Successful English Learners (ELs) develop both language and content knowledge simultaneously, and they learn best in face-to-face interactions that both challenge and support them. However, during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of schools are shuttered and more than five million ELs are learning from home. So, while there is limited research on the efficacy of distance learning and even less evidence-based guidance on how to best serve ELs in a completely digital PreK-12 environment, what we can offer teachers here is our best advice on making lemonade from lemons. We believe that in every crisis there is an opportunity, and by utilizing the recommendations below, teachers can refocus on what we know works when teaching ELs, reformat lessons to adapt research-based practices to online environments, and reimagine a system where all ELs demonstrate success.
In March, ELSF surveyed educators. We wanted to listen to teachers’ authentic reactions and learn how our nation’s quick shift to distance learning impacted their practice. The results from that survey indicated that while teachers were adapting at lightning speed and utilizing a myriad of online learning systems, apps and paper packets to promote continued learning, they still had unanswered questions about how to best serve their ELs in the new learning format. The Do’s and Dont’s below are our best thinking to address some common threads specific to ELA instruction.