Teachers have various attitudes towards walkthroughs and at times find it challenging to put up with the presence of another educator in the classroom. I guess it is different for EAL specialists and classroom teachers as we are always working in a team and being in someone’s classroom is our every day reality. EAL teachers have this daily privilege of expanding their opportunities to learn from our colleagues as we collaborate with several classroom teachers every day. Our opportunities to seek new methods, test those methods and cooperatively reflect on the results are multiple and are weaved into our daily teaching routines.
This week I was co-teaching and observing in Claire Webster’s room, and was so impressed with one of her classes that I decided to write about it here to illustrate how inquiry can support and inspire language learning.
Claire feels very passionate about developing her students’ writing skills and this lesson was all about painting with words and using descriptive language.
To begin with, our students watched a Brain POP video about what is an adjective.
The video provided additional opportunities for ELLs to understand what adjectives are and why and how we use them. I thought Claire made a good choice of an instructional scaffold and an engaging beginning to the lesson.
After the video the students had a chance to practice using adjectives. Claire had created a slide show (another instructional scaffold) with engaging assignments that activated students’ prior knowledge, set off their connection making and were in the students’ zone of proximal development. One of the tasks was to look at a red sports car, try to remember the special features and then describe this car to the police officer, wearing the hat of an accident witness. Another task was to look at the slide with an autumn tree and describe it using our five senses. Each slide provided enough scaffolding and each student had the opportunity to write his/her description in a journal and then share it with the rest of us. All the students were highly motivated and the interaction between the students was maximized. Claire was adaptable but maintained high expectations.
Students’ identities as learners were affirmed as they could carry out the task independently and all of them were very enthusiastic. Some EAL students, and even a student with behavioral issues, were so engaged and confident that they tried on the leader’s and educator’s hats.
All Claire’s language learners had an opportunity to extend their vocabulary, as when we discussed the sports car some Tier 2 and even Tier 3 words were added to the conversation by Claire and the native speaking students. When we described the autumn tree cultural dialogue took place and yet another opportunity was provided for our ELLs and the children who did not experience the 4 seasons to become more knowledgeable and in control of their language means.
That is how in 45 minutes our students explored the world of describing words, were able to practice applying their knowledge in various engaging contexts and enjoy sharing thinking and learning with peers.