Co-Teaching Triumphs: Kathy & Keenan’s Educational Insights

In Episode 18 of the ML Chat Podcast, educators Kathy Alston and Keenan Lee discuss their co-teaching model for multilingual students at Harrisburg School District. They share insights on relationship-building among teachers, adapting to student demographics, and overcoming challenges post-COVID. Be inspired by their data-driven methodology, teacher success coaching strategies, and long-term commitment to co-teaching.

Listen in your favorite podcast provider

Justin Hewett: Hey everybody, welcome to the ML chat podcast we have a treat for you We’re so excited to jump into a conversation with Kathy Alston and Mr. Keenan Lee. They are from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They work in the school district of Harrisburg and they just presented at the WIDA conference around co teaching.

And we, we heard such amazing things about this presentation that they did and co teaching is sweeping the nation right now. That we are so excited to have them on the podcast so Kathy Alston has been working in education for over 25 years as she currently serves in the role of director of English language development for the school district of Harrisburg in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. where she oversees curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development, all related to serving the district’s K 12 ELD students and through their programs.

She received her bachelor’s degree from the Indiana University of [00:01:00] Pennsylvania, and her master’s in educational leadership and administration at Cabrini College, along with her ESL certificate certification from Penn State University. Kathy has really recognized the need for strong new teachers and has worked hard to ensure that the topic of English language development and equity for our English learners is an integral component of new teacher induction into the Harrisburg School District.

So she’s very much an advocate. We’re excited to have Kathy join us. Along with Kathy, we have Mr. Keenan Lee. He serves as the English Language Development Data and assessment coordinator in Harrisburg School District, and he brings 10 years of experience in working with children and teaching children from pre K through first grade, and then a number of years of experience as an ELD specialist.

Mr. Lee received his Master’s of Education and Curriculum and Instruction With a concentration in early childhood from Concordia University [00:02:00] and his ESL certificate from the Pennsylvania State University. Mr. Lee grew up in a low socioeconomic area and brings a unique perspective to teaching children that he uses to build relationships with his students.

He also uses social media as a platform to bring awareness to the lack of funding in education and culturally responsive pedagogical practices, social and racial injustices in schools. And the importance of networking with peers to develop a fundamental professional learning community. But gosh, it’s so fun to get to know you and so fun to have you on the podcast.

Kathy and Keenan, welcome. 

Kathy Alston: Thank you. Thank you for having us. 

Justin Hewett: It’s our pleasure. Mandi and I have really been looking forward to this. It’s something that, frankly, co teaching is a hot topic today. And, it’s something that we hear about, at Flashlight as we’re working with districts and.

For them to, progress monitor students our English learners and try to figure out how do we do that around speaking and writing around productive language? And [00:03:00] one thing that we are hearing a lot of from districts is. The importance of co teaching or they’re moving to a co teaching model.

But Kathy, like you’re the OG of this. You’ve been working on this since 2010. Tell us a little bit about that. We’ve seen pull out, push in, like we’ve seen so many different ways to approach this. Tell us a little bit about how you got started thinking about this back in 2010. 

Kathy Alston: So back in 2010 is when I started as the, at that time, the supervisor of English language development in Harrisburg.

I was coming right out of the classroom, and in the building that I was assigned to was a K 8 building. And in Harrisburg, because we are a major city we had a huge influx of Nepalese refugees come in. And so what was happening is the content teachers, were very much overwhelmed with a new language demographic.

So we at that building base [00:04:00] level, took the initiative and said, let’s work smarter, not harder, Kathy, you understand language development. You content teacher understand the core content that needs to happen. Let’s see what we can do to have them go parallel side by side.

So as a teacher previous the two previous years before becoming the supervisor, I was actually doing co teaching with four different co teachers. And so when I got into that role where I could begin to make decisions to move a program forward I more or less said our program model is going to be co teaching and we’re, here are the ways that we’re going to move towards that.

In the very beginning, it was, and I’ll be very honest with you hit with some reluctancy because, as a teacher, that’s my classroom, shut my door, that’s my space, I don’t want to, I don’t want to play in the sandbox with type things. So a lot of the beginning things we did with co teaching.

wasn’t around the, program models. [00:05:00] It was around having two adults learn how to share a space that was going to benefit a scholar. So I remember one time we had a professional development and I played human bingo. You go around and find out your likes and dislikes. And it was very interesting because doing something just as simple as that, to have everyone get to know each other outside of, the brick and mortar really had some of the teachers then to say, Oh, you’d like to go to the flea market?

Yeah, and that, that’s, those relationships are what make co teaching ideal, and that’s what I focused on first. We’re building the adult relationships so that they could see the benefit of both of them in the classroom. The next hurdle or thing we overcame was pedagogy.

And it really spoke to having the safe space for [00:06:00] two adults to give feedback to one another. And so now we’re like in 2015, 16. And that was something where, I actually had a protocol that after they went through their lesson, it was a way for them to, in a safe space, have a conversation about what do you think worked?

