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97. Cooperative Learning Strategies for ELLs: Scaffolding for Effective Peer Interaction
Episode 9720th October 2023 • Equipping ELLs • Beth Vaucher, ELL, ESL Teachers
00:00:00 00:26:54

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Frustrated with keeping your ELL students engaged? Or struggling to give everyone the chance for output in a short amount of time?

In this episode of the Equipping ELLs Podcast, we dive into 4 practical Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies that will help you keep every student participating. Boost engagement, scaffold activities, and empower your students to take the lead in their learning journey. Join us for insights that'll make your teaching life easier and your classroom time more productive!



Hey there and welcome to another episode of the equipping als

podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today and just thanks

for being a listener to this podcast. It means so much that you

are taking your time to listen in and learn simple and practical

strategies that you can use quickly and easily in your classroom

to help support your English language learners. If you haven't

heard. Our 100th episode is coming up very shortly, and we would

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going to have some more ways that we will be celebrating then as


All right. Today's episode I am super excited about because

cooperative learning strategies and just ways to have students

constantly responding and applying and outputting and talking with

one another. It's definitely one of the areas of teaching that I

felt really confident in. How my classroom was always running. I

saw the power of that from the beginning when I first started

teaching and those are going to be talking about today is really

the scaffolds and outputs being a part of our daily routine and

our daily classroom activities. And I'm going to be sharing with

you. Four different. Cooperative learning strategies that you can

easily and quickly use in whatever you are teaching. That's the

beauty, whether you're teaching. 10th grade Math to newcomers or

you're teaching second grade to level threes and fours. You can

easily take these cooperative learning strategies and apply them

in the lesson that you're doing this week. So I am super excited

to do this podcast with you today.

All right. So let's begin kind of at the basics of just what is a

cooperative learning strategy? What is collaborative learning. It

is an instructional approach where students work together to

achieve a common goal or solve a problem. So this approach is

really beneficial for our ells because it gives them authentic

opportunities to practice their language skills, to learn from

their peers, and to gain confidence in a supportive setting. I

mean, I think back to my education growing up and how often. Our

classroom was set up where one student was responding. One student

was sharing out. One student was reading to the whole group, all

these things where students were just put on the spot all the

time. And the rest of the students were probably zoning out.

Distracted with something else. And that's not what we want. That

is wasting precious time. And so we want to be creating. Just

scaffolds and strategies in our classroom that are allowing all of

our students to output to respond through oral conversations. As

much as possible. It is so crucial for the development of a new

language that our students are speaking constantly. And these four

strategies will help you do that easily and quickly. Now this is

just like I said, so crucial for our ells, because. Interacting

with peers. In a structured, supportive environment really helps

our ell to have a safe space to practice language. To not just

really apply language themselves, but also understand cultural

nuances. There's so much in language that's just that underlying

cultural nuances that they only will learn through conversation.

It also helps them build those essential communication skills. So

really, this is why this is so important for yellows because they

get. To advance academically, but they also improve their language

proficiency at the same time. And I'm going to share with you at

the end.

I'll share with you how to do that now. Today, I'm going to dive

into four different Kagan strategies. If you haven't heard of

Kagan. They are kind of the Masters of cooperative Learning

strategies. You can check them out at I think it's

if you want to learn more but they are kind of the gurus. Of

different learning strategies that you can use in your classroom

that really create that cooperative learning environment and what

they share. Is a cooperative learning structure. Really has three

things. One, it organizes classroom instructions. And what they

mean by that is. It's just an instructional strategy that

describes how the teachers and students interact with the

curriculum. Okay. So that's the first piece to it. The second

piece is that it is content free and repeatable. And what we mean

by content free is that it's not tied to any specific curriculum.

But it can be used with any curriculum, or it can be with any

subject or topic. So it's really something that's repeatable

across grade levels, across language levels, across content. And

that's the beauty of this. As you start to begin to implement

these types of things, you're going to see how you can use this

multiple ways throughout. The week. And it's really helped save on

lesson planning time when you start to plug in these strategies

and you see, okay, I could do this with these five groups, and I'm

just going to change out the content that I'm doing with those. So

they're very repeatable, which is awesome. And then the last part

is that it implements the basic principles of cooperative

learning, which is sometimes it's referred to the acronym as pies,

and that stands for positive interdependence, individual

accountability. Equal participation and simultaneous interaction.

So those are the four parts to a good cooperative learning

strategy. I'm going to say those again because I think they're

really important. Positive interdependence, individual

accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction.

