As a classroom teacher, I am constantly reminded of the importance of group work. Students learn best from their peers and I was reminded of this as I worked with a student the other day.
Her name is Parastou. Parastou came to me as a fifth grade student from Afghanistan. Before arriving in Colorado, she had spent her whole life living in a single room house in a war zone. She came to me knowing no English at all, and only speaking Parsi.
I spent the first week trying to get to know Parastou by using picture cards. I would match a phrase such as “bathroom” with a picture of the bathroom. Parastou quickly picked up on these simple commands and cues. I wanted her to start to understand more of the social language used in our school, in hopes that she could connect with her peers. I invited her to eat lunch with me several times, but most of the sessions were silent lunches.
I then paired her up with some other softer-spoken girls in my class. They began to include her in jump rope games at recess, in classroom conversations, and at the lunch table. It was amazing how quickly she picked up the language from these girls.
It is important that I remember Parastou as I continue to teach 20-30 students per year. Pairing English language learners (ELLs) with other students is so powerful and helps them grow as learners and communicators.
I am constantly trying to create collaborative experiences and situations for my students of second languages. After all, they learn best from their peers!