What do you think didn’t work? What could we do better? Wow. We bombed today, and what’s our next step? So all of those things have led up to now all of a sudden here comes COVID. Everyone’s online, co teaching, not so much. I’m going to pause for the cause because then we had to take another shift.

Justin Hewett: Yeah. I’m excited to dive into COVID. That is a whole nother curve ball that we’re going to get. But it sounds like, really what led you down that road when you got into the leadership role is you saw it be so successful, with those, your Nepalese, refugee students.

And, you. You had that challenge in the district or that opportunity really to [00:07:00] work with those students and and you were able to, as a team, figure out, hey, let’s try this. And it sounds like it worked really well. And then you went to roll it out in the district. A lot of times it’s the adults where we run into some challenges and getting on the same page and whatnot.

Mandi, I’m curious what your thoughts are about the, that early rollout, because I know that there’s a lot of districts right now that are really just getting started. They’re in that, they’re where you were back in 2015, Kathy and do you want to dive into that, Mandi, or should we go straight to COVID?

What do you think? 

Mandi Morris: Yeah, let’s talk about the early years of co teaching a little bit more. Kathy, something that stood out to me was you’re talking about 2010 and you had a specific need, like you had a problem to solve for and you had to get creative around that problem. And then you talked through the foundation and then you’re like, and then it’s 2015, 2016.

And what I loved about that is you’re Just showcasing, this is years of commitment and [00:08:00] practice improvement to make co teaching work. And what I’ve seen and I’ve heard from teachers is we started co teaching last year and it’s not working. This is too hard. This is too much of a learning curve that, this list of why it can’t work.

And what you were talking about is that beginning and then it’s five or six years down the road and it’s Oh. We need a feedback model that’s productive and constructive and not personal where we can both grow and learn together in the profession. I would love to hear you talk a little bit more about what kind of coaching and training were you implementing in those years, from 2010 to before COVID and things shifted big time.

What did that look like from a district level for both the ELD specialist and the co teacher? 

Kathy Alston: So one of the first things that became a staple was having a PLC with just the ELD teachers in our district. And at that time probably had about 20.[00:09:00] Due to our numbers increasing exponentially, we’re up to almost about 30 in our actual ELD staff.

type thing. But really in those ELD PLCs, there was never a place prior to me coming in where it was solely dedicated on the craft of language development. And so that allowed us, as we As a unit, once a month came together, could really have a space to have those conversations of what was working and what wasn’t working.

And of course, many times, those that were reluctant would come up. I don’t have common planning time. I don’t have this. So when I started to remove those barriers with my college, which would be building leadership and said, Hey, by the way, I need, one time a week, they need to have a common planning time with the grade level that they’re currently co teaching.

And so when you start [00:10:00] eliminating the logistical barriers, then all of a sudden it comes about, wow this is real. This isn’t going away. Maybe I should start, trying this out because I’m a firm believer inspect what you. So I was in those classrooms. I was giving feedback. I was giving those wandering notices I’m wondering why there’s four kids in the back of the room who are not engaged in the lesson.

And I would actually get some content teachers say to me I’m waiting for Mrs. So and so to come to, teach them. And I said, but they’re a part of your class. So it was funny one of the teachers, one time, we were going through some professional learning and this is larger, this wasn’t just the ELD teachers, this was a larger content PD and we were talking about some things with equity.

And I said to them, I said, If you’re not giving equitable access to [00:11:00] the content, you’re taking the breath away from all of your errors and imagine what it would feel like if you couldn’t breathe. And I had a teacher in the audience that she had the whole Oprah, like aha moment and she stopped and she was like, Kathy, can I stop you?

And I was like, yeah and she said, can you just say that again? She was like, I think I am a great teacher. I would never want to feel like I was taking the breath away, but the way you put that I absolutely see that. So this whole co teaching thing also evolved into really the expectation here in Harrisburg that everyone owns all scholars and all scholars are all.

So I think that’s something that’s, really beneficial to us as well. 

Justin Hewett: I love hearing that and love hearing you [00:12:00] unpack that and talk through those experiences. I can hear that there was a lot to that. You shared one story. I bet there’s 30, maybe a hundred stories.

If we really went deep down into that, Keenan you taught in this co teaching model, right? Like you, you spent time as you worked into that model and working with, with with our multilingual students, what was that like joining Harrisburg and coming into this co teaching model, maybe unpack that a little bit, share some of, some of what that experience was like for you.

Keenan Lee: So in the beginning it was a struggle. I went into a building not knowing that the co teaching expectation there, that it was set forth by Ms. Alston, wasn’t followed all the time. So it was breaking that mindset of yours and mine to now changing it to they’re all of our students. So trying to get teachers to realize that we’re all teachers of language and that all, like Ms.

Alston said, all means all. So we started out with a survey. So teachers [00:13:00] really gave back the feedback, what they really thought co teaching was, and they did not want to do it. We got together as a team, it was like, okay, we looked at the data, this is what teachers are saying, this is how our scholars are performing.

