This article on co-teaching as an alternative to the push-in and pull-out program of instructing ELLs is part 8 of the Collaboration for ELLs Series.

effectivness of push-in and pull-out model

Abandoning an Antiquated Model

The push-in, pull-out (PIPO) model isn’t an inclusive way to develop ELs’ English skills. Period.

POPI is the practice of

  • pulling ELs out of content classes to provide extra language support and
  • pushing ELs into content teachers’ classes to scaffold content learning or
  • pulling out to provide scaffolded content instruction.  

We need to rethink the components of this model.  

1. Welcomed, not Pushed

The term “push” suggests that there’s resistance from the content teachers to having ELTs in their classrooms in the first place.  Instead of forcing themselves into class, the ELTs  should be welcomed and invited to be part of the instruction because more teachers mean more learning for students.

2. Our Students, not Yours & Mine

Non-ELs should understand that the ELTs are not just for the ELs, they are also their teachers.  Both the content teachers and the ELTs are responsible for the academic progress of all students. The educators’ roles in the class may be distinct, but the responsibilities are the same.

Additionally, when a content teacher allows the ELTs to pull an EL out of class, they’re implicitly communicating many things:

  1. that the content teacher doesn’t believe the EL is ready to engage with grade-level content standards
  2. that ELs are not a content teacher’s responsibility, and
  3. that content teachers are not teachers of language instruction.

We do not want to communicate or perpetuate these counterproductive beliefs.

3. In Class, not Pulled-Out

Pulling students out of content classes implies that there is resistance either from the content teacher, the ELs, or both. I remember when my ESL teacher pulled me out for English lessons when I was in elementary school.  I also remember wanting to stay with my friends because the ESL class made me feel less than the other students.  

ELTs do not need to pull students out because content classes provide the perfect context to learn language.  Learning a language has a purpose because it’s used to understand and engage with content.  Scaffolding that occurs outside of class can be offered in class.  Also, because ELTs don’t have niched content expertise, remaining in class is academically more appropriate for ELs.

4. Avoid Using Sexual Reference

I won’t go into detail, but I’ll let you infer how the terms “pull-out” and “push-in” have sexual undertones. It’s just better to do away with the titles of “pull-out” and “push-in” altogether because of the negative connotation that is associated with them.  But a name change is not enough if the practice is still the same.

An Alternative Approach: Co-Teaching

Based on the diagram in last week’s article, there are at least three inclusive instructional program models we can adopt: Sheltered Immersion, Transitional Bilingualism, and Dual Language.  Because I am not familiar with the bilingual programs (Transitional Bilingualism and Dual Language), I will talk only about Sheltered Immersion. The latter is still quite inclusive of ELs and presents many opportunities for co-teaching.  

Sheltered Immersion is perfectly designed to promote collaboration.  It invites content and language teachers to co-plan and co-teach in order to help ELs access content and develop their language skills.  Teachers using the Sheltered Instruction focus on:

  1. making content comprehensible and
  2. scaffolding learning so that ELs can communicate.  

For example, Mr. Arno and I teach co-teach within a sheltered immersion model because our ELs stay in class with other non-ELs.  During co-planning, we focus on these two items above.  I attend his science classes to help all students but pay particular attention to the ELs.  Instead of calling it “push-in”, we call it:

  • “co-teaching” when we’ve previously had co-planning time or
  • “in-class support” when we didn’t have co-planning time.

I’m not an aide, however, because I do instruct the class at particular times – mainly teaching how to access academic texts and structure academic writing.  When I’m not there, he still teaches the ELs using the strategies we discussed during co-planning. Teachers who use the co-teaching model believe that all ELs can learn alongside and with English-proficient peers.  Sheltered Immersion shuns the social isolation that ELs experience in traditional English Immersion and ESL programs.

Backed by Research

Research suggests that Sheltered Immersion is effective at developing students’ academic language skills because it builds a context that allows ELs to use language authentically and intentionally (García & Hamayan, 2006; Kramsch, 2003; Halliday & Hasan, 1989, Short, Echevarria, & Richards-Tutor, 2011; Yore & Treagust, 2006; Yore, 2000).

The nature of Sheltered Immersion intrinsically supports interdisciplinary learning, which provides ELs with a greater chance to make connections and cultivate critical thinking skills.  Honigsfeld and Dove (2010) add that, “When teachers collaborate and co-teach, the content and language become interconnected in a way that is not possible when students receive content instruction in one class and language instruction in another” (Kindle location 210-211).  


When we use the word “alternative” to describe another option, it can sometimes carry a negative connotation.  In this context, sheltered co-teaching moves becomes more than an “alternative” option, it becomes an opportunity to engage with instruction that simultaneously teaches content while extending ELs’ academic language skills.  

In a time period when the world seems to be so culturally and politically divided, we need our schools to be a place of unity and inclusion.  We can start by fighting for our ELs to learn alongside and with their non-EL peers.

Do you see any other benefits to the Sheltered Immersion Model?

Next Post

Now that we’ve established the effectiveness of sheltered co-teaching, we can move onto learning various co-teaching practices.  Over the next few articles, I’ll be sharing the different forms of co-teaching, providing case studies, and offering a framework for instruction.

Brown University. (n.d.). Sheltered English Instruction. Retrieved from

Colorin Colorado. (1993). Program Models for Teaching English Language Learners. Retrieved  from

Garcia, E. E., & Hamayan, E. (2006). What is the role of culture in language learning? In E. Hamayan & R. Freeman (Eds.), English language learners at school: A guide for administrators. Philadelphia: Caslon Publishing, 61–64.

Halliday, M. A. K., & Hasan, R. (1989). Language, context, and text. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hayes, J. (2016, February 26). Pull-Out vs Push-In ESL Programs in Elementary Schools. Retrieved from

Honigsfeld, A. & Dove, M. (2010). Collaboration and co-teaching: Strategies for English learners.  SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Kramsch, C. (2003). (Ed.). Language acquisition and language socialization: Ecological perspectives. New York, NY: Continuum.

Short, D., Echevarría, J., & Richards-Tutor, C. (2011). Research on academic literacy development in sheltered instruction classrooms. Language Teaching Research, 15(3), 363–380.

Yore, L. D. (2000). Enhancing science literacy for all students with embedded reading instruction and writing-to-learn activities. Journal of Deaf Studies & Deaf Education, 5(1), 105–122.

Yore, L. D., & Treagust, D. F. (2006). Current realities and future possibilities: Language and science literacy-empowering research and informing instruction. International Journal of Science Education. 28(2/3), 291–314.