Multi-Level ELL Classrooms [Science]
CALL: Computer Assisted Language
Cooperative Learning
by Nettie Wong, Suzanne McNeil & Ben Johnston (EDPY 413)
University of Alberta
CALL – Computer Assisted
Language Learning
and the multi-level ELL classroom
What makes CALL suitable for
the multi-level ELL classroom?
 What are some additional
benefits of using CALL?
 What are some
cautions/barriers of CALL?
 Practical uses for the science
What makes CALL suitable for the
multi-level ELL classroom?
1. Comprehensible Input
Krashen’s Comprehensible Input
Hypothesis (Beatty, 2003)
Customized software:
Offers assistance when prompted by the
Allows the learner to select his/her own
language proficiency level
May come in the form of computer
adaptive testing (CAT) where the learner
is guided towards easier or more difficult
tasks based on his/her responses to
What makes CALL suitable for the
multi-level ELL classroom?
2. Self-paced Instruction & Lowered
Affective Filter
Learners have more control over their own
learning (autonomy).
Slower learners can work at a comfortable
pace and can review material as many
times as needed. This may help to
increase their confidence.
Faster learners have more opportunity for
accelerated learning and enrichment.
What makes CALL suitable for the
multi-level ELL classroom?
3. Opportunities for
- Students can work in pairs,
scaffolding one another and
verbally interacting to solve
problems and negotiate answers
- ELLs are encouraged to
brainstorm and talk about their
learning discoveries
What are some additional
benefits to using CALL?
1. Authentic Tasks
The Internet offers a
wealth of resources
Audio and visual clips
permit learners to listen
and watch native
speakers in realistic,
meaningful, cultural
environments (Braul,
E.g., e-mail, discussion
boards, computer
conferencing, engage
learners in authentic
2. CALL Feedback
- Is immediate
- Software programs can
correct student
responses instantly or
they can provide hints
so that students
pinpoint their own
- Tracks the learner’s
individual progress
What are some problems with
Financial cost
Poorly chosen/designed CALL
Lack of professional development
for teachers
Skepticism regarding CALL
effectiveness/resistance to change
The “Omnipotence Fallacy” & the
“Sole Agent Fallacy” (Bax, 2003)
Practical uses for the science
(elementary &
middle school)
Interact, Watch
& Read
Practical uses for the science
Tom Snyder
(Grades K-12)
Practical uses for the science
McGraw-Hill’s Wright Group Content
Essentials for Science (Grades K-6)
Practical uses for the science
Webquest for Grade 8 Unit E:
Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
Cooperative Learning for ELLs
in Multilevel Classes
Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is based on
student-centered learning.
“Structured student interactions …
that promote a sense of community
among students and involves
Spencer Kagan’s four principles of
cooperative learning: positive
interdependence, individual
accountability, equal participation
and simultaneous interaction.”
(Mason, 2006)
Cooperative Learning
Storch (2007) refers to group
and pair work as “‘collective
scaffolding’, a process whereby
learners pool their linguistic
resources in order to reach
resolutions to language-related
Benefits of Cooperative
Small groups give the learner more
opportunities to use the second
language for a range of functions
other than teacher-led activities
(Storch, 2007).
Storch also says cooperative
learning facilitates learning by giving
“opportunities to give and receive
Benefits of Cooperative
Learning in Teaching ESL
Students in a cooperative learning
environment [perceive] their
environment more favorably
(Gomleksiz, 2007).
Students who work in pairs produce
more grammatically accurate texts
(Storch, 2007) i.e. they paid more
attention to items that needed
Benefits of Cooperative
One of the other benefits of cooperative
learning is that “its interconnectedness can
help students transcend the gender, racial,
cultural, linguistic, and other differences
they may sense among themselves”
(Mason, 2006).
Peers of different proficiency levels could
benefit from working with one another,
when they work collaboratively (Watanabe
& Swain, 2007).
Requirements for Successful
Cooperative Learning
Teachers must provide language
supports so that students are able to
succeed complete the task
successfully (i.e. vocabulary
Learners often go through a “silent
period” in which they listen more
than they are able to speak (Mason,
2006). This is a normal stage, but it
can cause some difficulties in
cooperative learning activities.
Requirements for Successful
Cooperative Learning
Often, in group work,
students who do not
speak up are viewed
as not fulfilling their
responsibility (Mason,
2006) – it is important
for teachers to take
students’ comfort and
ability levels into
consideration, and to
make the cooperating
students aware of
Requirements for Successful
Cooperative Learning
Low self-esteem, fear of ridicule,
and lack of motivation can
disrupt a learner’s ability to
comprehend and respond to
meaningful input (Mason, 2006).
