Sunday, March 27, 2016

We love collaboration like this!

As an ESL teacher and frequent co-teacher, I love it when a good collaboration comes together, but we had never done this. Watching our students, who collectively represent 12 nationalities, work over the course of a week, we couldn't help but question over and over--why hadn't we done this earlier? Why hadn't we teamed together with our Spanish language learners?

What did it look like?
Spanish II language learners working together with English language learners (newcomers to level 3/ developing), discussing values, getting to know one another, and navigating their way through language with renewed -- and real -- motivation. This was, in so many senses of the phrase, collaborative teen magic.

The big picture goal? Create an artistic representation of your values, with a written description of both art and artist. These pieces would in turn, be sent to students in Guatemala (via Creative Connections, one of my favorite global education partners), in exchange for art from them. To up the ante a little more, we will skype with the students, too, and we will share our mutual analyses and thoughts about our artwork.

How did we get to that big picture?

Beginning with the first day, students introduced themselves in the language they are learning. Some were more adept than others, many had to overcome shyness and a bit of embarrassment. BUT, once they saw that others shared their discomfort, and lack of fluency, I swear there was a collective sigh of surprise--then relief--as it dawned on them that hey, I'm not alone in my struggles here.

Over the course of 5 days, here's what students worked on:
  • Compare and contrast  dislikes, likes, and values, with English learners writing in English, Spanish language learners writing in Spanish. Students used each other and dictionaries as resources --but no Google Translate! No computers. Just each other.
  • Descriptions of themselves, their goals, their likes, and other personal information--again navigating their way in English and Spanish, using each others' strengths, and learning more conversational vocabulary. 
  • Creating art to represent themselves, particularly what they value, in their family, their community, or in general.
  • Oral presentations to the class to share their art and what it represented.

As for assessments? They were ongoing. The other teachers and I could constantly float from one group to the other to ask questions, clarify vocabulary, extend thinking, and simply strike up small conversations about what they had written or had drawn. All domains of language learning were in full play: listening, speaking, writing, and some reading--definitely lots of thinking going on. 

Students were motivated, and looked forward to working together. They were even willing to take a later lunch so that schedules matched up! (Teenagers taking a later lunch...say it ain't so!) 

But, don't take my word for it. Have a look at pictures of bilingual collaboration in 2016.

Brainstorming together, in Spanish and English 

Creating their art together

Sharing their values through art

Even though we'd never done this before, you can be sure we'll be doing this again! And a HUGE shout-out to my colleagues who can take an idea and make it grow!

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