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ELLs in Modern Learning Environments

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Started by Andrew Hardie 18 Feb 2015 3:32pm () Replies (2)

Hi All

Just wondering if anyone has any experience of working with ELLs in a Modern Learning Environment. Like many schools, we are in the early stages of planning for the transition and discussing how it will affect our students and families. Some questions we have are:

How has the teaching changed as a result?

What was the reaction of parents? Expectations?

How are the children coping?

Andrew and Mary


  • Janet McQueen (View all users posts) 24 Feb 2015 4:42pm ()

    Hi Andrew

    With so many schools moving to modern learning environments this is a very important question to ask. Personally I have not taught in such an environment but I think you are on the right track by asking these questions at the start of the process. 

    There is such a wide range of MLE but generally they seem to consist of more flexible classroom spaces and furniture, and a greater use of digital learning technologies etc. I am assuming this is what you mean by the term. 

    Like everything I think it comes down to quality teaching and having effective structures and routines among all the flexibility. They remind me a little of open plan schools that were often unpopular but when they worked they worked brilliantly.

    It might take a little longer for a student from another country or with limited schooling to adjust and to know where to go when etc. But with appropriate scaffolding they will get there and with differentiated learning and explicit language instruction they may thrive. 

    While I was at the MOE I was involved in project managing the development of the ELLINZ programme which is aimed at year 7-13 ELLS working at the Foundation or stage 1 level of the English Language Learning Progressions. It is taught online by a remote ESOL eTeacher to students who sometimes had no prior schooling e.g. refugees or English. When we began it was quite ground breaking and there wasn't a lot to base it upon. We tried to incorporate the best principles from the two worlds of second language acquisition research and from eLearning research.  Sometimes we would swing too far down the elearning track and the students weren't really ready for the demands placed upon them.  They certainly needed a teacher aide alongside to help them with the technology etc. 

    At first a lot of the teaching time needed to be on teaching the students the language of computing, how to use the various digital tools and programmes etc but this decreased in time and more time was available for explicit language teaching. The teachers needed to be very flexible and were constantly tweaking the programme and the materials. In the beginning language progress seemed slow and we wondered if the digital barrier was just too large. However they got there and once we were over the technology hurdle they thrived. Eventually most made accelerated language progress whilst on the programme.  

    So why did we get these good results? I think it came down to explicit teaching of language, through the use of technology teachers were better able to design individualised student work which was targeted at their particular learning needs. Plus for most students it was very motivating being able to work online. They often became the class go to person for technology which also gave them an area of expertise within the class.  

    I hope this goes some way towards addressing your questions. It would certainly make a good teacher inquiry topic. I would love to hear from teachers who are already teaching in Modern learning environments. 

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