Activities in your classroom can benefit English Language Learners (ELLs). They will be able to interact with the lesson content and increase their English Language proficiency. Your classroom grouping strategy will impact the success of your English Language Learners (ELLs) throughout the school year. It can also help you plan the best support for them. This article will help you plan activities and lessons for your English Language Learners.
A heterogeneous grouping refers to students with mixed abilities. The possibilities for heterogeneous grouping are endless. Students can be placed in heterogeneous groups based on their content understanding, interests, skills and behaviours, or language proficiency. Heterogeneous grouping can support students in learning from one another’s strengths and also support specific tasks or roles within a group. If left unchecked heterogeneous groups can result in one or two students finishing most of the work and feel responsible for students who don’t understand the activity. In general, ELLs are more likely to be found in heterogeneous groups. These groups include both native English speakers as well as second-language speakers of their language of instruction. These groups offer authentic communication experiences. Educators often align classroom projects and assignments to native English speakers’ grade levels, leading to more rigorous assignments. In heterogeneous groups, ELLs can interact with native speakers and learn English in a more academic setting. Sometimes, ELLs may feel distressed when teachers focus only on teaching English to native speakers. This can lead to a lack of comprehension and difficulty for the EL learner. EL learners may feel less comfortable if they are competing with native speakers. It is important to consider when heterogeneous groups should be used and how to support your ELLs during lesson activities.
A homogeneous grouping refers to students with similar abilities. Homogeneous grouping is possible in many situations. Students can be placed together based on their content understanding, reading level, learning style, behaviours, prerequisite skills, and other academic behaviours. Homogeneous grouping is great for guided reading groups, intervention activities, extension activities, and differentiation methods that require tasks to target specific skill levels or proficiency levels. You can also use it to group students based on their language level. Students may feel excluded or exclusive if they cannot be matched with other grouping methods. Students may not have as many opportunities to learn from other group members.
Two language-based methods for homogeneous groups include grouping by secondary language group or primary language group.
Second Language Groups
Students can benefit from second language groups that help them improve their English and academic content. Students learn academic content in English with others who have similar language needs. This allows you to give different instruction depending on how each student is improving their English proficiency, while still learning academic content. As long as the teacher is supportive, these groups allow consistent language practice in content lessons. If not well planned, these activities can lead to limited content depth. This is because a greater emphasis on language development may be placed. There are also fewer opportunities to learn English with native speakers within an academic setting.
Primary Language Grups
Students can explore academic material in their native language by learning it. While English is not taught or practiced here, students can communicate in their native language with one another as they engage with tasks and activities. This allows them to dig deeper into academic content and encourage mastery. Students may not be exposed to other groups regularly, so utilizing primary language group can sometimes hinder their ability to learn English at a suitable pace. This can also lead to unintended consequences, such as segregating students based on ethnicity.