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I’ve written a lot about how we’ve been dramatically increasing the number of peer tutors in my ELL classes in order to accelerate learning, and thought readers might find it useful to hear about how my classes typically go.

Though the actual activities vary greatly, the rhythm is pretty similar day-to-day and, based on anonymous student survey results, they seem to like it a lot.

We’re also in discussions to figure out ways we can determine though the use of data and comparisons if it’s working as well as we think it is, like we did with our Long-Term English Language Learner program.

All my classes, including my two ELL ones (a US History class for Intermediate ELL, and an English for Newcomers class) begin with a warm-up that students know to begin no later than one-minute before the bell rings to officially start the class.

Both of my ELL classes have warm-ups students do on their laptops. In History, students do Brainpop activities related to the content we are studying and, once those are completed, they either read a hardcopy book of their choice related to history or read on Epic!, an online reading library.  In my Newcomers class, most student work on Quill, though they can choose from a variety of other websites and some, instead, work on ones like LingoHut or RazKids.  They, too, if they want to, can read a hardcopy book or go to Epic!

Note that, though the warm-ups on tech-based, only about twenty-percent of class work this year is done on laptops.  This is in contrast to last year when, coming off a year of distance learning, I chose to do the reverse percentage.  It was clear to me then that, though that worked well in my IB classes, my younger ELL students strongly preferred paper.

Both warm-up activities last a little less than ten minutes.  To maximize instructional time, peer tutors pass out all materials.  During these warm-ups, peer tutors (who have between one-and-four students assigned to them) are required to also take their students individually to a separate room or outside at least twice each week – one time to have their students read to them from their book (as well as to help them select a new one if they want to change) and one time for SEL-related (check in how they are feeling, etc.).  Those SEL conversations also include a weekly “focus” question I give to the tutors.

Prior to tutors doing those individual conversations, and after they have passed out instructional materials, they do some “prep” on their own.  When the Lead Peer Tutor for the period comes in, she takes a photos of slide on my computer that lays-out the plan for the day and sends it as a peer tutor group text.

Here’s the slide for tomorrow’s US History class (which is overly ambitious and whose activities will almost certainly flow into Thursday):

And here’s the slide for the Newcomers class (with some student names deleted):

Peer tutors read it and, after class begins, the Lead Peer Tutor takes all the peer tutors outside for a minute to go over the plan so everyone is clear.

The warm-up is then followed by an Oral Language activity.  I display it on the overhead as a question-and- answer.  Students write it down in notebooks.

In my US History class, these emphasis academic vocabulary development.  Here’s the slide for tomorrow:


In my Newcomers class, it’s focused on basic conversation. You can see 150 of those prompts here, and here’s what we’ll do tomorrow:


In History, peer tutors take their groups outside, their students share what they wrote, and then they combine with another peer tutor group to all share again (at the end of each week, students write sentences using the academic words they learned and share them in the same process).  If there’s any extra time, peer tutors will review academic words from previous days.  Then, everyone comes back in and I teach a short lesson.

In my Newcomers class, Peer tutors take their students out, they share what they wrote, and then two people are chosen to come to the front of the class when we re-enter the room and perform the dialogue with a microphone.  Then, I teach a short lesson.

Most days, the short lesson then leads to the peer tutors taking their groups either to another room or outside to do an activity.

Tomorrow, in History, my short lesson will be reading the first page in our History book chapter about the Jamestown settlement.  I’ll display the page on the doc cam, read it aloud, and write a summary for it.  Peer tutors will then take students in their groups to have them take turns reading paragraphs from the remaining two pages in the chapter aloud, helping them develop summary sentences for each page, and assisting students in pronunciation and comprehension.   The plan on tomorrow’s above slide is probably too ambitious for the time we have in class,  but then they’ll come in and we should have time to review those pages as a class and, at least, watch a short movie on the Salem Witch Trials.

Often times, we’ll end History class with a short Quizizz or Kahoot game.  The game will either be on one of the Brainpop movies they’ve watched or will be one the peer tutors have created about the chapters they’ve recently read.

In the Newcomers class, we’re now learning to tell the time in English.  So, tomorrow, I’ll do a brief lesson on it, and then peer tutors will take students out to do some exercises on telling time in a workbook we use, and then play a game about it.

Then, when they return, we’ll play a Quizizz game on composing questions, which is part of a typical grammar-teaching sequence I use.

Peer tutors in his class also create games reviewing content we’ve recently covered.  Usually, at some time during the week, I’ll teach a longer lesson without needing the tutors.  During that time, they go into another room and create these online games.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this kind of individualized attention seems to working…