Teachers strategize to keep English learners engaged during COVID-19 crisis

Dive Brief:

  • Kentucky teacher Cheri Mann​ is one of numerous educators nationwide using unique strategies to keep recently immigrated students engaged in learning during coronavirus shutdowns, Chalkbeat reports. Rather than sending students a surplus of emails, Mann creates a daily spreadsheet and walks through the lessons by phone, in addition to sending links to assignments by phone to those who don’t have computer access.
  • Mann said the transition to online learning can be overwhelming for students, teachers and parents, but it’s particularly challenging for English learners who are already struggling to adapt. Teachers, however, are going above and beyond by doing everything from delivering hotspots to hosting Sunday video chats.
  • Chicago teacher Nancy Serrano told Chalkbeat the intent is to make sure these students still feel included, as ELL students may fall behind without in-person instruction.

Dive Insight:

Districts with more resources and technology are better prepared for this type of interruption. In Forsyth County, Georgia, where only 15% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the district can hand out hot spots for students who need them, and an existing multilingual messaging app helps keep parents informed.

Equity and access are additional concerns when it comes to online learning caused by coronavirus closures. Colin Seale, an attorney and educator, writes in Forbes that current education practices already fail to provide ELL students with equal access to education. The transition to online learning could put ELL students even further behind.

For ELLs, online learning may be inequitable because parents won’t be able to help. Seale suggests changing job responsibilities of staff to meet these needs. Teachers of ELL students must also iron out the closed-captioning modifications in online learning. 

In Colorado, Colorin’ Colorado, an educational resource for ELLs and their educators, urges educators to reach out to Englishe learners’ families to keep them engaged during this confusing time. The site reminds schools to also keep families informed about the virus itself. Sharing information on how the virus spreads, social distancing and what to do if you are sick are important for communities that get much for their information through the school system.

Students who are still in school should be getting information on preventative measures, and families should be made aware about the vulnerability of grandparents or older relatives, many of whom live in the households in large extended families.

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