Now, without these things, cooperative work is unstructured and

really the achievement gains are somewhat questionable. I know I'm

so guilty of that of doing different cooperative work in my class,

but really not. Creating a structure. Around it. And really I look

back and see how much waste of time I had in the classroom, even

though it looks like the students were working together. It wasn't

optimized. It wasn't the output that I was really helping for that

my students could produce. So that's the beauty of these types of

scaffolds, you know, that it's including those principles of

cooperative learning. And so you know that your students the

output is going to be really strong. So let's dive into four must

use collaborative learning strategies that foster positive peer

interactions. Because that's what the topic is today really

talking about those ways that our students every day can be

responding in class through oral communication skills. That is how

they will develop in their language learning journey. Even in

those newcomers. Okay, we want to provide really awesome and safe

opportunities for them to share constantly. So I'm going to also

at the end, you can check it out in the show notes, but I'm going

to be setting you up. With the tools you need to implement these

strategies quickly and easily. That's what we're all about here on

the equipping Analysts Podcast is really practical approaches to

what you're doing so you can click down and you can. Grab just

these strategies set up, but I'm going to be giving you the visual

support so that your students know what to do. If. There's

different observation checklists that you can use. Because that's

the other beautiful thing about when you're implementing these

strategies. This is an amazing opportunity for you to go and

listen and observe and take notes on how your students are doing

when they're interacting with their peers. That's we're going to

hear a lot of how they're developing in their language and

communication skills is when you're doing these types of

strategies and listening in on the student conversations. So we're

providing all that. For you, click in the show notes and get that.

All right. So let's dive in the first one, and you probably have

heard of this. But I didn't want to skip over because it is

something that's so powerful and that is to implement a think pair

share. All right. Now, a think pair share is exactly what it says.

You're going to give your students some thinking time. They're

going to pair up, talk about it. And then they can share out as a

class. And this is so important to really use this throughout the

day. If you're talking for longer than ten minutes at a time and

your student have not had a chance to respond. This is when you

want to get very good at throwing in a thin pair of shares,

prompting them. With a question highlighting the vocabulary word,

having them think about it, share with a partner what they think

it means or using in a sentence, anything that they are taking,

what you have been teaching and doing some sort of output with it.

Now with your ells, a way that you can kind of expand on this is

to first, when they're thinking. Maybe have them whisper in their

hand. Okay. A lot of times I would have my first graders just kind

of put their fist up to their mouth and whisper into it. And that

helps them to begin to develop those oral languages first, because

sometimes when we just say, okay, think about this. If we're not

checking in on our students, they might just sometimes default to

waiting to the share part and listen to their partner and take the

ano and. That's kind of. Students to really think about what we're

questioning and prompting them with. Britain their hand first. Now

they're going to share with the partner. Usually I would just say,

Find your elbow buddies, the person next to you. You could do a

mixed pair share where they walk around, they pair up. But if

you're just doing a mini lesson and you're doing some teaching,

keep it simple. Have them partner up quickly, share with one

another. Their answer to the question or the response. And that

again, is such an amazing time for you to go and listen in on one

or two partners, write some notes down and really get a feel for

where your students are at and then have them share out. And so

this again, if our students think about a student of yours who

really has a hard time with. Sharing in front of the class. If we

just ask a question. Where is the setting of this story? Let's say

and we call on somebody and we're putting them on the spot. First

of all, they're not prepared. It builds anxiety. That's the

opposite of what we want. But now think of it in this way. The ask

that same question. We give them a chance to think about it

independently. They have a time to partner up, and they get to

hear from a partner. So it either confirms. Oh, yeah. I was right.

I do know what the setting is that builds their confidence. So now

when you say anybody want to share out, they're ready to share

out. They're excited. They're confident over being put on the

spot, and now we're tearing them down. Okay. So this is why this

is a very powerful strategy that if you are not using multiple

times a day, I want to challenge you to start here and start to

use this multiple times a day. Now, like I said, we have some

diagrams, some visual support so that your students, especially.

Those newcomers when they see. Okay. All of a sudden, all the

students are looking and partnering up and talking to each other.

And I have no idea what's going on. We have visual sports. You can

say. Okay. This is your thinking part. We're not going to talk for

a minute. And I want you to just think about this question that I

asked you. All right. This is your partner time. So we have those

visual sports for you so that even your newcomers can. Easily

participate in this strategy. All right. The second one. I love

this one as well. It's called the Inside Outside Circle. And I

love this one because it's so easy to adapt to whatever you're

working on. It's a great opportunity to review, to apply. To put

the responsibility of the learning on your students. And the best

part is that all your students are going to be talking at the same

time. No longer is it going to be one student raising their hand

and responding. This is an opportunity for all your students to

get up to move and to respond. And so how this works is how I

would do it. I would give my students a note card and let's say we

were finishing up a unit, and I say, okay, think about a

vocabulary word that we learn throughout this unit. I want you to

write that vocabulary card word on your card and draw a picture.

