Co-teaching to Support ELLs
Co-teaching is when educators work together to support a group or whole class of students in a general education classroom. There are a number of different models of co-teaching between a classroom teacher and ESOL or ESL teacher. Some of the co-teaching models involve two teachers working with the whole group of student in different capacities. Teachers can also split students into small groups during a co-teaching partnership. Finally, students can be working independently with both teachers supporting them.
Students do not lose instructional time (compared to receiving pull out instruction).
When students stay in their classroom, they do not lose instructional time due to travel, having to adjust to a new activity, or picking up on the activity that they left. Students also do not miss out on new information that was given when they were out.
Using a co-teaching model avoids this loss of time. The ESOL teacher is in the classroom with the students. The students either go over to a section of their classroom during small group instruction or have an extra adult available to support them during whole group and independent work time.
Students are less likely to feel separated from their peers.
Especially as students get older, they might not want to take part in activities that make them seem “different” from their peers. When the ESOL teacher is co-teaching in the classroom all of the students in the class are able to benefit. If the co-teaching relationship is set up well, it can be difficult for students to know which students are officially receiving services, since all of them are learning from the ESOL teacher.
Students are exposed to grade level material.
Co-teaching helps ensure that ELLs are receiving grade-level content. When the classroom teacher and ESOL teacher are planning they will use grade level standards. They can work together to make the language and vocabulary accessible to all of the students.
All students benefit from the language knowledge of the ESOL teacher.
All students are learning new academic vocabulary. There are often many students in a classroom that will benefit from strategies used to support language learners. This includes visuals, sentence stems, and structured conversations around content.
Spreading ELLs across a large number of classroom teachers.
This can result in the ESOL teacher needing to collaborate with a large number of general education teachers. The more teachers that they try and co-teach with, the less planning time they will have with any one teacher.
Build-in planning time is not always provided.
Having a lack of planning time is one of the most common challenge listed by teachers I contacted about co-teaching. The more built-in planning time co-teachers are given, the higher the likelihood that the lessons will reflect the expertise of both teachers. Unfortunately, teachers are often lucky to get 30 minutes once a week of building in planning time.
When I was going into classrooms I would often check in with the teachers for a few minutes at the beginning or end of the school day. This gave me great information but was not the same as having dedicated planning time.
The ESOL teacher can be used more as an assistant.
Many times the ESOL teacher can end up only supporting students and not doing any of the upfront planning. This can happen for a number of reasons including not having enough joint planning time, the classroom teacher not wanting to give up control over planning, and inconsistency in the ESOL teachers schedule.
Providing support to newcomers.
Co-teaching offers many benefits to newcomers, but one challenge is that it is difficult to help students gain survival vocabulary and grammar using only a co-teaching model.
Use technology to plan.
Google sheets/docs are simple ways for teachers to virtually plan together. This only works if both teachers are committed to using it.
Decide at the beginning of the year how the classroom will be organized when the co-teacher is in the room.
There are different models of co-teaching. These include One Leat Teacher and One Teacher “Teaching on Purpose”, Two Teachers Teach the Same Content, One Teaches, One Assesses, Two Teachers Teach the Same Content, One Teacher Preteaches, One Teacher Teaches Alternative Information, One Teacher Reteachess, One Teacher Teaches Alternative Information, Two Teachers Monitor and Teach. All of them have benefits and drawbacks. You might end up using a combination of methods depending on the time of year or what the learning goals for the students are.
There are some helpful charts in the Collaboration and Co-teaching book about advantages and challenges of common co-teaching models between a classroom and ESOL teacher.
If you are working with a large number to classroom teachers be flexible with how much co-teaching will actually occur.
Work with a small group of students in the classroom. You might not have had time to co-plan these lessons. Knowing the standards and topics that the class is covering will allow you to plan independently.
For newcomers, some pullout is often beneficial. One way to accomplish this is to combine students from multiple grade levels into a small group.
Attend Professional Development with Co-Teachers
Professional development is a great way to build a professional relationship with your co-teacher. This is a good opportunity to stay up to date on best practices and decide how you can implement the ideas in the classroom. Especially when planning time is tight, going to a workshop together will help both teachers to have common knowledge when you are planning.
Collaborating for English Learners: A Foundational Guide to Integrated Practices Andrea Honigsfeld-Maria Dove-Andrea Honigsfeld – Corwin – 2019
Co-teaching that works structures and strategies for maximizing student learning Anne Beninghof – Jossey-Bass – 2012