Did you know blended learning is a great option for English language learners (ELL)?
As you may already be aware, blended learning offers a platform to provide a mixture of offline and online learning. This enables educators to support their students as individuals. Whether that be in a small group, as a whole class or on a one-to-one basis. This is exactly why blended learning is a great solution to support the requirements for English language learners.
This doesn’t replace the teacher, but gives more control to students in terms of their pace of learning and path. This is great for building ELLs’ confidence. This also means students take ownership over their learning, increasing their motivation to learn and progress.
However, did you also know that blended learning models can provide opportunities for teamwork too? Although there are various models of blended learning, let’s explore one of these, the Station Rotation model. This is fantastic for ELLs and is the most popular model we’ve seen in international schools.
Learning with the Station Rotation model
The Station Rotation model is a blended learning strategy that is relatively easy to implement, and it only requires a little movement across the classroom to make it work. It also means that students can work at their level, so there should be higher retention of information, and instruction can be differentiated easily.
The example below shows how we’ve seen some of our schools implement blended learning to support ELL, where they split their ELL students up into three mixed-ability groups. Each group moves from one station to the next, rotating around the classroom until all three stations have been completed.
Station 1: Collaborative group work
The first area involved the school focusing predominantly on collaborative group work, to support team building and boost student confidence. Within this group the students were given activities related to the objective “respond to a spoken phrase or sentence with a gesture or an action”. Students worked together, taking it in turns to read aloud phrases to the group with their team, responding with gestures. To make this easier or harder depending on the group ability, the educator gave differing phrases for the groups to work on.
Station 2: Online learning
The next station in the station rotation model involves support with visual and audio learning through online learning. This is more for individualized learning, which is great for those ELLs who prefer to learn in that way, but students could work in teams on computers. However, students worked in an online program with lesson material the teacher had set for them – this could be material from a solution such as EducationCity or Exact Path. This was set based on their ability. It was great as it allowed the students to take ownership over their learning. They could also practice vital language skills through audio and visual cues.
Station 3: Group work with the teacher
The final station the students worked through involved group work with the teacher, face to face. The students had been grouped based on their similar needs. So when these students came to the face-to-face instruction, the teacher could focus on certain groups of students, which could incorporate team building. This helped to bring them up to speed and set extension activities with the teacher’s support. This was great as we could see that the students did not need that 1:1 instruction. They could still work together with the teacher to achieve academic success for the lesson. In turn, this promoted both teamwork and individualized learning.
This is just one example of how the Station Rotation model can work in the classroom. However its flexibility means you can adapt it to suit your classroom and students. You could change the ideas here to different methods of learning or tweak certain processes – it’s up to you!
Best practices to help ELLs to stay on track
Once you establish any of these models, you may want to use these best practices to ensure ELLs stay on track:
- Remain focused (ensure all content, be it online or offline, supports each other and adheres to expectations and outcomes).
- You’ll want to provide expectations and outcomes that are clear (English language learners need step-by-step instructions).
- Search for engaging material to use.
- Give your students effective feedback on a regular basis (students will stay updated with all they need to know).
Although we’ve focused on Station Rotation here, there are various blended learning methods you could use for ELL (make sure you look at our top tips for supporting ELLs blog if you haven’t already). Some of them will be better for you than others for teamwork or individualized learning – you know best! Overall though, just make sure you clearly define expectations and outcomes to your students. Also, provide that information to them to make sure it runs successfully! But have fun with it. There is no right or wrong way to implement blended learning. What’s more, no two students are the same.