We need to do an overhaul to make this co teaching successful in the building. From looking at that data, we talked to Ms. Alston and we were like, Oh, okay, we’re going to start small and then go big. So it was, from the beginning, it was a multi year plan. I want to give a big shout out to Ms. Elizabeth Quinn.

She was a rock star for allowing us to come into our classroom and she was the pilot for the whole co teaching overhaul at Melrose School. Actually, and I think the biggest part for me, Other than us working together to educate our multilinguals, was building that relationship. Relationships matter when you have to share a space, share students, and share the teaching responsibility.

So when you’re able to build that solid relationship, the [00:14:00] teaching and the learning for the multilinguals comes natural afterwards. 

Mandi Morris: In that model that you’re talking about when you went in and you were doing an overhaul, were you looking for willing partners? Or did you go in and say top down, this is what we’re doing.

This was the expectation. Everybody needs to get on board. What was your approach after you looked at that data and realized we’ve got to make a shift? How do we do that? And sustain relationship and build 

Keenan Lee: relationship. So with the survey, it was to gain interest in the co teaching model. And then after the results came in, we were like, Oh, we have to smart start small because especially when you get into upper elementary Teachers are more like, this is my space.

So it’s working harder with them to build those relationships. So that’s how we ended up with starting with kindergarten as the pilot in Ms. Quinn’s class because she was willing from the beginning like, Hey, I have a lot of multilinguals [00:15:00] in my class. I’m willing to take this task on with you and to work to educate our students.

So that’s how we got there. So she was a willing participant. 

Kathy Alston: So Mandi, real quick, just to put it in perspective, this is after COVID, we’re now back in person, the building leadership has changed three times, and more than 60 to 70 percent of the staff that was there prior to COVID is no longer there.

So when I say to you, overhaul, that’s why, we went back in person. We still had all of these co teaching protocols and expectations in place. However, we had an entire staff and building leadership that was like, what are you talking about? So that’s why Keenan and the team at Melrose decided, they had a conversation with me and I said maybe we need to start at ground zero.

And so they, that’s what they did. They did the [00:16:00] survey to see. They wanted to know who was willing, but Keenan, why don’t you just give them a little snippet of what some of the comments were, like the actual comments. 

Keenan Lee: I remember this reading this from the survey. I don’t want someone in my classroom. They don’t do anything but put them on imagine learning.

So these comments, and I’m, As a new teacher in this building, I’m like, wow I’m just like blown away because I would have never as a classroom teacher would have felt comfortable enough to say that. And at the end of the day, it’s not about us and our comfortability. It’s about educating our multilinguals.

So just Taking that, that those answers from that survey, it made me and the team want to work harder on this co teaching like, Oh no, we’re going to do this co teaching in here and we’re all going to love it. 

Justin Hewett: You’re going to like it because this is what’s best for kids. You’re going to, you’re going to take this and you’re going to like it.

I like it.

Keenan Lee: I would like to say I took it a step further, not like it, you’re going to [00:17:00] love it because this is what we’re doing.

Justin Hewett: I think that’s fantastic. That is fantastic. So I want to circle back just a second and level set. I think we jumped into our conversation today, assuming everybody’s really comfortable with what co teaching is, but let’s unpack it.

Let’s go level set real quick. And, Kathy, if I asked you, what is co teaching? In serving our multilingual students how would describe that to me if I didn’t know what that was? 

Kathy Alston: It is when two or more educational instructors take on the responsibility of planning, instructing, and assessing all students in the class using various models of one teach, one assist two groups teaching the same content.

One has scaffolds two groups, and we do a station rotation. , when we. began this journey. I wasn’t set in stone. It had to look like this because [00:18:00] I really was more about the building, the relationship of the instructors to one value each other’s skillset. You know what I’m saying?

But at the same time take that skillset and maximize it for the best educational opportunities for our multilinguals in classrooms. So when we first started out, I gave them the option of like soft implementation 2010 through maybe 14, 15, you pick the content. That you want to co teach in because we have the language of science, math, social you pick that.

I think when they were able to pick, their school buddy, you know what I’m saying? It put some of those other logistical things to the side. As we then began to evolve, and you could show me that you fundamentally understood how to co teach, plan, and assess. Okay, now let’s pick up another content.

We’re [00:19:00] going to absolutely co teach in all ELA classes, but now you need to pick up a math, science, or social studies. That’s how we evolved, but the program model, to me, the more adults who are experts, you have in a classroom of anywhere between 30 to 35 kids, Bring it on, help me out.

Don’t get, I don’t want to be that one person in the room with 35 fifth graders. Are you crazy? 

Justin Hewett: You value your life, right? No, just kidding. No, that, that is that I love that. And I really appreciate you breaking it down like that to, to some of the earliest principles of how to approach it.

That’s interesting to me that. As Keenan was talking about, hey, we are all teachers of language, one of the thoughts that I had was, gosh, that gets harder in secondary, I feel like, where these teachers are they’re, they really have become experts in their subject area or whatever it might be.

