Young boy drawing for homework - with very shallow depth of field
Equitable and rigorous education today remains a challenge for teaching unique populations, including English learner students. Challenges range from technology access and connectivity, to designing instructional plans that meet the individual needs of English learner students via distance learning. However, the disruption of traditional education due to COVID-19 can also offer some unexpected benefits.

Strategies to support students’ language and literacy development during remote and hybrid learning
  • Staying in contact with students should be a major priority: Teachers should connect via phone, text or live video with students on a routine basis to provide support or necessary instruction. Many students rely on school as a place of stability. Distance can be challenging for many of them. Teachers should ensure that they are always communicating with their students and families in a language they can understand. Educators can set up consistent meetings, office hours, or check in one-on-one as necessary. Focus on maintaining supportive relationships with students and their families, beyond instructional content. 

  • Consider multiple ways to make content interactive and engaging: Teachers can provide individualized learning experiences utilizing accessible materials and multiple modalities. This could include PowerPoint, YouTube, photos and illustrations, sentence strips, a small whiteboard, and common household items. Develop projects that provide differentiated options for students and families, to foster engagement, creativity, and build on student strengths. Design tasks that focus on the connecting next steps for growth related to students’ English language development.  

  • Identify relevant materials to send home: This can include student textbooks, worksheets and any aids they may need to do their work. Educators should determine if the current curriculum has a digital integrated or designated EL component and prioritize using this curriculum (TNTP, 2020). Provide families with multilingual prompts for conversations they can have with their students about what they are learning (Skibbins, 2020). Ongoing conversations with families should involve educators setting time aside to communicate with them and gathering constructive feedback so that they can continue to refine their students’ learning experiences (Robertson, 2020).  

  • Educators should be proficient in online tools: An important step for helping students learn remotely is to understand how different virtual tools and resources can assist learning, especially when not all students necessarily understand how to use these programs on their own. The focus should be on how tools can best support teaching and learning, not on the tools themselves (Robertson, 2020).