Considerations for Supporting English Language Learners within Remote Learning, Part 1

These are truly unprecedented times and we all are trying our best to navigate ever-changing models of instruction. One thing remains true: we are seeking ways to adapt distance learning to best serve the needs of our students.

As we consider how to best serve our English language learners, we must first stand firm on what our goals are and what we hold to be true within our Collaborative Literacy instruction. In keeping with this thinking, we position ourselves to be better equipped to pivot from distance learning to in-person learning and vice versa. Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I know about my ELL students?
  • Within Collaborative Literacy, what are the academic and social goals for my students?
  • How might these goals yield a language development goal for my ELL students?
  • How are those goals accomplished across the units/weeks of instruction?

As you transition from the content to instructional considerations, you may want to:

  • Consider this guiding question: What does research tell us about teaching ELL students and how might we integrate that into distance learning?
  • Consider how to leverage the tools that Collaborative Classroom has provided on the Learning Portal.

In this blog series, we will dig into two best practices for English language learners and how we might apply them within the remote learning setting while implementing Collaborative Literacy.

Practice 1: Provide explicit instruction of complete, precise, and rich academic language.

Whether in person or during remote learning, remember: ELL students must have “miles and miles on the tongue” (E.L. Achieve, 2017) if we want them to develop oral language. There is a myth out there that ELL students cannot learn academic content in English until they are proficient in the language. This can’t be further from the truth! When you provide meaningful activities and opportunities for rich conversations, students are simultaneously learning content and the English language.

Begin by determining what content and Tier II vocabulary the students will need in order to process specific content and have rich discussions about it. The vocabulary component of the Making Meaning program is a perfect vehicle for choosing these words, as it actively involves students in manipulating language and accessing word-learning strategies. Think about other opportunities within Collaborative Literacy where students have opportunities to grapple with language and build on each other’s thinking.

Remote learning is a great platform to experiment with ways to utilize technology, images, videos, and Total Physical Response (TPR). TPR is a useful tool for ELL students because the students are not required to speak until they are ready. This provides a “safe zone” that lowers inhibitions and stress. Once ELL students feel safe, they will feel confident as they acquire language. When engaging in remote learning, the teacher can watch the student act out a vocabulary word and/or concept. This is especially helpful when the instruction involves difficult-to-explain actions (wiggle, think, stomp). This meaningful interaction is critical when we consider how to get students up and moving during remote learning.

Take a moment to look at your lesson plans and virtual learning experiences and plan how you’ll provide instruction of rich academic content to English language learners. In the next blog of this series, we will delve further into Practice 1 by examining three instructional techniques that will get students excited as they engage in academic dialog.