Using Teacher Inquiry to Support ELLs
Lesson Objective: Use teacher inquiry to create a successful warm-up routine
All Grades / All Subjects / PD

Thought starters

  1. How does the inquiry model differ from traditional PD?
  2. How does Ms. Talbot learn from her colleagues?
  3. How could you use inquiry to further your practice?
Great video. Loved the idea of inquiry from a teacher's perspective and how we are seeking ways to improve our student's learning. This video definitely gave me food for thought and I loved that I could take notes about it while watching!
Recommended (2)
It is a great video to get resources from. It applies to all students. At the kinder level all students need to be able to express themselves verbally and in written form.
Recommended (0)
I found this to be very helpful. The opportunities ELL's get to share their thoughts through speaking, listening, reading and writing at the beginning, the more they will become successful.
Recommended (0)
This was a great video and very helpful to me.
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  • Using Collaborative Teacher Inquiry to Support ELLs Transcript

    Speaker 1: If learning is a process, we really need to be able to

    Using Collaborative Teacher Inquiry to Support ELLs Transcript

    Speaker 1: If learning is a process, we really need to be able to look at what's happening in that process.

    Speaker 2: We really use the space to create community. A community of colleagues.

    Jade: What do you want help thinking about?

    Speaker 1: It's essentially the basic inquiry process of defining the question, and collecting data, and coming up with new understandings along the way.

    Jade: This is so much different than other professional development opportunities because it gives me a chance to really show other teachers what my students are doing. It's a glimpse into my classroom.

    Speaker 1: Teachers improve their practice because they understand what their students are doing. How they're thinking. It's a really lovely method of improvement.

    What we know about teaching is that professional learning is really at the heart of good teaching. If you look at how teachers spend most of their collaboration time, what's really missing is the time where teachers say, "Who is this or is this not supporting my students' growth?"

    In this space, we wanted to slow down the furious planning forward that is such a big part of your work and say, "Okay, I'm trying to do some aspect of this. What's happening?"

    Mills Teacher Scholars is a community university partnership program where we bring expertise from the school of education out into the community to support teachers who are already well into their practice to improve their practice.

    We're using the same protocol that we used every single time and it's the protocol to create a thinking space. What really matters is that you're getting a chance to think.

    Speaker 2: This year, we specifically wanted to focus on the newcomer teacher group because there's been a huge surge and increase of newcomer students in the Oakland area. Over the past three years, the number of newcomer students have doubled. That's in high school, middle school, and elementary so we're bringing together teachers from all over the district.

    Speaker 1: Certainly teaching newcomers who arrive with oftentimes a lot of social, emotional trauma. Obviously very large language needs, and need support accessing content, and community services. There are just a lot of demands on that classroom teacher.

    Jade: Having 150 students and 25 students in the room at a time, it's very difficult to provide that individual feedback and to really be able to accurately access how my students are doing. How they're progressing on a daily basis. This is one struggle that I have.

    Speaker 1: The process that we take teachers through is that we ask them to really zoom in on one particular high-leverage instructional activity that they want to get smarter about and then to ask themselves, "How can I make student thinking and learning visible?"

    Speaker 2: From those questions comes problems of practice. By interrogating multiple sources of data and evidence, they derive their own solutions to their problem of practice and this work is done collaboratively. One of the teachers that we're working with is Jade Talbot and she is a high school teacher from Castlemont High School and she works with newcomer students.

    Jade: My inquiry work is surrounding my warm-up routine. Basically my warm-up focus is on a written reflection piece so that students have time to write in their journals and then it moves into a pair share discussion where students have time to talk to them about the warm-up prompt.

    My goal was to design a warm-up routine that strategically and effectively prompts individual student reflection through a written piece and also small group discussions.

    Speaker 2: First she has them wrote and responding to a question and then she's really trying to get them to have academic interactions and what that means. Sometimes that might just even start with their social and emotional disposition and in additional to that, what support can she give them to increase their level of interaction, increase their level of talk?

    Jade: What students were doing was just reading exactly what they wrote in their journals.

    They feel comfortable talking about what they've written and then once it goes beyond that, they're stalled.

    How can I design warm-up routines that will really prompt student engagement?

    Speaker 2: Once teachers have formulated an inquiry question, they then begin to think about, "What routine data source an I use to help me answer this question or help me find out more answers?"

    Speaker 1: Jade has chosen to focus on her academic discussions that happen at the beginning of every class. She's chosen to video record those discussions and she brings those recordings to our monthly inquiry sessions. She has a chance to think about those alone and then think about that data together with her colleagues.

    Jade: I am collecting a couple pieces of data. I'm collecting what they're responding to in written form in their notebooks. Also video data, so a video recording of their conversations with each other.

    I brought about a three minute video recording of two of my focal students and shared some questions and some ponderings I had with with the teachers there.

    There was a point though with both of them where they were trying to clarify. They didn't really understand what the other one was saying.

    Speaker 2: We want our teachers to bring in new data so that can be video data, that can be interviews, that can be student writing. Whatever it is that's going to give them insight to what's working for their students.

    Jade: That is one question I do have. What types of tools and support can I provide my students so they can feel comfortable asking their partners for clarification when they don't understand. Asking in English because you can definitely say that in English.

