7 Tips for Remote Learning in Education for ELLs
Remote learning isn’t easy. It tests teachers’ skills in all sorts of ways and can present new challenges daily. And, it can be even more difficult when teaching ELLs due to language barriers, difficulties with technology, and a lack of one-on-one assistance. If you are an ELL teacher working remotely, here are our top seven tips for remote learning in education.
1. Create Opportunities for Engagement
One of the trickiest aspects of remote learning in education for native English speakers and ELLs alike is keeping lessons interactive and engaging. While it can be easy to let your virtual classes turn into one-sided lectures, take every chance you can to make your lessons fun and exciting.
Ask questions. Host a show-and-tell or storytime where students can share what is going on in their lives. And, take the time to learn and use the features in your video conferencing program so that students can answer questions, raise their hands, and interact in other digital ways. While it will require more planning up front, creating an engaging virtual classroom will help with attention spans, skill development, and retention of concepts in the long run.
And, encourage parents to engage with their children to teach skills that are tough to cover in a virtual classroom, like cooking! According to Mia Ariela Allen, a specialized ELs teacher, coach, and curriculum consultant at 4 Ed Consulting, committing to eating dinner as a family whenever possible and getting kids involved in the kitchen can help teach language, math, and motor skills at home. And don’t be afraid to include cooking lessons in the school day. It’s a great way to get ELLs who are normally quiet to open up and laugh together.
2. Adapt Your Lessons as Necessary
Over the past year, thousands of teachers have recorded videos, created online games, and more to adapt their lessons for remote learning. Teachers all over the world have had to take a step back and make changes to the way they teach.
It can be difficult to convey classroom content virtually, especially with ELLs who require additional assistance. Check out these easy tools to help you adapt your lessons for the virtual classroom, which are favorites of Mia Ariela Allen:
- Parlay is a discussion-based learning tool (best suited for grades 6-12) that allows for easier written and verbal discussion for virtual classrooms.
- Google provides a broad suite of tools helpful for virtual learning. Check out these templates to guide daily activities in the classroom or this resource for creating eBinders with Google Sites.
- Padlet is a digital bulletin board that you can use around a unit of study to give students different perspectives on the lesson, or create a digital notebook to engage your reluctant readers and writers.
3. Rethink Success
Even during remote learning in education, it’s crucial to still track your students’ progress against traditional and nontraditional benchmarks. In addition to preparing your students for standardized testing and concepts in future grades, think deeply about what success looks like for each individual student.
With virtual learning, the home environment gives even more opportunities for measuring success. For example, you may hear that your students are helping parents or younger siblings with speaking English at home. Keep an eye on key academic benchmarks, but don’t be afraid to celebrate nontraditional victories as well, even if they aren’t a part of your formal reporting.
4. Equip Your Students with Appropriate Tools
A huge part of successfully teaching ELLs remotely is providing students with remote classroom technology to improve communication and help them break down language barriers. Here are two more of Mia Ariela Allen’s favorites:
- Google Translate: This one may be obvious, but it is also endless in its applications. While it won’t provide perfect translations, it can be a big help when trying to explain new concepts or provide directions to ELLs. Use it yourself and encourage your students to refer to it as a tool when they are struggling with a word or phrase.
- TalkingPoints: TalkingPoints is an incredible platform that allows you to text with your students and their families in any language. The highly accurate translations make it a key tool to connect with ELLs and communicate effectively with their parents.
Finally, one of the best resources for teaching remotely is identifying a key bilingual speaker in each ELL’s life. These family members or friends can be crucial to a great relationship with your ELL students and their families. And, these individuals can help you work through academic concepts difficult for ELLs until they are comfortable enough to process them in English.
5. Prepare ELLs for the Day’s Lessons
One of the biggest barriers that comes with remote learning in education for ELLs is time. Once on video with students, many teachers feel the pressure to get in as much learning as possible. This can make answering unexpected questions or having to review concepts difficult, as you may miss out on other parts of the lesson you had planned.
For this reason, providing ELLs with resources before class is crucial to ensure they are all on the same page. Consider handing out items like vocabulary lists, character lists, and necessary background knowledge for review well before class starts so students can send in questions ahead of time and come to class prepared and on the same page.
ELLs also may need to prepare for the day socially by warming up their English language skills. Here are a few fun activities from Mia Ariela Allen to get ELLs talking and writing each day in your virtual classroom:
- Would You Rather: Get the conversation started with fun and silly “would you rather” questions.
- Six Word Memoirs: Students write about their upcoming day, describe how they’re feeling, or tell a story in just six words. Have them take turns sharing their powerful words with a partner, group, or the whole class. The options are endless, and the short-form responses make the activity accessible for students at all levels.
6. Prioritize One-On-One Time with ELLs
While it’s not possible to pull students aside or allow them to come up to your desk in virtual learning, creating one-on-one time is still key for ELL success. Consider texting programs like TalkingPoints or establishing weekly conferences where you can schedule a few minutes alone with each student during the day. Especially for ELLs, the chance to talk one-on-one helps greatly with language development and socialization. Plus, it allows you to directly check in on your students’ wellbeing.
7. Know That You’re Doing Your Best
Remote learning in education can feel like an uphill battle for many teachers and students. But at the end of the day, the chance to learn, socialize with other students, and explore new ideas is what matters most.
If you’re getting frustrated with remote classroom technology or are having a rough day with classroom management, take a deep breath, enjoy the moment, and know that you are making a difference for each and every student you teach. It may not be easy, but it is always worth it.