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Learning in a Bilingual School ~ Part One: Co-Teaching

Date Posted:  Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Three vital concepts in a bilingual school are collaboration, harmonization and co-teaching. This three part blog post series will give you a glimpse into how all three of those concepts work together at EB. Collaboration refers to the time teachers spend together to plan instruction --this is crucial especially when French and English teachers teach the same students. Harmonization is how we fit together the French and American programs so they we can harmonize what we teach and how we teach it. Co-teaching refers to sessions with students when both the French and English teacher are with their class at the same time. While future newsletter articles will focus on collaboration and harmonization, this article will show some examples of how co-teaching works at EB.


In the preschool, Kindergarten, G1 and G2, each class has one co-teaching session per week. The French and English teacher come together to teach the class at the same time. There are many different options for co-teaching lessons: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, grammar, reading aloud a story in French and English, mathematics, science or social studies. Teachers can use their co-teaching lesson as a jumping off point for a bilingual project or as the culmination. Sometimes the sessions are used to prepare for or conclude a field trip to maximize the impact of experiential learning. Below are some specific examples of co-teaching at EB.

Co-teaching in Preschool and Kindergarten

In a preschool classroom, the teachers did a unit on the book Good Night, Gorilla. Each teacher read the book to the students in their respective languages. A co-teaching session focused on vocabulary where students learned the names of different jungle animals in French and English.

In Kindergarten, students learned about Native Americans during a co-teaching session. A special presentation by a parents showed students how Native Americans lived in the Bay Area long ago. In the co-teaching session, students shared what they learned from the presentation in both French and English. The French and English teachers also co-teach Madame Pacifique lessons. Vers le Pacifique is our curriculum for socio-emotional learning and conflict resolution. It’s important for students and teachers to have common tools for dealing with the affective domain.

Highlights from First and Second Grade

In a first grade classroom, teachers came together with Maggie Schoon, Instructional Coach, to teach a phonics lesson about different vowel sounds in French and English. They taught the students four different categories about how vowel sounds work in the two languages. In English, there is the “normal” sound the vowel makes (short vowel) and then there is another sound based on the long vowel (when the vowel says its name) and digraphs.

In French, the “normal” sound is the name of the letter and the other sound involves digraphs and accents. After learning about the categories, the students took simple words and placed them on a chart. The French and English teachers will use this chart throughout the year and refer back to it as students continue to review different vowel sounds in the reading and writing process.

In a first grade classroom, one co-teaching session was spent preparing for a visit to the fire station. Students drafted questions in French and English to ask the firefighters. After the visit to the fire station, each teacher developed vocabulary in separate sessions with their students and made a bilingual poster.

In another first grade classroom, a co-teaching session was devoted to helping students write holiday cards to their families in French and English.

In another classroom, a co-teaching session helped students to learn colors and emotions with a bilingual writing assignment.

In a second grade classroom, a co-teaching session focuses on the Number Corner, a bilingual tool for teaching math. The teachers focus on the vocabulary for various polygons such as a triangle, quadrilateral, pentagon, hexagon and octagon. The French and English teacher discuss the attributes of the geometric shapes and the connection between the terms which are cognates. First graders learned the names for solid figures. We use explicit instruction to make children aware of cognates.

In third, fourth and fifth grade, there are some informal opportunities for co-teaching. But these grades rely heavily on collaboration and harmonization which will be discussed in upcoming blog posts.

Co-teaching, collaboration and harmonization help teachers to deliver a bilingual curriculum that capitalizes on the connections that we create between languages.