And, it feels like it might be more difficult at the secondary level to [00:20:00] say, you’re a teacher of language as well, where I feel like in elementary it’s a little more of a given. Can you contrast that for us? Is that true? Is that in real life application is co teaching harder in secondary than it is in elementary?

Or maybe just talk through that if you don’t mind. 

Kathy Alston: Yes and no. So at our middle schools it was just a natural. Progression to have the ELD teacher and the ELA teacher focus there to co teach. Also, we have four middle schools, two of them are like applications, so their numbers are a little bit different, but the two main middle schools, the numbers of multilinguals.

At that grade level is so large that we have to cluster kids like you can’t put like, you can’t put all the L’s on one team and you can’t, type thing for equity purposes. So having the ELA teacher and the ELV teacher know that they’re going to co teach as the kids rotate. [00:21:00] through them is almost an advantage for us because they are working with one person as opposed at the elementary level, depending on numbers, could be working with two to three grade levels, anywhere between six to eight teachers.

So it really just depends on the particular building in our district as opposed to what that looks like. At the high school level. Absolutely is challenging, especially since we are a district that at the high school level have about 20 percent of our high school population are slife. So that adds another layer into it.

So what we do have at our high school are we have sheltered. ELA dual certified English classes that a lot of our newcomers, and then we have what are considered itinerants and the itinerant shadows, the grade level. And they [00:22:00] mainly go into those ELA classes. So it’s twofold. It’s really depends on numbers.

If anyone listened to this podcast wants to come and work in Harrisburg, I have four vacancies. Because that’s the other thing, after COVID many people left the profession and, because you need to have in Pennsylvania, you need to have a specific certification. We were hit hard.

We were hit hard. So that’s, I think that’s even makes co teaching even more. of a equitable practice for multilingual because even if the, I can’t be in there 100 percent of the time co teaching at least you’ve seen some of the strategies and some of, and we’ve co planned so you know and have an idea of what can happen for multilinguals when me, the ELD specialist isn’t in the room.


Mandi Morris: let’s go there, Kathy, and talk about how different education, the field of education looks post COVID. And you spoke some in your intro about how you’re [00:23:00] supporting new teachers to make sure they have a strong foundation. I’d love to hear about what are you doing now in practice to support teachers coming in?

And then Keenan, I’d love to hear you follow up and talk about how are you training and coaching new teachers to understand data and how data impacts. instruction because often teachers that are new to the profession, it’s like your hair is on fire every day, right? So what does it look like for a data driven school district to support new teachers in that 

Kathy Alston: process?

In regard to the new teachers, I feel let’s define teacher first. So new teacher in Harrisburg could be that we do not have an educational degree. You have a bachelor’s degree and we have emergency certified. You could be a brand new teacher coming right out of college with no experience and or you could be someone who left your other profession said, Oh, I think I want to [00:24:00] teach.

And now you’re you’re doing that. So knowing that over 50 percent of new teachers in Harrisburg fall into that category. You have to begin to look at teaching like the lingo that we learned in college is not the lingo That they’re coming out with so at the very beginning of the year Just having them do some simple exercises of I have this like fake superhero with this cape and I say, take three minutes and write down all the things you can do.

And they look at you like school wise or like just all the things you can do. And we really take almost like a half an hour to go through this whole process. And at the end of the day, I said, at the end of the day. Even though a multi lingual may come in front of you that you can’t communicate with because that’s your barrier, they still can do something.

You just have to change your mindset. And a lot of pre [00:25:00] before school starts is about the mindset. I said, don’t get me wrong, you’re going to walk into class and you’re going to have a kid that probably has four X’s and three Y’s in their name, and you’re not going to know how to pronounce it. Don’t.

Like actually go up to them, they’ll tell you what their name is, and then we just had a session last no, this week, Tuesday. The next part is because they’re so overwhelmed, just giving them small snippets of take this strategy and look how you can change it. So think PairShare. Everybody does it, right?

I tell them, but for multilinguals, if you do think, wait, write PairShare and let me show you what that looks like. Game changer. And so a lot of it then is, when they fill out their evaluations, because they’re, it’s compliant while you fill them out. But I’m that person, I read what they write.

And so I’ll write back, I was like, Oh, would you like me to come to your classroom? I can show you that strategy. And they’re like, you would do that? Absolutely. Absolutely. So I think a lot of it is with [00:26:00] new teachers, you have to meet them where they’re at. But you also have to let them know that you’re not.

afraid to go in front of their multilinguals and model lessons for them. I got an education because I love scholars. I’ll go into an eighth grade classroom. Come on, middle school, bring it on right before Christmas break. Be great. 

Justin Hewett: Let’s go. Oh, I love it. 

Mandi Morris: What about for you from your perspective?