Students need to be comfortable
in their environment, so they can
learn to their best capacity.
General Principles
Tasks are designed so that
individuals must work together
Positive interactions are
developed and encouraged
Students have opportunities to
work in different groups
Social, language and content
skills are integrated into the task
(50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners, Herrell and Jordan, 2008)
Cooperative Learning
Pair work
 Students can be paired with partners
of equal or differing proficiency
 Often, having a stronger English
model is beneficial – and that
stronger student can be groomed to
be a tutor
 Instead of letting the students
choose the pairs, the teacher may
need to select the students
(considering gender, personality and
Pair Work Strategies
Buddy Reading
Research Interview
Conversation Role-Play
“Convince Me”
(50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners, Herrell and Jordan, 2008)
Group Work Strategies
Skills Grouping
Group Work Strategies
Skills Grouping
 Skills grouping allows the teacher to
arrange students according to their
instructional needs
 The teacher observes the areas of need,
then splits the class into groups which are
then given differentiated tasks, according
to need, i.e., making modifications to the
tasks. (Giving students simplified tasks or
 The teacher needs to be able to spend
time with each group while the others are
(50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners, Herrell and Jordan, 2008)
Group Work Strategies
Long-Term Groupings
 While many in-class activities are
short-term, long-term group activities
promote a “strong sense of
community and solidarity” (Baurain,
 Baurain recommends:
giving handouts to students after
group presentations, so they don’t feel
like they are missing out
creating a “group contract” to keep
students focused and participating
Applications For Content
Classes (Science)
Group work can be particularly
useful during laboratory activities or
research projects
Example for Science 7, Unit B:
Plants for Food and Fibre
Curriculum point: Unit B, 2.3
“investigate and interpret
variation in needs of different
plants and their tolerance for
different growing conditions.”
Suggested activity: a long-term
jigsaw group project with
integrated skill grouping
Example for Science 7, Unit B
Plants for Food and Fibre
Students are put into “home groups” of at
least four students per group.
Students break into “research groups” of
three to four students. This research group
is composed of students of similar skill or
proficiency levels (skill grouping).
The research groups each have a different
kind of plant that they are responsible for
manipulating under certain conditions,
which will vary weekly (moisture-drought,
salinity, light, etc).
Example for Science 7, Unit B:
Plants for Food and Fibre
After each activity in the research group, students
return to the home group and report their findings
and discuss those findings.
To help students, a handout with interview questions
can be provided. Students can refer to the interview
questions to help elicit information from their group
Collective findings should be logged in a worksheet
which can be handed out to fellow group members
after the activity (and so that the teacher can assess
participation and progress).
Example for Science 7, Unit B
Plants for Food and Fibre
The research group, which consists of
students of similar levels, allows the
teacher to modify activities to suit their
The home group creates a heterogeneous
group that provides different English
models for students
Both groups provide the students with
opportunities for communication as they
are responsible for ensuring their group
members learn from each others’ research.
Group and pair work activities give ESL
learners more opportunity for
communicative feedback, especially when
paired with a strong English model.
With careful moderation and structure on
behalf of the teacher, group and pair work
activities encourage communication,
relationship building and involvement in
content. They can and should be used in
content classes.
Assessment in Multi-Level Classrooms
Assessment in Multi-Level
Assessment, never an easy part of a
teacher’s job, can be complicated by
the presence of ESL students in the
ESL students, regardless of ability,
are not going to perform as well as
native speakers on tests designed
for native speakers.
Ethical dilemma
Is it fair to treat ESL students
differently from native speakers?
(e.g., extra time on assignments,
help on tests, marking effort rather
than participation, etc.)
If we don’t, how can we mark ESL
students fairly?
Use different forms of assessment
for the whole class
Practical ideas for assessment
techniques that aren’t exclusive
to ESL students
Saves time for you
More variety for students
Milnes & Cheng (2008)
Grading ESL students in mainstream
classrooms can be complicated by a
“success bias”.
This is where teachers believe ESL
students are being treated unfairly, so they
set out to grade ESL students with the
preset goal of giving them good marks.
e.g., Motivation and effort are given more
Not only is this unfair, but it hurts ESL
students in the long run.
How can we fix this?
Clarify expectations…both for
yourself and for ESL students.
Provide rubrics to students on more
assignments, and in more detail,
than you usually would.
Written in simple, straightforward
English (no “teacher speak”).
