Teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) is important, rewarding, and often challenging work. In fact, teaching in general is all three of those things as well! So, while it’s true that teaching practices that are great for ELLs are great for all students, many educators and districts with growing numbers of ELLs are focusing their professional learning and resource creation on supporting ELLs. In that spirit, Teaching Channel is bringing you new a set of interactive videos in Tch Video Lounge, developed in partnership with Oakland Unified School District, so that you and your colleagues can hone in on key shifts, practices, and strategies for teaching and learning with ELLs.
The footage for these new videos comes from a series we produced with Oakland last year, Content Conversations: Strategies for ELLs. In that series, we visited the classrooms of elementary and high school teachers taking on the challenge of integrating language instruction for their ELLs during content instruction. There was so much to learn from these educators and so much amazing footage that was left on the cutting room floor! Now, you get to see and discuss some of that unedited footage in these eight new interactive videos. Here are the topics we can explore together.
Learning Through Conversation
Academic conversations are essential to helping students develop a deep understanding of content and language at the same time. But these conversations take practice and support, especially in the elementary classroom. In Deepening Content Knowledge Through Discussion, take a close look at the way fourth grade teacher Sarah Horwitz presents a conversation task closely connected to a unit of study in science. Then, think about the ways in which she supports her students to work toward speaking and listening standards while having these content conversations in Getting Started with Academic Discussions & ELLs.
Many teachers have embraced number talks as a structure for engaging students in discussion about mathematical thinking. But how can we integrate language instruction into number talks? Take a look at Number Talks: Integrated ELD to see an example of language-rich instruction in math. Watch how second grade teacher Monique LaCour uses sentence frames to scaffold the language required for students to have evidence-based conversations. What else do you notice? Watch and join the conversation.
At the high school level, careful scaffolding can help students engage in challenging, student-led conversations. Many of our Tch viewers have watched Johanna Paraiso’s 12th grade Socratic seminar video and wondered just how she prepared her students, especially her ELLs. Now you can get a behind the scenes look in these two videos, Preparing for a Moral Reasoning Conversation and Supporting Controversial Conversations, where we get to see the careful steps she takes at the beginning of the school year to prepare her students for these later seminars.
Growth Mindset in the ELL Classroom
In addition to using conversations for learning content, teachers in Oakland use conversation for social-emotional learning moments. In Supporting ELLs with Authentic Peer Feedback, Monique LaCour asks her students to debrief their student-led number talks. She uses this structured discussion as a way for her students to learn how to give and receive feedback in a respectful way. She encourages them to be open to new ideas and to use the feedback as a way to improve their next number talk. For more on encouraging growth mindsets in your classroom, be sure to explore our Growth Mindset Deep Dive.
Teaching Reading Through a Workshop Model
With its built-in differentiation and targeted mini-lessons, a reader’s workshop can help teachers address the needs of all their students in reading, especially their ELLs. In Gradual Release of Responsibility in Reading Workshop, we enter Emma Coufal’s kindergarten class where students are engaging in a reader’s workshop. Watch how Emma carefully scaffolds instruction during a mini-lesson on a key reading strategy. Then, see how later in the workshop she confers with students to meet their individual needs. What do we notice about the way she structures these conferences? Watch Conferring with Readers and join the discussion.
Just as our students learn through discussion, so too can we! Explore these new ELL videos, as well as our ELL Deep Dive, to learn and discuss alongside other educators. And while you’re in Tch Video Lounge, be sure to check out our other offerings in areas such as NGSS, Math, and ELA. Let’s learn together!
Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is an Education Content Manager at Teaching Channel.