How does data play into all 

Keenan Lee: of this? Maybe I’m going to answer your question, but I want to give Kathy her props. She is the queen of PD and giving new teachers new or veteran strategies that they could turn around the next day. There’s always rave reviews after her professional learning sessions, and a lot of times I’m there because we are the Kathy Keenan Show, so we’re always together.

So I wanted to give her praise for that because a lot, and I will say that she does come out to the classroom to model because when I was a first grade teacher, Ms. Lawson came to my [00:27:00] classroom to model some strategies for my multilingual. I’m appreciative of it and I’m pretty sure. All the other teachers in the district are appreciative of those equitable practices that she’s taught them.

So now to your point, Mandi.

Data is very important for student success. Because we have a handful of new multilingual teachers or ELD teachers, excuse me, and also teachers that are not comfortable with data, I do a lot of coaching sessions around, okay, I’m going to show you how to pull this report.

This is what this means. And then I then take it to the next step. Okay, this is how we can group students and proficiency levels, and then Support their language development that way. I also meet with building leadership alongside the teachers to explain where the students are and where we need them to be.

And I also. Offer ways to support. For instance, right now at one of our middle schools, I stop over. I’m there about at least once or twice a week to support the teacher that is doing our [00:28:00] ELA intervention with our multilinguals. So that hands on approach, being on the ground running, being able to show the teachers that I’m just like you, I’m learning as well, and I can give you strategies to support your students through the data.

It’s very important, and they’re really appreciative of it. Currently, our office is housed in one of the middle schools. The ELD teachers here, they have it the best because they can stop by. And I just did a little coaching session with the two of them the other day showing them how to pull reports and To speak to the data that they see there.

Justin Hewett: That’s fantastic. That’s I love that. I love that. Mandi, did you want to unpack anything on that? Otherwise I want to ask you about different tools that you use. So yeah, go ahead. No that’s well connected. I love that. I love that. That’s what made me wonder is, in rolling out co teaching, you’ve been working through this.

You’ve been through a couple of different, evolutions and iterations of it. I’m curious, what tools, what resources have you landed [00:29:00] on that you’re able to use that help. Help your teachers either, synchronize and work together. We heard about, Kathy, you putting bingo out there, like human bingo, let’s go, let’s get connected.

But in addition to some of maybe those kinds of exercises, what tools or resources, is there any technology or different pieces that you’re using to to, to implement your co teaching model? 

Kathy Alston: So I will say to you, we actually did this at WIDA, and then I’ll get into some specific resources.

The next time you have a large room for professional learning, have a rock, paper, scissors competition. Start with two, and then the winner Then plays another one, but the person that didn’t win now becomes that person’s cheerleader. So by the end, and we did this at WIDA with over like a hundred, was it like 150 people in that room?

And so imagine and after we did it, I said to the group, I [00:30:00] said, that’s how we started with teaching very small one on one. And then as people had success. Others became their cheerleaders. And I think in moving forward, that’s what’s really helped us in Harrisburg, is that’s how I look at it. Let’s start small.

Everybody needs a cheerleader. You know what I’m saying? Ultimately, there’s going to be one winner. That winner isn’t the adult. That winner’s the multilingual. I wanna put that out there. Some of the other resources we have a Google classroom that has all of our expectations, articles.

We are WIDA State. So like right now we have five different schools. That went through the train the trainer, who will be implementing the WIDA standards framework by the year 25 26. It was interesting because we did the train the trainer in November, and a lot of [00:31:00] times, And Harrisburg is no exception, but I am, we send people to a training and then we say, okay, implement tomorrow.

And, that’s not me. So I had success teams, they got the training. Then I reached out to be a building leadership and I said, Hey, can we meet to this stuff and. What I’m looking for is in the 25 26 school year, that we begin to implement the META standards framework in these schools. I said, so this is year zero 24 25 is year zero.

So these are your planning years. What do you need to plan, knowing that we don’t want it to be another thing. We really want teachers to own the language of the content. Moving forward. So those are, that’s just the way my brain thinks. I know that building leadership is very appreciative of it.

When someone says this is year zero and next year’s year zero. Absolutely. But let’s have a plan. It’s not [00:32:00] going away. I’ll be coming to see you next year and say, hey, where are we at in the plan? I think another tool is we do have pretty good data warehousing. Systems that can pull different data points and what Keenan has also been doing, and he can speak to this, is not just knowing what the data is and what it tells you, but now how do I turn that data into instructional practice?

And Keenan, when you speak to the instructional part, why don’t you also talk about our learner profile? 

Keenan Lee: For the 23 21st school year, Ms. Alston and I met over the summer to develop a way. We’re, our district’s in the midst of an overhaul of our MTSS system, and we’re rolling it out this year. We were like, what can we do to get the most bang for our buck to ensure that our scholars are meeting their language goals?

So we came up with this and also make sure there’s the, the equitable practices. And we’re also looking at [00:33:00] multilingual scholars from the lens that they are coming to your class with something. They’re not a blank slate. We come up with the help of Minneapolis Public Schools, we adapted their system, a learner profile where not only do you look at areas of growth, but you first look out, look for the student’s assets, not only language assets, but general assets.