    Based on the feedback from the other teachers in the inquiry session, I knew I wanted to focus on really encouraging students to make more eye contact in their discussions and I also wanted to give students the opportunity to answer warm-up questions that weren't content-specific. That were more personal.

    The number one goal is making the conversation natural.

    Today we're going to go with a question from one of you and that is, "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?"

    Today I presented a warm-up prompt that was written by one of my students and honestly it was one of the most engaging warm-up sessions I've ever seen.

    Who can translate this question? What would you do? What would you eat? What would you see?

    I gave them about ten minutes to write a written response in their notebooks. I gave them a sentence frame but encouraged them to move beyond that sentence frame.

    When you finished this, is it time to just put down your pencil and say, "Finished?" No. This might take you two minutes, three minutes. We have ten minutes so use the entire time to write.

    What did you write here? Did you write Brazil? Oh, exciting.

    Speaker 4: [inaudible 07:56].

    Speaker 1: It's a country in [inaudible 08:00] do you think?

    Speaker 4: Yeah.

    Speaker 1: Think about two more things that you would like to do. Meet people, eat food. Good. Who would you go with? That's another thing you can write about. Who would you go with? How long would you stay?

    Speaker 4: Two year.

    Speaker 1: Two years. That's a long visit.

    Speaker 4: I would go away with a friend.

    Speaker 1: Two years, go with a friend. Would you work there is you're staying there that long or would you just be visiting, traveling, having fun?

    Speaker 4: Just visiting.

    Speaker 1: Wow, that's amazing. Write in a little bit more detail.

    Then I gave them three minutes to discuss with a partner.

    Our main goal for this conversation time is to make this conversation really natural. In the past, it's been easy to just have our conversation. Say, "If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would travel to Mexico. Okay. Finished."

    We don't want to do that. We want to keep the conversation going. If someone says, "I would like to go to Mexico because I love the food." [foreign language 09:13] What can you ask after that?

    Speaker 5: Why that food's good?

    Speaker 1: Why do you like the food? Is the food good? Really remember to make eye contact with your partners and to also face your partners.

    Today during our warm-up discussion, I videotaped Raoul and Louis. These are two of my focal students who I've be following since the fall.

    Moni: What things do you like [about Japan 09:43]?

    Kevin: It's my dream [inaudible 09:46]. I went to the job, I go to the restaurant, I eat the ramen.

    Moni: What states?

    Kevin: I'd tour Tokyo, Iwo Jima, and Kyoto.

    Moni: What do you like about Japan?

    Kevin: To me I like the trees of the sakura. The schools

    Moni: Yeah.

    Kevin: The concerts.

    Moni: [inaudible 10:18]?

    Kevin: Yeah.

    Speaker 1: Being able to really focus in on the progress of Raoul and Louis and then to apply it to my 23 other students in the classroom has been an eye-opening experience. I will watch the video and then transcribe it. From there, I will probably watch it two or three more times and pull out different pieces of information about their discussion.

    I will think of some questions and bring that to the next inquiry session.

    How did that go? Three minutes later how did that feel? Was it amazing? Great? Okay? Really scary and hard? Show me on your thumbs.

    I give students time to fill out a post-discussion survey so that was their time to reflect on the discussion that they just had.

    What is something that you did really well that you're very happy about? For example, I made eye contact with my partner. Number two, what is one thing that you can improve? Maybe that could be, "Oh, I could probably ask more questions."[foreign language 11:32]

    Speaker 4: I forget to look at him.

    Speaker 1: You forgot to look at his face? Yeah. Well, next time you can think about it. Since you wrote it down, this is one thing you'd like to work on. Then I gave tome for students to share their discussion with the class.

    Speaker 5: I like mole, tamales, enchiladas.

    Moni: I like enchiladas.

    Kevin: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would travel to China.

    Speaker 8: Why do you say China?

    Kevin: I would go to China because I think that it's a good country.

    Moni: Who would want to ...? Like your mom or your cousin?

    Kevin: Excuse me?

    Jade: Kevin was not sure what Moni said. Did anyone hear what he asked? He said, "Excuse me?" That's a great way to ask for that clarification.

    One of the take-aways from the warm-up today was that students really responded well to this more personal question and how much they related to this question that came from one of the students in the class. I was pleasantly surprised with how many groups wanted to present. Wanted to share their progress. Share their discussion with the class.

    Watching that and seeing them grown and also have the confidence to come up and be so engaged is really exciting as a teacher.

    Speaker 1: There are many exciting results of this inquiry work, some of which really are around just creating conditions for teachers to learn together. Also we see some very specific exciting results that really dovetail with what the research says about effective teaching. One of the results that we see is that teachers become more aware of who their students are, and what they know, and how they think. We know that that's really important in effective teaching.

    Speaker 2: We feel that the inquiry work is a really powerful tool for teachers. They're really internalizing this idea of taking a questioning stance in the classroom that they might not have all the answers, but they know how to begin finding the answers.

    Jade: The inquiry sessions are really great opportunity to come forward with all of these questions, but also to celebrate the success of our students. I'm excited to go to the next inquiry session and share my excitement with the other teachers about how engaged my students were today.

School Details

Castlemont High
8601 MacArthur Boulevard
Oakland CA 94605
Population: 505

Data Provided By:



Jade Talbot


TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration


Social Justice & Equity


English Language Learners