Describe the general structure
and function of seed plants. [2-1]
3 (Excellent)
2 (Good)
1 (Poor)
- Spelling is perfect
or almost perfect
- All plant parts are
labeled correctly
Spelling is good, but
there are 3-5 mistakes
- One or two plant
parts are wrong
- All or almost all
the important parts
are described in
point form
- One or two plant
parts are not
described in point form
- Most of the plant
parts are not
described in point
The drawing and
labels are neat
- Writing is neat and
easy to read
The drawing and
labels are neat
- Writing is messy and
hard to read
Spelling has a lot
of mistakes
- Most of the plant
parts are wrong
The drawing and
labels are hard to
- Writing is messy
and hard to read
Simple, easy-to-understand
Specific evaluation criteria
The key is to communicate
expectations clearly
Role plays
A nice change
of pace in the
Does not put
emphasis on
Works for both
ESL students
and native
Give ESL students extra help
early in the term
Group work
Have native speakers present
first (practical modelling)
The idea is to provide extra
support to ELLs, and then
gradually wean them away from
Describe the processes of diffusion, osmosis,
conduction of fluids, transpiration,
photosynthesis and gas exchange in plants.
 Students divide into groups.
 Individual students represent individual
molecules (water, oxygen, etc.).
 The other students join hands and
represent a cell membrane or cell wall.
 Students rehearse and demonstrate the
process or processes they are assigned.
Could be combined with a short explanation
of the process to the class.
Or with a fill-in-the-blank worksheet that the
rest of the class completes.
One article (Schraeder, 1996) recommends
the heavy use of self-assessment in
integrated classrooms.
The author had her students create their
own marking rubrics and then graded their
assignments according to those rubrics (so
that each student submitted both an
assignment and a rubric). She
recommends this as a way of creating
increased accountability for students.
Student/teacher relationship
Time constraints
Self-Assessment Possibilities
Solicit student
input on grading
For humanities
creative work?
Lab Reports
How do we help ESL students
become familiar with the lab
report format? It is a steeper
learning curve than it is for
native speakers.
Formative assessment
Formative Assessment – Lab
Low-level ESL students: Fill in the blanks
for Evidence, Analysis, Conclusion
Mid-level ESL students: Fill in the blanks
for Evidence, Analysis; answer specific
questions for Conclusion
High-level ESL students: Answer specific
questions for Evidence, Analysis; write
Conclusion on their own
Native speakers: Write Evidence, Analysis,
Conclusion on their own
Identify and describe characteristics of
different soils and their major component. [32]
(1) Fill in the blanks
The organic-rich soil contains much more
moisture than the sandy soil.
(2) Series of specific questions
What did you find the main difference was
between the organic-rich soil and the
sandy soil?
(3) Fully independent work
Summarize your findings in the experiment.
Unit Exam
There are several ways to accommodate ESL
students on exams, but these may or may not be
fair, and your school or school board may have
policies against them (e.g., extra time, oral
assistance, point-form instead of paragraph-form,
access to dictionaries).
Also, non-native speakers won’t have access to
many of these considerations on high-level exams
(e.g., diploma exams), so if they come to rely on
these elements, it could be a problem in the long
A better option is to build your exam in such a way
that it is as intuitive as possible for non-native
Retrofitting old exams
Consider language, clarity,
hidden assumptions.
Sample exam at
You can also find our
presentation there.
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Bax, S. (2003). CALL-Past, Present and Future. System 31(1), 13-28. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Beatty, K. (2003). Teaching and Researching Computer-Assisted Language Learning (C.N. Candlin & D.R. Hall, Eds.). London: Pearson Education Limited.
Braul, B. (2006). ESL Teacher Perceptions and Attitudes toward Using Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL): Recommendations for Effective CALL Practice. Edmonton, AB:
University of Alberta.
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Funaro, N. (2008). Sample test for Science 7, Unit B (Alberta curriculum). Used with permission.
Gömleksiz, M. N. (2007). Effectiveness of cooperative learning (jigsaw II) method in teaching english as a foreign language to engineering students (case of firat university, turkey).
European Journal of Engineering Education, 32(5), 613.
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Teaching English in the Two Year College, 34(1), 52.
Milnes, T. & Cheng, L. (2008). Teachers’ assessment of ESL students in mainstream classrooms: Challenges, strategies and decision-making. TESL Canada Journal, 25(2), 49-65.
Schraeder, L. (1996). Empowering ESL students in the mainstream through self assessment and contracted learning. EDRS report. Retrieved from ERIC database.
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Tannenbaum, J. (1996). Practical ideas on alternative assessment for ESL students. ERIC digest. Retrieved from ERIC database.
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Language Teaching Research, 11(2), 121.

CALL – Computer Assisted Language Learning