And maybe sometimes if we had the time to say and write that word.

In a sentence. Okay. So the students have a little bit of

independent time where they're working on these cards, maybe ten

minutes or so. And now I'm going to have my students. One group is

going to be on the inside circle, and they're going to face out

and the other group is going to stand in front of that person. So

everybody should be facing one student, and each person will have

their note card in plan. And now what we're going to do is we're

going to share our note cards with each other. So the first person

will read their word, show the. Picture. Say the sentence, then

the other partner will do the same thing. Read the word, show

their picture, say the sentence. And now what's very cool is they

are going to switch. Note cards. And so this is sometimes an

opportunity where I've seen my students will correct their partner

and say. Oh, that's actually not how you would use that word in a

sentence. This is how you would use it. And they're really kind of

like they're correcting. So that student instantly is learning and

he's getting feedback and say, oh, you're right. I confused that

word with a different one. I'm going to change that real quick.

Because all of a sudden now the other partner takes on the card.

So they want to make sure it's right. And then you have the

outside circle. Step, one step to the left or the right. So they

be moved to the left. Everybody moves to the left. And now they

have a new partner and they're doing the same thing. They're going

to share the card. That the new card they have. They're going to

share the vocabulary words. They're going to share the picture.

They're going to share the sentence. They're going to listen to

the partner. They're going to switch cards again. And that outside

circle for the rotate. One step to the left. So do you see how the

whole class is. Talking is sharing. Vocabulary. Words are being

used. All at the same time. And the other beautiful part of this

is because. You're switching cards after that first initial time.

That's the only time those students will have to hold on to the

card that's theirs. And that's a lot of fear. Sometimes just

happens when those students are doubting. And they're saying, this

is all on me and. I might get made fun of for this, but as they're

switching cards, they realize, okay. This isn't about me anymore.

I'm just going to share this card that my friend made, and I'm

going to explain what he put down. And so all of a sudden, we're

taking that weight off of our students and them feeling that

they're on the spot. And now they get to show up and they get to

share vocabulary. They get to use it in a sentence. They can talk

about it with their partner while everyone's doing it at the same

time. And so that's why I love an inside output circle. And like I

said, we have some cheat sheets for you where it tells you how to

do this, how long this usually takes. Start to really implement

these things in your lessons each week. You could do that with a

different topic. You could do it with math words that they've been

working on. And it's okay if they're hearing the same word over

and over. How powerful is that for our students to be interacting

with that vocabulary in multiple different ways. And you could do

something with size vocabulary, maybe. You do something that with

a story that you've read or you give them a question and they have

to respond to it. Or you could have an answer and you're going to

give them and they have to write down a question that would go

with that answer. There's so many different ways that you could

use this strategy. But look for ways that you can start to

implement. This. All right. Number three is called numbered Heads.

And again, I love this one because all the students are talking.

All of the students are interacting at the same time. So what

they're going to do. Is. You can prompt them with a question. And

the students. Going to write down their answer. Okay. So they're

going to put their answers. Maybe individually, they're going to

write down their answer first. And then they're going to come

together and. They are going to make sure that everybody's answer

is correct. They're going to look at the answers and they talk

about them. They might even come up with one answer together as a

group. Where every person feels ready to share that out and feels

accountable because this is where the numbered part comes in. Each

student in your class in that group is going to have a number.

. Let's say they're groups of:

So each student knows, okay, I'm number one and number two. I've

never C number four. Now they don't know who's going to be called

to share. It depends what number is called, but that's why they're

going to work together as a group to either create. A dancer that

everyone feels confident and ready to share or they're just going

to check in on each other's answers and make sure that they are

correct. And so it gives a little bit of dispense of which number

is going to be called, but it helps all the students. Hold each

other accountable in making sure that they are confident and ready

to share. So after they've given them some time to talk through

the answer, maybe come up with a group answer. You're then going

to call out a number. So maybe it's hey, number two, everybody

who's number two, stand up at your table. And quickly, they're

each going to share out in the whole class. And again, this is

something quick and easy to do. It's not putting one kid on the

spot. They've had time to think through. They've had time to

prepare. And so they are ready to share it out. All right. So that

one's called Numbers Heads. And then the last one. That I love.

And there's so many other ones you could do. I'm sure I could do

part two and three or four of this podcast. So let me know if you

like these kind of podcasts, but one other one that I really enjoy

using is called Showdown. And I love using Showdown because it

really puts the responsibility of the learning and the teaching

onto the students. And anytime we can help our students feel like

they're in the role as a teacher is a good thing. And so how this

works. Is the students will be in groups and one teacher each

round will become or one student. Each round will become the

teacher. And I've done this before with just as simple as having.

