Series The Power of Collaboration for ELLs: Peer Teaching Through Expert Groups


Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • SL:  Speaking and Listening Standards 6-\x80\x9312
  • 8:  8th Grade
  • 4: 
    Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient
    points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant
    evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen
    details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate
    volume, and clear pronunciation.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Peer Teaching Through Expert Groups

Lesson Objective: Empower students to teach each other
Grade 8 / Social Studies / ELL


Enjoy your first three pieces of content for free. Subscribe for unlimited access.

Have questions about subscribing? Click Here to learn more.

Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What are the benefits of this co-teaching model?
  2. Why are the students not allowed to take notes as they listen to their expert?
  3. How does this lesson build literacy skills and content knowledge simultaneously?


  • Private message to Rachel Kelly
I think these teachers are doing a great job co teaching. This idea of having "experts" do extra work beforehand is great. I can't wait to take this concept and apply it to my classroom.
Recommended (0)
  • Private message to zhannat tutbayeva
Thank you for the video, loved the idea of pre-work wiht experts as it helps them to focus on specific areas!
Recommended (0)


  • Peer Teaching Through Expert Groups Transcript

    Shannon Kay: Morning Carissa.

    My name is Shannon Kay and I am the ELL specialist.

    Meredith Sweene:

    Peer Teaching Through Expert Groups Transcript

    Shannon Kay: Morning Carissa.

    My name is Shannon Kay and I am the ELL specialist.

    Meredith Sweene: Good Morning guys.

    My name is Meredith Sweeney and I am the Literacy teacher. We teach an eighth grade Humanities block at Horning Middle School. So our goal today was to give our students a voice in the classroom, and so we wanted to students to teach each other.

    Your turn to teach.

    I really like the diversity at Horning Middle School. We've got a lot of students from different backgrounds, different countries-speaking different languages, so we're always trying to find ways for them to share who they are and to share their voice.

    Meredith Sweene: Every day we review our I Can statement. I can use my best speaking ...

    Meredith Sweene: Our learning target today was I can use my best listening, speaking and reading skills to teach a topic. So students were using multiple skills today to teach each other something specific about the Reconstruction Era.

    Shannon Kay: Jawanna, you are teaching today, right?

    Student: Yeah.

    Meredith Sweene: We just finished the Civil War unit. Students read non-fiction texts and worked on pulling out the main ideas and the details so that they could then teach each other that topic.

    In your team, you each have an expert who has learned about the Freedman's Bureau. That's their topic.

    So we have a History, Literacy, and ELL teacher together. Our history teacher is Chris Knudsen. For today, he picked out the topics and then Shannon and I worked together to find information and to rewrite articles so that they were at the students needs.

    Shannon Kay: Finish your paragraph.

    Co-teaching is best for students because having more people in the room allows us to work with smaller groups of students to review or reinforce certain concepts, and those groups are always flexible. So we all work collaboratively together to meet the needs of all of our students.

    Meredith Sweene: We're going to transition. So, remember our transition word this week is suppress. We've been using that word all week suppress, right? Reconstruction era, we're talking about how the former slaves are being suppressed by laws and groups of people. Today you are going to learn about an organization who is going to help them fight that suppression.

    Ready? I say it, you say it. Suppress, suppress, keep them down. So, in your team you each have an expert. So yesterday, they read an article, they took notes, they did some extra research at home. Remember experts, that you are speaking nice and loud and clear so your team can hear you. You are explaining your ideas, trying to give some examples, maybe even pointing out exact evidence in the text to support your ideas. Listeners, your job is to listen-giving them eye contact, asking questions, and helping each other outs.

    Okay, there are some sentence starters on the board for our experts and our listeners. If you are not sure what you could ask, there are some ideas on there. Alright? Suppress, suppress, keep them down. Your turn to teach.

    Shannon Kay: While the experts are teaching, the students that are listening and learning about that topic are not taking notes; they're using their active listening skills.

    Student: When and where did it happen? March 1865 to 1876.

    Meredith Sweene: We were looking for how well they talked with each other. We were also listening for main ideas and details they pulled from their article and then looking for how well they were able to share that as a whole group and in their small groups.

    Student: So, after President Lincoln died, President Johnson came in the war.

    Student: So Andrew Johnson is a big name we can remember?

    Yeah, Andrew Johnson was part of it.

    Important facts were that before the Civil War, there were no public schools so all the white people had to pay a teacher to go there.

    Student: I know president Johnson wanted to veto, to go against, so take it away.

    Student: So not everyone could go to school?

    Student: Yeah, because he didn't want white or black people to go to school because he thought it was interfering with states rights.

    Meredith Sweene: How confident do you feel in your ability to add information to our chart? Do you feel like you understand it really well? Now is your time, if there is anything you are confused about, ask your expert before we share our information.

    Student: Why did it happen?

    Because they were trying to rebuild The Union after the war.

    Student: When you say before the Civil War they didn't have public schools, they didn't have public schools for nobody?

    Just the whites had tutors at home.

