ESL Inclusion in an elementary setting
So as of December 9, it will be my three month anniversary as a classroom teacher (first year) working with first grade ESL students. When I first started this position, I initially had four groups of students. My first and last group of the day are the smaller groups. My middle two groups were my larger and more diverse (capability wise), which made my one hour of instruction ineffective. It seemed I spent more time doing classroom management (do not get me started on this topic, PLEASE!!) which took away anywhere from five to ten minutes at any given time during the session. I must admit, I forget the rule about teaching and young children – the duration of all activities should equal the child’s age; for example, my students range in ages from 5 to 7. Therefore, activities should last anywhere from five to seven minutes in order to keep student engagement from falling flat.
Three weeks ago, I started doing push-in or inclusion with my largest and most diverse group (eight students on varying levels to be exact). My lowest students in the group needed the most attention but when I am dealing with other students, I hardly had time to make sure they were understanding what they needed to do. When this happened, the students would easily get off task. At this point, I felt that push-in may work better for this group. I came to realize that I didn’t know my students. Their homeroom teacher would know them better than I did. I felt that I needed to speak to their teacher about some of the things that they may have seen with their students. Based on some of the activities I noticed this group working in their classrooms, I decided it was time to speak with their teacher. She was more than happy to try inclusion and nearly a month later, I have seen a HUGE improvement with my ESL kids. One of my lowest students has moved past basic letter recognition and learning some digraphs. My top ESL student is reading on a super high level for her age. I am now to a point that I just check in with her and monitor her from time to time.
Two weeks later, the second largest class started their inclusion and its been rough because of student lunch and support class schedules. Nevertheless, the teacher for this group was very helpful in allowing me extra time with the students but I was not seeing all of my students. However, after sitting down with all the first grade teachers and one kindergarten teacher (I have a kindergarten group). We were able to work something out where all of my first grade ESL students would receive inclusion services for an hour. This will start on Monday.
Since I first started working the inclusion model, I have seen growth from students of both groups. As a first year teacher, I am learning more about working with very young children (historically speaking, I have worked with middle school to adult learners).
Would I recommend inclusion for all ESL teachers? I do no think I am in a place where I could say absolutely but if a teacher is thinking about doing it, then I say go for it, especially if you are a first year classroom teacher. You get to know your students’ homeroom teachers better, you get a better insight into student motivation, and it gives the ESL students an opportunity to be in a space where they are using more English with their peers instead of just the teachers.
Now if we can just work on getting a bilingual ed model :).