I thought that the first few small group strategies (taken from Teaching the Social Skills of Academic Interaction by Daniels and Steineke ) the students practiced were enough.
I divided the ELLs into larger groups in order to create their Talk Shows. I reminded them of the behaviors of contributors to dynamic discussions. We all turned to the anchor chart.
However, I soon realized that I had not prepared the students thoroughly enough. I had not prepared them to participate in ongoing small group discussions, and more importantly, how to reach consensus. One group was in trouble. Not every students’ voice was heard so I returned to Daniels and Steineke,
I paused the script writing and followed the directions of ‘Hearing Everyone’s Ideas First’ (167). Many years ago I learnt from Larry Ferlazzo that a teacher must be able to apologize. This was not the first occasion I told my ELLs: “Mea Culpa. I am sorry.”
So we took a few steps back.
We created another anchor chart of what supportive groups sound like (as recommended in the book). The students came up with various suggestions to engage every member including setting the ground rules, the importance of having an ‘energizer’ as well as sometimes just going with the flow.
Kids never cease to surprise me with their insight. Perhaps the fact that they had already experienced what wasn’t working in their groups, meant that they knew exactly what they needed to work on.
The students added a few of their own. The ‘conch’ is a connection to Lord of the Flies which we read last year. So proud of my ELLs.
What a difference!
My takeaway: I should trust experts such as Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Nancy Steineke, and take the time to follow their carefully crafted , scaffolded lessons building on each skill.