Math questions. Math, just some flashcards at the table. And so

the teacher will pick up the flashcard, and they'll say, what's

five plus three. And everyone will have their own individual

whiteboard. And everyone will write down their answer. And they'll

put it face down. And that student who's the teacher that round

will say showed out. Everyone will turn their board over and the

teacher will check their answer. So the teacher needs to know what

the answer is. The teacher will go around and check and they'll

correct anybody if they're not correct. And this takes time. You

want to teach your students how to be kind and this and how to

give positive feedback and how to correct somebody in a kind way.

But you'll be surprised at how much they love to take on the role

of the teacher and how they love to help the students. So let's

say someone in the group put five plus three is ten. Well. I've

seen students second grade students who will help and show and

draw a picture and say, hey, let's go through this problem

together, see how that's helping to put the responsibility of the

teacher onto the students. They're now using what they know to

teach somebody else, building confidence in our students and their

abilities. And it's helping us to take on more of the role. Of the

facilitator, and that's where, again, this is an amazing

opportunity to walk around to those groups, to be checking in on

how the students are doing just with the questions, but also just

how they're interacting. How are they working together. How are

they making sure that everybody is getting the right answer and

understanding how to get to that answer. It's a really powerful

thing to do. And so after that. Round. A new student at the table

will become the teacher so that role will switch every round. And

it's just so helpful for those students to build confidence, to

get excited about being that teacher for a moment and to help the

other students at the table so that one is called Showdown so

quickly to review. We have Think Pair share Inside, outside,

circle, numbered heads and showdown. Think about how you could use

those this week in your lesson. And like I said. We have all of it

broken down for you so don't worry. Set you up with how quickly

and easily use these with whatever lessons you're teaching this

week. But before we end today, I want to just go over a few

different things to think about as you're setting up these groups

and different ways you can scaffold these cooperative learning

strategies. So the first one to think about is just doing some

strategic pairing and grouping. Okay. So. You might pair sometimes

your students with more proficient English speakers. So. They get

hearing. They get to hear conversations and hear that example from

maybe some native speakers or just more proficient students in the

class. Or you might pair your students with students who share the

same native language. This might be an amazing opportunity to

bring in some trans languaging opportunities where your students

are going to. Use their native language in peer discussion first

before they share out in English. So that's an awesome opportunity

as well. Or you might partner them with students who are the same

language level. And it's just going to give you a better

opportunity to scaffold maybe the questions that you're providing

each group, or the support that you're giving them in that group.

Now, something else you might want to do is if you're working with

newcomers with mixed groups in this, you might want to offer some

sentence stems. So just some different ways that they can quickly

engage in the conversation. So things like I agree with. Because

or I disagree with another perspective is even for those higher

language level students just giving them. A quick academic

language stem to respond is going to be a great way to help them

really start to apply this in conversation with peers. The next

thing you might want to do is think about how you can bring in

visual support. Like I said, just having even. The simple diagram

of what this looks like when I'm doing a think pair share, what

does the teacher mean when she's telling me to think, what does

this mean by partnering up? How do I find a partner? All those

things think those through because. If you take the time to really

teach that they will then respond really well to doing these types

of routines in the classroom. And then the other thing is like in

that last night just shared the showdown, just really making it

clear of the roles and responsibilities. This is where sometimes

cooperative learning can get out of hand or just become. Really

stressful and create an environment where it's not working very

well. Is if the roles are not clearly defined. Maybe if there's

someone who's writing down. The response. And then there's someone

who's kind of the lead on the response. There's someone who is the

teacher. In this example, whatever it is just being clear of

defining the roles or defining who's going to kind of take charge

when they're in this cooperative learning. Structure and making

sure that it's not always the same person. So that's something to

be aware of, that we have those natural leaders in our classes.

And even when you have your groups of your ell students, sometimes

those who are confident and more strong in the English language.

They tend to take the forefront quickly and easily, which is.

Great. But we want to make sure that all of our students have that

opportunity to take the lead, even if they're newer in learning

English. We want to give them that opportunity. So doing something

like that. It provides that structure and the purpose to

interaction. But it really helps them to run smoothly. So I hope

that you have some good ideas going forward into this week of how

you can be using this cooperative learning strategies to really

have opportunities for your students to be outputting. Every

single lesson that you are teaching. Really and think about how

much teacher talk time you have going on in your class and how

much student interaction time you have and try to really pull back

on your teacher talk time and push more for your students to be

able to respond. That is going to help them grow in their language

journey. I promise you. So thanks for joining me today. I will be

back next week with an incredible guest that you do not want to

miss out on. We're going to be talking about linguistic scaffold.

So I'll see you then.





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