What does the scholar like to do? What are they good at? What are some of their interests? And the goal is to fill this out and share out with the content teachers. So they have a little bit of information about the scholar as well. And also, we have, it’s like a live document that you can work on all year long.

During parent teacher conferences, it’s an expectation with our ELD teachers to get information from parents because we’re a team so we all have things to add about the scholar and we all have a part in the scholar’s success. So the idea is that if you’re in Harrisburg School District from kindergarten to 12th grade, [00:34:00] you’ll have this living document that’ll follow you each year.

So you can look back on the language goals from the year before. Okay, I see that this scholar was really good at this area, but the area of need or area of growth is here in like more of a receptive language area. So then you can base your current year’s goals off of stuff from the year before. 

Right now I’m really working with teachers on speaking. A lot of our students are shy, or they’re not really understanding, okay, when we speak, we have to speak clearly, we have to use the microphone. I’ve been encouraging teachers to have students record prompts using Flip. That’s a great way to practice speaking and answering, asking and answering questions.

And also, you can give students feedback either written or even in a video. I, when I did it in my classroom, I really liked doing it in videos. Kids like to see you on the video with the fun backgrounds. We’ve also seen that we’ve had teachers pilot that. We’ve seen increases in their speaking scores.

On the access test when it rolls around during the [00:35:00] testing window, because the kids are comfortable now speaking and answering questions another area for data. We’ve also looked at his writing are 2 of our main focuses. Our goals this year are speaking writing. We’re coming up with ways for teachers to implement more writing, not only in the content classrooms Okay.

Reading or ELA math, science, social studies, but also in the humanities where our scholars, all scholars have more opportunities to write. And we’re also encouraging teachers from using the data to also give our all scholars, I can’t just say multilinguals, all scholars the opportunity to speak and work together because kids learn or scholars learn best from each other.

Yeah, Keenan, 

Mandi Morris: everything that you’ve just said resonates with me so much, and I love to hear about how you guys are creating individualized language plans or individualized student plans that highlights their strengths, highlights who they are as individuals outside of just the [00:36:00] classroom and the four domains that we have to focus on as language specialists.

In my years as an educator, productive language was really challenging for To practice and capture for English language development. We had a lot of resources for reading, lots and lots of resources for reading. And writing felt like a mix, like different school districts had strong components for writing and then some I worked in didn’t, but speaking was always just this void.

And even if you had good practices in class for productive speech or routines around how we partner and talk, it was Difficult to capture that and give feedback for students. That’s something that really drew me professionally and personally to Flashlight 360 because that’s what we’re all about is productive language and supporting teachers and understanding how do we, Kathy, going back to what you were talking about, the parallel, language and content.

These things don’t need to be separate. Really, language should be taught through [00:37:00] content. And that’s something so powerful that is in our philosophy and belief here at Flashlight. Flashlight. How do we drive language through content? How do we capture that productive language so that we can give feedback to students?

We can set goals for students. Also recognizing our goals have to be measurable. Students have to be able to achieve those goals. And just really creating a practice that becomes part of the culture of your school district that productive language isn’t An option that those four kids in the back of the class copy that the teacher was 

Kathy Alston: like 

Mandi Morris: The eld specialist isn’t here yet.

So when we have routines in place, it’s not an option to opt out everyone’s participating in class it’s really encouraging to me to hear the practices you guys have going on in your school district and I think a lot of teachers and directors hearing this today are Going to be also encouraged by the work that you’re doing

Kathy Alston: I think the other thing that Has moved us with all of our teachers is and I [00:38:00] can’t take credit for this.

Dr. Ayanna Cooper from Howard University uses the acronym S. W. I. R. L. And so when we came back from COVID, that was one of the like professional developments that I did probably four or five different ones over the course of two years to really say in your lesson, how many times do you have the opportunity for multilinguals to speak?

Listen, read, and write, and I said, almost make it like little tick marks. If you’re noticing, put your swirl up there. If you’re noticing that you have 20 marks in listening and you have two in speaking, they’re not going to develop their language. And I use that example. I always tell, like when I’m doing the professional development, I’ll be like, Hey, guess what?

Everybody tomorrow you’re going out. You’re playing with the Sixers. Maxi you’re on the team. Oh, and by the way, I’m not going to give you the playbook. [00:39:00] I’m not going to give you the basketball to practice. Oh, and whatever shoes you’re currently wearing, that’s what you’re going to play. And so I say that because that sounds absolutely ridiculous that I’d want you to go and do that.

But when you’re in the classroom, if you’re not giving me opportunities to to hear a word than to speak the words, I’m never going to read the words or write the words, because that’s how we develop language. And when you break it down for teachers like that, like I say to them, do any of you have kids?

Like, how did your kid learn to say words? They heard you kept saying it. And the reason they say Dada dada first is because you were probably yelling at your husband, but whatever, but those are like, you have to have those real world conversations with people to say, there’s no magic.

