Luckily for me, there are a lot of ELL students in the grade that I am working in. Every Wednesday the ELL specialist and my teacher meet for about 30 minutes, to talk about what is going on in class and the needs of the ELL students. The ELL specialist at my school pushes into the 4th grade classroom in order to give support. ELL students are sometimes taken out of the classroom, but at least for this grade level, it is not too often that this happens. When the ELLs were younger they were pulled out more, and now they are pulled out when they need help in specific areas, or for testing if necessary.
The ELL specialist pushes in every afternoon during reading groups. This is when the ELL students in 4th grade get the most support. During this time (as I am unable to observe and have talked to my CT about and the ELL specialist about) they are in reading groups. They are in groups of between 3-5 all reading the same book and answering questions on the book. During this time the specialist is there and gives them one on one support, rotating with the groups who have ELLs. It is my understanding that there is at least 2 reading groups that have ELL students in them, which means that there is a wide range of English proficiency levels, between the ELLS.
Since the ELL specialist and my CT are really close and go on walks together before school and hang out after work, they are always coming up with strategies for my CT to use even when the specialist is not around. I have seen this a lot during my observation time. My teacher implements ELL strategies during writing time, in order to help students to access background knowledge and generate ideas on what to talk about. One of the methods I recently observed was partner paddle. This is where students look at picture and go back and forth each saying just one word about that picture. This strategy was used to help students gain ideas during their writing fluency time. Now that I think of it, their writing fluency time is also important in helping ELL students. During this time they are told to write down as many words as they can in an 8 minute time period. None of what is written down is graded, not their spelling, grammar, nor their conventions. The purpose is to write down as many words as possible during this time and to graph how many words they write down to see if they improve over the year. This helps ELL students to practice their English without judgment which is important in lowering student’s affective filter. As we learned about previously in class, students should be able to use the English language without being told they are making mistakes so that they can practice, this is exactly what fluency writing allows students to do.
I think my CT and the ELL specialist do a lot in order to make the students feel comfortable in the classroom, as well as to support their academics and push the students to do their best. However, one thing I find odd is that it doesn’t seem like they get much help in other areas other than reading and writing. It makes sense that reading and writing is where ELL students may need the most support so it is great that the ELL specialist is able to come in at this time. As well, I know the other 4th grade teachers (who teach math and social studies) have strategies to support ELLS in the classroom. The ELL specialist already donates a lot of her time to just the fourth grade team, meeting at lunch with them in order to understand what they are learning and go over strategies, and pushing in for an hour in the afternoon. I wonder if there is any way to give support to the students during the other class subjects however. Honestly, what I have really learned from all of the meetings I have had with the ELL specialist, is that there should be more than one ELL specialist in a school because they have way too many kids under their care, plus they do a lot of coaching with teachers to make sure they can help out when she cannot be around.