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Learning in a Bilingual School ~ Part Two: Collaboration

Blog Type:  Bilingualism Lower School
Date Posted:  Thursday, February 14, 2019

Three vital concepts in a bilingual school are collaboration, harmonization and co-teaching. This article is the second part of a three-part series examining those three ideas. Read the first part about co-teaching here, which refers to sessions with students when both the French and English teacher are with their class at the same time.

Collaboration refers to the time teachers spend together to plan instruction - this is crucial especially when French and English teachers teach the same students. This article will give you some examples of how we collaborate at EB.
 

Two French teachers in the same grade level evaluating student work.

In order to deliver a harmonized bilingual curriculum, our teachers spend a great deal of time collaborating together. At EB, our teachers have different opportunities for collaboration with varying goals.

One example of collaboration is between like-language colleagues. The French teachers at a certain grade level regularly meet to plan lessons and curriculum, grade level assessments, and special events like field trips or celebrations.

Ensuring Curriculum Consistency

These collaborations happen officially on a weekly basis but many teachers will connect more often to plan together. Although each teacher brings their own unique flare and teaching style, the curriculum students receive in EB is the same no matter what classroom they are in.

Two French teachers in 2nd grade collaborating.

The French teachers also collaborate with each other at larger gatherings that include all the French teachers. Topics could include the French Ministry of Education assessments or the upcoming visit of two French authors to EB.

The English faculty also has opportunities to connect with grade level partners or the entire English faculty. English teachers recently implemented Zearn math, a website that provides individualized math instruction for students to do at school and at home. Our two fifth grade English teachers recently met to plan the upcoming Walk Through the American Revolution event, an on-site field trip where history comes alive.

Collaboration at Many Levels

Another very important aspect of collaboration is between French and English colleagues at the same grade level. Every child at EB has an English teacher and a French teacher and we want to make sure the bilingual curriculum is cohesive and the connections between the languages make sense.

Teachers collaborate to plan co-teaching lessons but also to plan lesson and units that happen in parallel, that is during separate French and English instructional time, to ensure a connection between what students are learning in the two languages.

Teachers meet sometimes in groups of grade levels during weekly meetings. 

The G2 team recently collaborated together and decided to teach fairy tales during English and French language arts instruction. Our G5 team taught math bilingually for the first few months of the school year so they met regularly to calibrate all the lessons students were receiving in each language. The G4 team met to plan their writer’s workshop unit on realistic fiction. The G3 team met recently to plan bilingual math units on area and fractions. The G1 team met to discuss how they could connect phonics instruction by discussing similar and different sounds for letters in French and English.

Connecting Learning Between the Languages

This collaboration time ensures that our bilingual curriculum is delivered in a way that makes sense for students and connects learning between the languages.

Collaboration meetings can happen at a variety of times. Each grade level has a weekly meeting when they can connect, sometimes during lunch, after school or when they students are at PE or music class.

In addition, teachers participate in meetings every Wednesday from 3:45pm to 5:00pm. These meetings can be for grade levels, cycles (groupings of grade levels) or language-alike teams to work together and the topics can vary from curriculum to planning school events.

Many Opportunities for Collaboration

Teachers have an intensive period of collaboration during the week-long pre-rentrée period before school begins. This week in late August allows teachers to work together as they set up their classrooms and plan for the curriculum to be delivered that school year.

Teachers also have two days of meetings when the school year ends. There are also three days during the school year which serve as all-day professional development days. There are no students at school on those three days to allow in-depth work.

In the past, staff development days have been dedicated to such topics as our math curriculum, our STEAM program, balanced literacy, reader’s and writer’s workshop, our socio-emotional curriculum, gender spectrum issues and restorative justice. On February 15th, teachers collaborated on creating our accreditation report for the California Association of Independent Schools.

At EB, we value the time that teachers dedicate to collaboration--they spent countless hours working together to provide a harmonized curriculum. Our school wants to continue to use our scheduling process to create even more opportunities for teacher collaboration. We know this valuable time together contributes to the success of students in the classroom.

Our next article in the series will focus on harmonization. It refers to how we fit together the French and American programs so they we can harmonize what we teach and how we teach it.