How to give ELLs a boost during online learning

Educators have to provide ELLs' parents with clear information about the shift to online instruction
By: | April 21, 2020
Systems that are set up during online learning to communicate with non-English-speaking pELLs students and parents can be used to build better communications programs that will remain in use when schools reopen. (Tetra Images-Erik Isakson/GettyImages.com)Systems that are set up during online learning to communicate with non-English-speaking pELLs students and parents can be used to build better communications programs that will remain in use when schools reopen. (Tetra Images-Erik Isakson/GettyImages.com)

English language learners are getting special attention and dedicated time for instruction in online learning at Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Nebraska.

All elementary school students currently spend about two hours a day in online classes, with 30 minutes of that time dedicated to “specials” and non-core subjects.

ELLs can use that time to work with their teachers on weekly speaking, reading, writing and listening activities, says Kara Hutton, the district coordinator of special programs.

High school ELLs have live class sessions that offer a mix of instruction and follow-up instruction.


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The district’s English language teachers are also providing ELLs with extra support in math, English and other core subjects in study-group style sessions.

“That isn’t really what EL teachers are supposed to do—they’re supposed to help students learn English,” Hutton says. “But students are not going to learn English if they’re stressed about their other classes. We want them to feel like they can be successful.”

However, students have told their teachers they have found fewer opportunities to practice their English since schools closed.

Parents of ELL also need support

Educators also have to provide ELLs’ parents with clear information about the shift to online instruction as families are called upon to give students more help with school work, says Leslie Iburg, an education lead at the United Language Group, a service provider.


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The company has been inundated with requests for translations of written communications in a variety of languages to guide students in setting up the technology to participate in remote learning.

Systems that are set up to communicate with non-English-speaking parents can be used to build better communications programs that will remain in use when schools reopen.

“Districts have to make sure educational materials translated in a way that’s helpful to parents,” Iburg says.”It’s critical to communicate in multiple ways.”


DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.