ESL Push-In Programs: Definition & Instruction

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn about the push-in method of instruction for ESL students. The lesson will define the strategy and provide different approaches.

What Are Push-In Programs?

There are many different approaches to providing educational services to ESL, or English as a second language, students. The method you use depends on your school district, teaching environment, students' needs, administrative team, and personal preferences.

Some teachers pull students out of their general education classes and work with them in small, individualized groups. This is called the pull-out method. However, in recent years, the push-in method has been gaining popularity. The push-in method involves the ESL teacher working inside her students' regular education classroom to provide instruction.

Proponents of the push-in method of instruction claim that keeping ESL students in the mainstream classroom instead of pulling them out helps them feel like a part of their learning community. Let's look at some different models for push-in instruction.

Push-In Program Strategies

Collaborative Teaching

The adage 'two heads are better than one' applies to collaborative teaching. With this approach, the ESL teacher works with the classroom teacher to provide instruction to all students.

The logistics of this method can be tricky. It's important for teachers to have plenty of collaborative planning time each week so they can determine how they will share the co-teaching responsibilities. Will the general education teacher be the primary teacher, with the ESL teacher supporting the ESL students? Or will both teachers instruct all students?

Another thing to consider is that beginner ESL students may need more one-on-one attention, so the ESL teacher may want to combine approaches and have small pull-out groups in addition to whole-group instruction.

Small Group Instruction

Some ESL teachers may work with small groups of language learners within the mainstream classroom. This approach may be ideal for ESL teachers who are required to teach a separate curriculum rather than reinforce the general education teacher's instruction.

For example, if an ESL teacher has an ESL curriculum that incorporates project-based learning, and students are conducting research and planning projects, it would be difficult to assimilate that into the general education teacher's lessons.

The reason this approach is popular is because many people feel that removing ESL students from their classroom makes them feel isolated from their regular learning community. However, one drawback to this approach is that having two groups learning about different things simultaneously can be distracting.

Grouping Concerns

There are a few other things to consider before utilizing the push-in method of instruction. First, in order for this approach to be successful, ESL students need to be grouped together.

For example, if there are four different third-grade classrooms in your school and 20 third-grade ESL students, it may not be beneficial to split them up equally into four different classrooms. That would mean that, in order to push-in for all third graders, the ESL teacher would need to regularly visit four different rooms--and that's only for one grade!

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