Learning can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. More than 12 percent of students in Clover Park School District are English Language Learners (ELL). Learning a new language at the same time you’re learning about multiplication tables and the Industrial Revolution takes the challenge of learning to a whole new level.
Traditionally, ELL students in Clover Park were pulled out of their regular class for up to 45 minutes at a time to work directly with ELL teachers. It was a balancing act that meant less time with peers in favor of more time learning language skills. However, in recent years, the district focused on keeping students in the classroom as much as possible.
Under the direction of Teaching and Learning Director Susan Kontos, the ELL program has shifted services to match current research that suggests partner teaching is more effective at helping ELL students learn than individualized instruction.
“Our intention is to keep students with their peers in their regular learning environment as much as possible,” said Supervisor for English Language Arts and ELL Charity Horton. “Rather than pulling students out of their class to work with ELL teachers, we decided to bring ELL teachers to them.”
At the elementary school level, ELL teachers come into classrooms during daily writing lessons. The regular classroom teacher and the ELL teacher partner together in teaching writing to all students in the class, and the presence of the ELL teacher helps support ELL students directly.
This method of instruction has benefits for both ELL and native English speaking students. The regular classroom teacher and ELL teacher collaborate around lesson planning and instruction and then play different roles in the teaching process, which allows for further expertise when teaching concepts to students.
Classroom teachers can focus on the broader concepts of writing, while the ELL teacher is more prepared to teach students about the actual language used in the writing process.
For example, a classroom teacher might start a lesson on using past tense by focusing on the basics of how to write a narrative, while the ELL teacher can teach students about the different verbs they would use to write their story as happening in the past.
“All students are benefiting from having the expertise of the ELL teacher in the classroom,” said consultant teacher Dana Re-Bloom. “It’s extra beneficial to ELL students because it helps them learn how to use language to engage and ask questions in their regular classroom setting.”
ELL students in the district transition out of the ELL program at a higher rate than the state average. Additionally, ELL students perform 10 points or more higher on the Standard Balance Assessment than their classroom peers.
Teachers partnering in the classroom fosters inclusiveness and helps all students succeed together.