Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Strategy: Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is a strategy that benefits every student in the class, especially ELLs.  Cooperative learning is more than just group work, but it's specific, structured task which are done collaboratively.  This helps to create a safe and pressure free environment for ELLs who may be too shy or embarrassed to speak up in a whole class activity.  Additionally, cooperative learning groups should be structured so that the goal of the group is clear and each student actively participates.  This may be done through assigning roles, keeping a checklist, or giving evaluations at the end.  Either way, one of the goals of cooperative learning is for the students to teach each other something.

There are many types of activities to do in a cooperative learning setting, ranging from short to long term.  Here are some I like:
  • Peer review of essays and writing assignments: students can trade papers and read parts out loud to give each other feedback.  This will be especially helpful for ELLs who may need to improve their grammar in essays, and the native speakers can help teach them how to avoid mistakes.  
  • Stimulated conversations: depending on the content area and unit, you can assign a topic and have students converse, ask questions, and more.  It may be helpful to provide a graphic organizer with questions to consider or helpful words.  In a social studies classroom, you could have the students pretend to be someone from history.  
  • Peer mentoring system: pair a native speaker with an ELL for certain activities or bell ringers.  This will help ELLs have a go-to peer to ask questions, converse with, and even help them communicate their ideas during class.  Not to mention, the native speaker will benefit by helping others and making a difference.  
  • Problem-based learning: students can work together to solve problems through teamwork, research, and more.  Students in a science class can come up with ways to stop global warming by creating a poster presentation.
  • Video/technology projects: utilizing technology to do projects can be fun and beneficial.  Students can reenact scenes from a novel to get across the main theme, create a mock presidential election, or even informative video tutorials on solving math problems.   

No matter what, the keys to cooperative learning with ELLs are creating a safe, comfortable environment for them, structuring the activity and stating it clearly, ensuring participation by every student, and ensuring learning.

Below is a great video about ELL education in general, but the cooperative learning ideas are wonderful, too. (13:36 mins long--but worth it!).

Here's the link to a website with great information on cooperative learning with ELLs: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/cooperative-learning-strategies.

- Photo Credit: Bigstockphoto.com & VadimGuzhva
- Video Credit : "Deeper Learning for English Language Learners" by teachingchannel.org

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