Co-Teaching World Languages with @j_kuipers3 – #TrinityLearns

Is it possible to serve as an active co-teacher in a course completely out of my field of expertise? Am I willing to put myself in learning experiences where I am a beginner or a novice rather than someone who is proficient or advanced? I’ve written about this before.  If interested, please read s=v*t + 0.5a*t^2 ~ Wanneer heeft u vorige bezoek? and Sightseeing in “foreign lands” (Integrated Studies PD) #ASI2012 if interested. I’ve tried visiting the “foreign lands” of science and humanities when attending conferences with other educators.  Have I been willing to risk a visit to a “foreign land” with students in my new school?

Last week, Julia Kuipers (@j_kuipers3) and I planned a World Language project for 6th graders.  I enjoy working with Julia because she is so creative and forward thinking. The children asked her for a project – Yay! – and she asked me to brainstorm and design with her.  After planning, Julia invited me to come to class to help with the lesson.  That should be fun, right?

So, here’s what we planned from my perspective:

    • Problem: Early Learning Division (ELD) teachers need a digital resource for their young learners to use when learning the target language, and 6th graders are asking for a project.
    • Initial idea: Develop iBook for young learners to open to see and hear how to say common phrases in the target language.
      • What if 6th graders could design a resource for the ELD students to learn “May I go to the bathroom?” in the target language?
      • What if this phrase could be represented in text, visually, and in video?
      • What if we introduced the problem to the 6th graders and followed their ideas?

Now, in the most narrow of definitions, my subject area of strength is math.  I teasingly say that I speak several languages: English, math, and southern.  As far as school content goes, I am more diverse than math, but I do not speak any language other than English.

Julia’s facilitation of the first 6th grade World Languages class was masterful.  She began the class by having the 6th graders develop behavioral norms for working together.


Her resources were posted on the link to languages wiki space.  It said

Problem solving with Mrs. Gough –
Use the google doc below.

On these Google docs, Julia had predetermined the groups of learners as shown in the screenshot below:

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 7.57.20 PM

For those who don’t know, we use Rosetta Stone to allow our young learners to choose a 2nd language to study.  In the first class of the day, there are many languages being learned: French, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Japanese, etc. Needless to say I am way out of my content league! I assumed I was there to help with the technology aspects of the project.  In my normal fashion when asked, I replied “have you Googled it?” as a first response.  The kids made progress and seemed energized by the project work.  They were creative about using our spaces to work together.  I love their sense of independence.

IMG_2084 IMG_2088 IMG_2093

Before class ended, Julia reconvened the learners and facilitated a discussion (a formative assessment) on how well they met the established norms.  Successes and struggles were also discussed with brainstorming toward possible solutions.


Then, a scary thing happened.  Julia asked me to lead the second class.  She said she felt she would learn if she saw me introduce the lesson.  <GULP! I don’t teach languages, and I haven’t taught 6th graders.> I agreed as long as she would help me establish norms.   So, I set about facilitating the class my way – through questioning.  I explained the problem, and asked these young learners what they thought we could do to address the problem for our teachers.  We talked about leadership of 6th graders to our younger learners.  Through the questions – I don’t know what they were because I did not record them – we arrived at the same tasks to attack as the previous period.

Here’s the interesting thing.  Julia and I set out to help them write an iBook.  Through their questions, we learned that these young learners could be interested in writing an iBook, but they could also be interested in designing a website, using QR codes, and other web 2.0 tools.  A website could be accessed at home, Ms. Gough, so students can practice. QR codes could be posted in the classroom and at the entrance of the bathroom.

Wow! Listening to our young learners…letting them take charge improves the work and product.

And then…I received feedback from Julia.  Real, in the moment, feedback with a request for application.  Feedback about something that I was unaware that I was doing.  The power of peer feedback never ceases to amaze me.  She liked the questioning technique to guide and elicit ideas.  She liked that I positively acknowledged every offered idea and help  learners refine ideas based through more questions.

Julia took the lead for the third class and facilitated the lesson using questions.  It was awesome! I loved seeing her practice a different way to launch a project.  How often am I willing to let go of my really good, nicely planned lesson method to try something new?

How often do we risk trying something new and out of our planned comfort? How often do we risk collaborating with others to observe and learn from each other? Is it so easy to do what I’m good at that I am unwilling to risk? Why would our learners take risks if I won’t?

Even though I don’t speak any World Language other than English, I’ve been invited back to c0-teach again.  Now that I’ve done it once, I’m excited to try again.


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