Developmental Designs Practices in ELL

“Treat one another with respect and help one another when in need”

For Middle Level

I teach middle school English language
learners. Handshake ELLWhen I participated in Developmental Designs 1
last year and began implementation,
my goals were that students would 

1) treat one another with respect
2) help one another when in need
3) feel safe and supported
4) laugh and otherwise enjoy each
other's company.

To reach these goals, I wanted students to greet one another by name and make eye contact when communicating with each other, be inclusive, help each other, and work cooperatively. After students misbehaved, I wanted them to calm themselves down and quickly problem solve and repair a situation. I knew I had to get it across to them that
take a break (TAB) is not a punishment but a place where we regain control. Furthermore, I wanted to hear students using words of encouragement and support as they interacted.  

Tools to reach high goals
The Developmental Designs practices I used to help us achieve these goals were modeling and practicing routines and expectations; creating and maintaining a Social Contract (shared group guidelines for behavior); take a break (TAB); and the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) advisory meeting.

Tip to Try

In a daily news message, have students write what the classroom would look, sound, and feel like if everyone followed the rules. Turn their ideas into a Y-chart. When you assign group work, refer to the handy reminder of the class's ideal conditions. Your Y-chart is a very clear reminder of shared expectations.

Where to start
First, I worked on building a safe community. I established routines and made my expectations clear through modeling and practicing. The routines included what the students needed to do when they came into the classroom, such as reading the message, sitting down quietly, and getting ready to work. I asked students to journal about the kind of environment they would learn best in. Some of their responses were:

  • A quiet room
  • Everyone studying hard
  • Clean

We shared about this, and then we established three basic rules to help us create and maintain a supportive community in which we could be successful. The three rules that we came up with together were: be respectful, kind, and helpful; be responsible; and cooperate and collaborate.

The rules became our Social Contract. Once we had signed the Contract and posted it in the room, we talked about how to maintain it, and what the teacher's and students' jobs were.

Routines for discipline
I talked a lot at the start of the year about redirection: cues I would be using, and TAB, and what would happen if one of us broke a rule, no matter how minor. I told them about the TAB chair and stressed that it was a spot for all, including the teacher, to calm down when there was a need. Then I modeled how to use the TAB space and each student practiced going to and sitting on the TAB chair. Previously, when a student displayed inappropriate behavior, I verbally redirected them, interrupting whatever was going on. With TAB, I don't need to disrupt as much. I can just say, "Take a break," and continue
with the lesson. However, I am still not consistent enough in using it and aim to improve
this year.

Student feedback Marcus ELL
In November, I asked the students to write about whether they felt our efforts were succeeding. Here are some of their comments:

 "I feel that everyone is respected and accepted in the classroom, because we listen when someone is talking,
but sometimes we hear something funny, and we start talking. Generally I feel everyone is being kind and helpful to one another, because I always see people help each other."

 "They show respect for me, because when I'm talking they listen to my story."

"I think everyone is respected and accepted. People help each other to solve problems."

 "In ELL class, we don't have ridicule."

Do they feel respected and accepted?
I noticed all these things that the students mentioned. Most of the students are really good about helping each other and showing each other respect. They actively listen and use a nonverbal "me too" sign when they have similar thoughts or experiences, which has cut down on the blurting. When I work with a group, the other students are on task and only speak in low voices when they have questions for their classmates. They seemed comfortable asking one another for help and giving help to one another, whether how to spell a word or how to solve a problem.

A serious concern remains
There is one student who still is not really with the group. He does not talk much with the other students and likes to be by himself. The other students never hesitate to ask questions or to participate, but this one rarely speaks up. What we have done in class is having little effect. I think I need to create a chance for him to bond with another student, because not having a close friend makes the situation worse. I plan to set up activities during CPR where students pair up to play. This might give him an opportunity to bond with someone for a shared goal.

A lot of change
Many of the elements of the Developmental Designs approach were new to me. I had never done a Social Contract, a Y-chart, TAB, or CPR. We always went over the rules in the beginning of the school year, but we didn't create them together or refer to them. This year, everyone signed the Contract and it gave the students ownership. I could refer to it, reminding them they had signed it, which meant they were responsible for following it. And CPR gave me a chance to know my students better and also gave the students a chance to know me better. It is no longer "the students and me," it feels more like "we."

Even laughter
Finally, there is more laughter in the classroom, and the students are more willing to talk to me and the other students.

Jin Yu Chen teaches English language learners at John Pierce School in Brookline, Massachusetts.


Related Topics: 
Advisory, Building Relationship