And multi lingual there’s no magic in teaching. But what is something is if you purposely decide that if I want this [00:40:00] scholar to do this, I have to do that. Or, if I want this scholar to produce something, what are the things that I have to set up in place in order to make that an equitable pathway for them?

Keenan Lee: And can I add to what Ms. Alston was saying? For example, in our pilot classroom, she noted down that the students were able to access the language and the vocabulary. 95 times, they swirled using specific math vocabulary and language 95 times. So those kids, by the, it was a 3 day lesson, I had day 1, by day 2, the kids were using the words fluently, being able to explain, and by day 3, they were kindergarten experts on geometric shapes and like their characteristics because of having that access to swirl using the language.

Justin Hewett: I love that you call them kindergarten experts. That was really awesome. Kindergarten experts in geometric shapes. Let’s go. I love it. I love [00:41:00] it. I 

Kathy Alston: would 

Mandi Morris: love to go back for a moment to talk specifically about how you guys address this in co teaching in your school district. When I was a second grade teacher in the mid 2000s, so around the time where you’ve already been, five or six years into co teaching, and this was the first rollout in the school district for co teaching, and we were doing a co teaching model in writing.

block in second grade all through elementary school. And I have a lot of experience co teaching as a teacher. I loved it. I was always, come in my classroom, another adult, let’s do it. This is awesome. But what we did find was our student population was changing so much throughout the school year.

We had a lot of students that were coming in. They were there for a month or two and they were gone. It was a low. socioeconomic school. And in addition, we had a lot of students that were moving constantly and a high count for MLs. So it was a challenge to [00:42:00] solve for students who had, we had a lot of students with emerging language needs.

So what we found was that it was difficult to find space throughout the week for those students to get that emerging language that they needed when we were so focused on language through content. So we had to get creative about how to solve for that. And I would love to hear how are you solving for that.

And I would imagine that the model looks different middle school versus high school where you see a lot of slight students. And then in contrast to elementary 

Kathy Alston: school. First of all, Mandi, are you sure you didn’t work in Harrisburg? I’m just saying, I feel like you described exactly what we have. So one of the things that we have in Harrisburg, in our ELA block, is it is 120 minutes.

And those 120 minutes do not occur consecutively there be they’re able to be broken up in that. And then, in addition to that 120 minutes of ELA [00:43:00] instruction, there is a 30 minute intervention. 30 minute intervention period at each grade level. Those 30 minute intervention periods do not occur at the same time.

Depending, and this is where Keenan comes in with pulling data, because obviously groups change constantly, is the ELB teachers at each of the buildings have set things up a little differently. At one of my elementary buildings, that the ELD teacher solely does writing intervention, per se, with our multilinguals that are 3.

5 or higher, because We noticed looking at our data that those are our bubble kids, we would say, and we want to see if we can get them to be reclassified. That’s the term we use in Pennsylvania for Exited L. So we’re being very focused on 4th and 5th graders, 3. [00:44:00] 5 and higher. At another building, which the multilinguals are just about 40 percent of the building of that 40%, probably 30 are either immigrant, refugee brand new to school we’ve taken a different approach where they’re pulling the small group during the intervention time and they’re doing more of the lessons out of the reading A to Z overall umbrella, which they have about 10 different products in that.

And then. That’s divided by marking periods. Marking periods one and two, they’re focused on speaking. Marking periods third and fourth, they’re focused on writing at that beginning level. We also use a lot of tools within Google Dictate just so kids can see that their ideas and their words can go onto paper.

That was something we started during COVID and just continue to [00:45:00] do. That really works for us at the middle and high school level because, there’s peers, you have peers, they’re adolescents, bless their heart. And so using that type of tool allows the kids to put their ideas on paper.

At the middle level, there is also a designated 45 minute. intervention period where the ELD teacher is pulling groups to work on an intervention with them at the high school. We just want to put a prayer out for the high school. They, after COVID went to 90 minute blocks without the proper support of how to sustain instruction for 90 minutes

it’s my understanding that for the 24, 25 year, we’re going back to periods, which will be wonderful because then we can build in the master schedule interventions which is what we have before, but we just won’t give it to God and pray for them. The rest of the remainder issue, [00:46:00] 

Justin Hewett: they make it through each of those 90, 90 minute blocks.

Gosh, thanks for unpacking that for us. That is amazing. And it’s, this has been such a fun meandering conversation around co teaching and. You’ve brought so much just practical experience, and I think, I feel like a lot of times when I hear people talking about co teaching, to some degree, there’s a lot of theory in it, and they’re talking about what they’re hoping it’s going to be and what it might be like, and that it’s, hey, it’s best for students who are going to do it, but I But really, Kathy, you said you were going to keep it 100 as we got in here, and you sure did.

You gave us a lot of real practical, real ways to approach this, and really keen in that. We can tell that data is, playing an important role. We’re getting now to the end where, we’re going to ask you for maybe, a few little nuggets of advice that you might give to someone that’s rolling out, co teaching in their district.

