborate, teachers need to develop their own guidelines for collaboration which reflect their experience and goals. Everybody’s talking about the benefits of working with other ESL teachers and other specialists, general education and special ed teachers, etc.
Teachers all over are aware of the benefits of collaboration and many have already initiated their own collaborative plan.
Here are some of the things you will need to consider when putting together a collaborative plan:
- Your administration
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many administrations have yet to catch on with collaboration. This means that you will need to work with time curriculum and time constraints. Although it is hard to feel encouraged by a school’s lack of support, it is possible to find time to co-plan and co-teach. Some options are: email correspondence (teachers need to be deeply committed to this in order for it to work), lunch breaks meeting before and after school. Research shows that in order for collaboration to be successful in the long term, the entire school needs to be involved. Obviously, this means very creative scheduling for teachers to sit and co-plan.
- A supportive colleague
Again, another no-brainer, yet this is the most important piece. The key is to find a colleague you can trust, feel comfortable working with, and is willing to let you come into her/his classroom and co-teach. (If your ELL students are studying in another content area subject.) Start small by focusing on areas that doesn’t involve a lot of planning at first, such as observing each other’s classrooms or gathering information on ELL students’ abilities in reading, writing and speaking.
- Your students
Knowing your students’ abilities can help you pinpoint the necessary knowledge you need to target English proficiency objectives and implement instruction accordingly. Later, you can decide on criteria that allow you to group students according to critical areas of instruction.
- A collaborative model
A model is a system of guidelines usually given to teachers by administration. Teachers are expected to follow such models, which may take different forms. Each model will have its own set of strengths and weaknesses. When administrations however do not provide teachers with such information, it is usually up to the teacher to learn this information on his/her own.
There is also widespread debate on the push-in and pull-out models and how beneficial they are for ELL students. Click here to read an interview I’ve conducted with Professor Diane Barone on the benefits of pull-outs and push-ins as it relates to collaboration, which is located at the New Teacher Resource Coaching Center.
- Your schedule
All teachers will say time is an impediment for finding time to collaborate even those who are blessed with planning hours. However, with time and curriculum constraints, the key is to creatively schedule the amount of time so you are focused and on task without being bogged down by other administrative and teacher duties.
Here are a few ways to maximize your time:
- Make effective use of personal planning time.
- Allow for team planning time (grade level teams) to focus on subject areas.
- Discuss student needs, lesson planning, and assessment issues.
- Decide on agenda in advance.
- Discuss any issues related to the team or individual students.
- Avoid spontaneous planning. Stay on task with topics at hand.
- Incorporate concerns about struggling ELLs in a separate discussion. Keep focus broad yet practical.
- Keep a record of minutes.
And of course, a collaborative plan is not written in stone. If there are pending pedagogical and other issues that inevitably pop up, you will have already developed the foundation for your collaborative plan and will be able to find “common ground” for the academic benefits of your ELL students.
Dorit Sasson, otherwise known as “the teacher’s diversity coach,” is an ESL instructor specializing in collaboration for English language learners.
She is available for in-service workshops and presentations and is currently writing a book on teacher collaboration for ELL students for Pearson. Download her speaker sheet and other important resources at www.DoritSasson.com
Dorit Sasson is also a Co-author of the new book Amazing Grades: 101 Best Ways to Improve Grades Faster.