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Push-in and Pull-out: Understanding ESL Services

By Bonnie Billak
Push-in and Pull-out: Understanding ESL Services

In schools around the world, it is common practice for ESL teachers to offer both pull-out and push-in services for their students. These are two very important elements in the English language acquisition process and can be of great benefit not only to the students, but also to classroom teachers. The students benefit from the language assistance, while teachers can learn new strategies by observing how the ESL teacher works with the students during the push-in time.
For pull-out classes, students with no English or very low levels of English proficiency are grouped together in small classes in an ESL classroom. The number of days that students are pulled out each week is based on their individual needs and levels of proficiency. The goal is to develop their English levels to a point at which they feel secure and are able to function in their regular classrooms with minimum assistance.
For push-in services, the ESL teacher goes to the ESL students’ regular classroom and helps the students with whatever work or activity is going on at that time. The push-in visits generally last a single class period. The frequency of the push-in service depends on the needs of the students, as well as on scheduling constraints. Classroom teachers sometimes become very nervous when the ESL teacher stays in the classroom for push-in service. Therefore, it’s very important for the ESL teacher to build a good rapport with the teacher and to make it very clear from the first day that his/her purpose for being there is to help the students, not to observe or evaluate the teacher.
During ESL push-in time, a trained ESL teacher should be able to walk into a classroom, observe what is going on, and immediately figure out a plan of action without any contact with the teacher or disruption of the class in progress. The classroom teacher does not need to create lesson plans for the ESL teacher. During the push-in services, the ESL teacher may also help other students in the classroom to avoid a “spotlight” effect on the ESL students, thus providing expanded benefits within the classroom as well.
Unfortunately, when classroom teachers do not fully understand the concept of push-in services and think of the ESL teacher as just an extra helper in the room, very awkward situations may develop. ESL teachers may be asked to do tasks that have nothing to do with ESL services, such as cutting out laminated items recently delivered by the print shop, helping the aide to stack blocks, performing classroom clean-up duties, or putting up/taking down bulletin boards, etc. When the ESL teacher refuses, misunderstandings may occur.
Therefore, to avoid these awkward moments and to best utilize ESL services, it’s important to remember that the push-in time is dedicated to offering assistance to the ESL students so that they can do the work at hand—the same work that their regular classmates are doing, or a modified version of it. During push-in time, the ESL teacher is like a co-teacher, not someone coming in to run errands for the teacher, to help the aide, or the like.
When classroom teachers have a clear understanding of the purpose and modes of functioning of ESL services, both push-in and pull-out, the program can work at its maximum potential for the benefit of all parties involved, thus eliminating misunderstandings and strengthening collegial ties. ESL services then become a win-win situation for both students and teachers.
Bonnie Billak holds a master’s degree with specialization in ESL and Bilingual Education. She works as an ESL Specialist at The International School Nido de Aguilas in Santiago, Chile, and also does consulting work related to ESL teaching, program design, and evaluation.

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06/21/2021 - Jane
Thank you very much for sharing this! Our schools offer both pull-out and push-in services for ELs. I work as an ESL teacher. This year is the first time our school offers POPI method. We hope to help our students achieve English fluency through this method.



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