"No matter how much success you're having, you can't continue working together if you can't communicate." -Matt Cameron
I greatly appreciate you joining me again as I continue to share my knowledge on the components of sheltered instruction. This is another installment in my new blog series. In the event, you missed last week's blog on making text accessible, click here.
We must teach students how to "be nice" and cooperate in our classrooms, but teaching them how to socially interact also helps the English language learner process new information too!
When planning for peer interactions, there are several key components we must remember. It is within these interactions that our students learn and grow, especially in their oral communication skills. The phrase "use it or lose it" helps us understand learning a second language. If we do not practice the language, it is difficult to maintain, much less improve.
It is important to provide frequent opportunities for students to interact with one another engaging in the content presented during the duration of a lesson. This is very difficult when first applying this to your practice, as it is natural for the teacher to do most of the talking. (Trust me, it was a hard habit to break, but keep pushing forward!)
Other than providing multiple opportunities to process content, we must be considerate as to how the students are grouped. Is this a whole group time during the lesson? If so, how can I build in opportunities for a "Turn and Talk?" It is important that we vary the groups to provide various linguistic examples for our students.
Once we have planned frequent opportunities to communicate in various groupings, we must also consider the appropriate amount of wait time a student is allowed for processing the information and their answer. I often see teachers overlooking this aspect in lessons. Teachers often generate a response or they call on the student who is ALWAYS raising their hand. (Guilty as charged!)
School districts often have policies in place to provide teachers with direction with ESL/ELL or Dual Language programs. For instance, all science instruction in my district is taught in 100% English, regardless of the grade or the students' arrival to the United States. Clarifying key concepts in the students' native language is not an option for me, but could be at your district.
By encouraging your students in peer interactions, you are allowing students to have a deeper understanding of the content. I do not feel that I had a very good grasp at peer interactions until this year. A few months ago, instructional specialists from the district were in my classroom daily. They were watching my practice, but also providing feedback. Increasing peer interactions was my goal through the process and I can say that it has greatly improved student achievement in my classroom. It did take another set of eyes to help me see the areas for improvement. We are all on a journey!
I hope you find these tips useful! Look for more on peer interactions in the future.