I talked about our book study, Scaffolding Language Scaffolding Learning: Teaching English Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom by Pauline Gibbons in the previous post. We are led by our Reading Coach, Melanie Holtsman who always tries to have us practice something as if we are students so that we can better understand how the students feel,.
This week we read Chapter 3. This chapter talks about the philosophy behind collaborative work and why it works so well with our ELL students and then gives some suggestions for group and paired activities across the curriculum. This time, we decided to try "Donut Circles" which is a well known activity that can be useful for students with low levels of English. This activity allows for practice and rehearsal which are so important to our EL learners. Children sit in two concentric circles with equal numbers of students in each circle. The outer circle faces inward, and the inner circle faces outward so that each student is facing someone from the other circle. The pairs talk in turns to each other for a minute about a teacher-suggested topic. After both students have had a turn, one of the circles moves clockwise to face a new person, while the other circle stays still, so that everyone is now opposite a new partner. The process of exchanging information is then repeated...
So... we set our first graders into two circles facing each other. Because we didn't have an even number, I took a place in one of the circles. We chose the question, What is your favorite Kevin Henkes book and why to go along with our author study and because it is something we knew the students had thought about because we had ranked the books the day before. We wanted students to practice giving their opinions and backing up the opinions with reasons. This activity would be a precursor to asking students to write their opinion about our favorite Kevin Henkes book and to give reasons and evidence from the book.
We went about five rounds. We had the inner circle share first and then the outer circle share with their partners for each round, and then the outer circle rotated and did the same thing with a new partner. As the students rotated before me I noticed that as we continued to rotate the answers got quicker but with much more detail. On the third round, I sat in front of one of my EL students, a student who traditionally struggles with English. To my surprise, he easily articulated his favorite book and gave me a really good reason! Wow! This is a strategy that we need to place in our tool box often.