We find ourselves in unprecedented times as the COVID 19 pandemic has shut down our schools for an indefinite amount of time. As educators, we are scrambling to adapt to what distance learning means and how to best serve our students. In the past few weeks, many teachers have been bombarded with thousands of brilliant ideas and links for how to support distance learning, but there is a huge void of resources geared towards helping teachers support their English Learners.
At SEAL, our mission is for all English Learners in California to learn, thrive, and lead. During this moment, we need to ask the question, “What considerations for distance learning do teachers need to make in order to place English Learners at the forefront?” We hope this serves as a contribution to what will need to be an ever-growing conversation about how we serve our ELs in this crazy time.
With the closure of schools, we have essentially withdrawn essential learning supports and exacerbated the challenge of equitable access to resources. Before we can dive into potential strategies or techniques, we need to ask ourselves: “What assumptions am I making about my students’ learning environment? Access to resources and technology? Family support or other responsibilities at home during this time?” As we move into this new space of distance learning, we are primarily using three methods of delivery: 1) live online instruction by the teacher, 2) online material and classroom assignments that can be accessed individually, and 3) packets of activities, materials and reading. While most of the resources below make the assumption that students have access to technology, we have tried to include some ideas for those of you who are designing take-home packets for your families who don’t have access to a computer and internet. This is a critical moment in which we need to devote time and planning to how we are going to scaffold learning to support ALL our students. We face a very real possibility that the next few months of learning will further stratify our educational system.
With that question of equity at the heart, we move into asking ourselves, “What does research tell us about teaching ELs and how can we use this information in distance learning?”