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Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies for English Language Learners

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

One of the great advantages ELLs (English language learners) have is the ability to seek out a classmate for help. In this lesson, teachers will learn about peer-assisted learning strategies specially designed for use in an ELL classroom.

Should Peers Assist?

Before we answer that question, let's define peer-assisted learning. Basically, peer-assisted learning involves a teacher partnering classmates together to complete academic tasks for the benefit of both parties. Peer-assistance is an important part of most classrooms and is especially beneficial for ELLs for a number of reasons.

  • Confused or lost students can turn to a classmate who does understand and speaks their native tongue.
  • Students who absorb material quickly can help students who are having difficulty.
  • A classmate may be able to explain the teacher's words in a way that is more understandable.

Another huge advantage of this approach is that students can share their strengths and bolster their weaknesses. For example, one student may be great at English but poor at math while another is good at math but struggles with English. It's this type of pairing that you want to look for when assigning partners to undertake the strategies suggested in this lesson.

Peer-assisted doesn't mean that the smart kids tutor the stragglers; it means that each student in the pairing offers something useful. While it may not always be a 50/50 collaboration, each student should be able to contribute something of value. Also, don't forget to change the pairings regularly so that students are interacting and communicating with different classmates.

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