But before we do that You talked a little bit about some action research that was done in the district and was wondering Keenan if you could unpack [00:47:00] that for us and tell us a little bit more about that action research that you 

Keenan Lee: did. Yes, so the action research was part of the overhaul of the co teaching model at Melrose.

We worked with Miss Quinn specific kindergarten class for two years. We talked her into looping with her kids. You’re Teachers would be the same. And there’s that consistency. You already know the rules. You know the expectations. So the sample of the kids were the same as well.

Within that research, we were able to build upon so ground zero was our planning year. The first year we implemented with kindergarten. Second year was when we actually, okay we had feedback from a minute from administration is awesome. She would come in. So second year, we’re going to up the ante.

So now we’re going to actually look at our data from year one. Okay. See what we can do what tweaks can we do to change it. So with that being said, at the end of last school year, I would say, Miss Quinn had about 15 multilinguals in [00:48:00] her class. In addition to, english speakers, I would say 85 percent of them were at or above grade level from the co teaching and being able to not only access content but language simultaneously within the classroom.

The students were also able to do, it was the craziest thing because I was in 4th and 5th grade classrooms and students couldn’t do it, but my 1st grade experts were able to do a think pair share. So like they knew the expectation. Okay, I’m going to turn and talk to my partner. So teaching those collaborative skills through this action research as well was such a great tool for them.

So now they’re in second grade, and when their teachers have them do it, the teachers like always reach out, how did you teach them? I said practice and, as an expectation, we did it consistently too. I also like looking at the data because I went back and looked at it over the summer.

They made significant gains on the access test. 1 of my students was only 0. 1 away from being reclassified. She started in kindergarten went to first grade [00:49:00] and she ended up with a 4. 4 and she needed a 4. 5 to be able to reclassify. So hopefully this year, fingers crossed, we’ll be able to move it out.

And currently at Melrose, they’re still working with the co teaching. The sample students are now broken away. Obviously I moved away from that position. So it’s hard to keep up with the action research that I started with along with my team with new team members, but they. They see success from what we did for two years.

Justin Hewett: We need to send Miss Quinn something like we’ve got to, we’ve got to get a fruit basket or something for this one. Like she sounds wonderful. What a delightful person. And the fact that she looped again, maybe I’m surprised you didn’t talk her into looping again. They’re like, Hey, how many times can we do this?

Let’s go. Let’s wrap up here. I do want to say just a few things. Thank you again for coming on and sharing some of the thoughts and ideas around what you shared in, in your presentation at the WIDA conference. You shared with us a bitly, a link with a bunch of different resources [00:50:00] and tools that we will put in our show notes for anybody that would like to hop in here is there a good place for people to reach out to you if they’d like to continue the conversation or go a little bit deeper and ask for.

Any of your perspectives or, your advice, is there a good way for them to reach out to you? 

Kathy Alston: On our Harrisburg School District website, if you go to Department under English Language Development our contact information is there feel free emails, probably best because as you can tell from me and Keenan, we’re not desk sitters.

We’re out and about. So email is always great. You may, and depending on the question, we may be able to, call you back or set up our own. Zoom with you, but we have had several different times had other intermediate units, school districts come and visit, and I take you everywhere and you see what and I think in, in, in closing out or [00:51:00] moving forward, those of you that are listening to this, there’s no right or wrong way to do co teaching. There is a right way in. And if your purpose is to provide the best educational opportunities for multilinguals, how that looks in your district, in your classroom, in your building, is unique to you as long as the purpose and the focus is on those educational opportunities.

Justin Hewett: I think that’s where you drop your mic, Kathy. Hey, that was fantastic. Keenan, is there anything that you would add to, to somebody that’s, to an EL director, let’s say, that’s looking at introducing co teaching or maybe you want to speak to a teacher that’s being asked to do co teaching and they haven’t done it before, go wherever you want with it.

But what one piece of advice would you share with them? So 

Keenan Lee: speaking from the teacher perspective it’s scary and it’s challenging, but you take it, you make co teaching your own and you own it because [00:52:00] at the end of the day, when you own it our scholars or your scholars, all of our scholars will learn so taking it and owning it and making it and the more you own it the more you love it and the more you want to do it.

So you’ll start out with one teacher and then by the time you want to co teach with six other teachers and try to find time. But like I said, take it and own it and it will be successful. 

Justin Hewett: I love it. Make it yours is really the message I’m hearing is if you’re doing it for the right purposes, make it yours, figure out a way to own it and run with it and I love it.

Thank, thanks again for being here on the podcast, on the ML chat podcast. We can now we understand how lucky those are multilingual students are in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to have you advocating for them. Thanks for coming on and sharing your story on the ML chat podcast. Thank you so much 

Kathy Alston: for having 

Keenan Lee: us.

Yes, thank you. 


Download the State Language Assessment Checklist

Fill out this short form and we’ll send you the State Language Assessment Checklist for quick reference.