Collaborative planning and teaching
Collaborative planning can involve a single teacher and an EAL teacher working together, or a team of teachers and an EAL teacher working together. Planning can be done at the curriculum or unit planning level, and take place during the implementation of the program, to allow for changing student learning needs.
A common format may be used for unit planning, and this can be copied for all members of the planning team. Planning is a key element in the implementation of an EAL program. In collaborative planning classroom teachers and EAL teachers plan together, each of them bringing important information to the planning session.
Collaborative planning is most successful when the roles and expectations of classroom and specialist teachers are clear. If the EAL teacher is also involved in parallel or similar-needs teaching, collaborative planning ensures that both teachers are working towards the same learning goals. It allows for flexibility in implementing the program and sharing knowledge about the learner’s progress.
Classroom/subject teachers have knowledge of:
- the content and methodology through which to teach the area content
- the EAL learners, who they have been able to observe working in many different learning contexts.
EAL teachers bring knowledge of second language acquisition and EAL teaching to:
- identify the stage of language development of the EAL learner
- set reasonable learning goals and identify effective strategies which will enhance English language learning
- plan assessment activities aligned with the levels of the Victorian Curriculum F-10 EAL that identify the learner’s competence and needs.
Where the EAL teacher’s time allocation is limited, or EAL learners are spread across several year levels, collaborative planning may represent the optimal use of an EAL teacher. It provides EAL-informed input into the ongoing classroom program and may therefore have greater overall effect than a brief teaching session directly with the EAL learners. Collaborative planning is also particularly effective when new programs or teaching approaches are being implemented.
Team teaching is an effective strategy for EAL provision. In this model, the classroom teacher and an EAL teacher share responsibility for assessing students and planning, teaching, and evaluating the EAL program. It is crucial that collaborative planning is undertaken. Part of the planning session should involve deciding on the tasks in which students may benefit most from having two teachers, and the tasks in which EAL learners may need most support.
Team teaching may be most useful in:
- activities where EAL learners are introduced to new tasks or are working in cooperative groups on a challenging task
- introducing EAL learners to new information to prepare them for a future task.
Team teaching is most successful when both the EAL teacher and the classroom teacher have shared beliefs about language teaching and learning. The role of both teachers may change from week to week, depending on the needs of the students and the demands of the curriculum. Team teaching provides the flexibility to use a range of effective classroom organisational options which may be demanding for the classroom teacher to implement alone. These may include small group work, conferencing, or teaching that focuses on particular language items, or on preparing EAL learners for a new topic or activity.
Parallel teaching involves both the classroom teacher and the EAL teacher presenting the same content to students, but with an EAL teacher teaching the EAL learners and focusing in particular on the language demands of the task. While they are likely to use separate teaching locations and different activities, teachers need to plan collaboratively to ensure that they share goals, and that all students are covering the basic classroom curriculum.
Parallel teaching may be particularly effective at the start of a new unit, when EAL learners may need to learn new vocabulary and concepts, or when a task is particularly demanding linguistically, for example, writing a report where students need to revise the structures and features of the text type.
In secondary schools, EAL classes for a subject area may run parallel to, and in place of, mainstream English classes, or in subject areas such as Science, Mathematics or Humanities. Parallel classes work particularly well when there are multiple students in a particular year level or operating at a particular stage of EAL development.
Similar-needs classes may be organised in response to particular EAL learner needs.
In similar-needs classes, content is chosen that is most appropriate to the students at their level of development.
Similar-needs classes may be used to prepare students for the language demands across the curriculum or to recycle language that still requires more practice. Similar-needs classes should be based on English language learning needs and can include students from more than one class. This kind of provision is also suitable where small numbers of EAL learners, at similar stages of development in classes at the same year level (or across year levels), are brought together to maximise the time they can spend in a targeted EAL program. Similar-needs classes are particularly effective for newly arrived students.
Planning between the EAL teacher and classroom teachers is an essential element of such classes and ensures that the EAL program remains relevant to the mainstream classroom program.
Reviewed 21 February 2022