    Student: They needed to find something to do so that's why they created this program to build them. It was really good with them but white people got mad at them because they were thinking, "Oh, they're free and now they're getting more rights."

    What's the impact on African Americans and all whites? War was for black people; gave food to poor white and freed man in the South.

    Student: Howard, Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, and Congress.

    Meredith Sweene: Once every team feels comfortable that they know their information well, we moved on to a process grid. We are going to transition and start sharing out that information that you just learned.

    We do collect the experts notes. We really want to focus on that active listening. Did they hear it, did they really learn it, is it in their head?

    Shannon Kay: We are going to open up the first three categories of our process grid. Who was involved, when and where did it take place, and why did it happen or exist? Purple team, number four.

    Student: Who was involved? The Congress.

    Shannon Kay: Remember that this round is worth thirty points for each answer.

    Meredith Sweene: Each team will receive points. These points don't count towards anything but students like that competition; they like that little reward.

    Shannon Kay: Over to red team.

    Meredith Sweene: We only open up a certain number of categories at a time. So we are asking students just the basics first. It gives them some choice without being too overwhelming, it gives them a scaffold.

    Shannon Kay: Let's go ahead and open up the rest of the board as well if you have something that you'd like to add for the impact on African Americans and/or whites.

    Meredith Sweene: Just a reminder, you are in a team for a reason. When your spoon is called, as a team, you can help out that person who is sharing.

    Shannon Kay: Let's hear from the yellow team. Number four.

    Student: For the impact, it helped establish education in the south.

    Meredith Sweene: Even if the information is incorrect or incomplete, we do write it on the board to show they're learning and later, the students will get extra points for correcting mistakes or adding information that was missed.

    Shannon Kay: Purple team, number two.

    Student: There were no public schools before the Civil War.

    Shannon Kay: Do you want to add in public schools?

    Student: Yeah.

    Meredith Sweene: Your very specific in your information. Wicked.

    Shannon Kay: After the process grid has been filled in, the next day's experts who will be teaching, are called to a table.

    Meredith Sweene: One person from your team is going to come to the back and is going to learn about the next Reconstruction topic. The rest of us up here are going to continue to work on our Civil War project.

    Shannon Kay: You guys are going to be the experts for tomorrow. Today's article was on black codes. First thing that they saw was some pictures of things that would come up in their article, things that would activate their prior knowledge.

    If you guys have questions, we'll talk about those. We'll talk about what you see in those images.

    Meredith Sweene: Each of the groups is decided based on reading levels.

    Shannon Kay: You take one article and pass the rest.

    Meredith Sweene: So the topic is differentiated but also the articles themselves are differentiated.

    Shannon Kay: Alright, so ready to annotate? The end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery solved one problem, but created another. Let's talk about that word abolishment for a minute. What does that mean?

    Student: Take away?

    To remove something?

    To get rid of.

    Shannon Kay: To get rid of, to remove something? So I made a little note. I underlined that word and made a little note in the margin-to end, or to eliminate or, like we said, to take away. We read, we annotate the article together, we talk about vocabulary that may be difficult, and we discuss and we draw images that'll help us teach our teammates about what we read.

    Would someone else be willing to read?

    Student: I will.

    Shannon Kay: Thank you.

    Student: Now that there were no slaves, southerners wonder who was going to do all the work to rebuild all of the buildings.

    Shannon Kay: What do you think is important in that sentence?

    Student: No slaves.

    Shannon Kay: Okay, there were no slaves. So it was definitely an issue that I put a box around was, who was going to do the work? Someone have something different that they drew?

    Student: I drew the plantations and said who.

    Shannon Kay: So you drew plantation and you wrote who because they are wondering who is going to do the work now?

    Student: Yeah.

    Shannon Kay: Later on in the hour, they move to another side of the room and the kids continue to work in their group. We use the mind map that included the same categories that were on the process grid. Then, the students were then able to support each other in pulling out that important information.

    Why did this happen? Why did these black codes exist?

    Student: Maybe because they wanted to give the slaves their freedom but they also wanted to control them.

    Shannon Kay: Okay, to control slaves. That's very important, why?

    One thing that I would say is be flexible when you're working with ELL's and be willing to put scaffolds in place to help those learners be successful.

    Looks like you guys have a lot of information that you pulled out of the article. Make sure that you have this finished for tomorrow and that you're on for teaching. You have a lot of facts there that you can add.

    Meredith Sweene: So, it's taken practice, but I think that they are getting a lot better at communicating with each other and then sharing each other's ideas.

Related Blogs

English Language Learners

English Language Learners/

School Details

Horning Middle School
2000 Wolf Road
Waukesha WI 53186
Population: 750

Data Provided By:



Shannon Kay
6 7 8 / Coach
Meredith Sweeney
Chris Knutson


TCH Special

Webinar / Engagement / Distance Learning

TCH Special

Webinar / Leadership / Distance Learning

TCH Special

Webinar / Engagement / Distance Learning

TCH Special

Webinar / Leadership / Distance Learning


Distance Learning


Professional Learning


Professional Learning


Distance Learning