Supporting equity for English learners during the Coronavirus pandemic

  • Supporting equity for English learners during the Coronavirus pandemic

    Sarah Ottow created 3 months, 2 weeks ago 2 Members · 7 Posts
  • Sarah Ottow

    April 17, 2020 at 8:18 am

    On Monday, April 20 at 3pm, I’ll be moderating a discussion here about how to support equity for English learners during this time of remote teaching during a pandemic. See my article here for more info and I look forward to connecting with you all!

  • Sarah Ottow

    April 20, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Hello all! In terms of supporting ELs during this pandemic, I’d like to reshare a video about this now. What questions do you have?

  • Sarah Ottow

    April 20, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Here are some guiding questions for the discussion:


    Are students and families safe and healthy? How can educators check in to see if students and families have their basic needs met?

    Do students and families have access to food? Can the school provide breakfast and lunch for the households?

    What resources can the school and/or community provide now to make sure basic needs are met, including access to wifi and devices?


    Is the communication we are sending home to families actually accessible to all families? If not, what ways besides email can we reach out (e.g. phone calls, texting, platforms that translate to home languages)?

    Are EL educators’ expertise being leveraged at this time to support what needs families have, what families need, and what communication strategies can be effective now? What accommodations need to be made for ELs (e.g. modeling of online learning procedures expectations, scaffolds we would provide in the face-to-face classrooms, blended supports comprised of print-outs instead of all online learning)? Are we overemphasizing writing tasks or are we balancing all domains — reading, writing, listening and speaking?

    Can leaders take note of any inconsistencies in accessible, two-way communication for EL families so that a more proactive and inclusive set of policies and practices can be put in place now going forward?


    Are we providing the time and space to process these changes — emotionally and logistically? Or are we pushing ahead with over-programmed schedules and expectations that may be unrealistic at this time?

    How are we hearing from students about their experiences right now? Can teachers check in through phone calls or video chats to be less impersonal than email-only outreach?

    How can schools capitalize on families’ funds of knowledge and not just the “official” curriculum? Can we balance the needs of core instruction with other ways of authentic learning in the home? How can families be partners who we work with to get through this together?

  • Suzanne Bouffard

    April 20, 2020 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for your great blog post and advice, Sarah. I appreciate the advice to comfort, communicate, and connect. As a parent, I see how important the connection piece is for students right now, especially connections with their classmates. In addition to educator-student connection, how can educators facilitate peer connections among EL students, especially when students may not all speak the same language? 

    • Sarah Ottow

      April 20, 2020 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Suzanne, Thanks for this insightful question. I also am glad to hear your perspective as a parent. The challenge of multilingual classrooms is real every day and even more real right now. The connections can happen through students’ use of their home language, especially if they can use oral language during synchronous learning (like Zoom, Google Hangouts), and students can even share greetings and social language, being the “teachers” themselves! It’s also really important to scaffold ANY learning environment. Now that we are doing remote teaching, scaffolding that learning environment so students can connect in English IS possible!

  • Suzanne Bouffard

    April 20, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    That’s so good to hear. I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for social support among communities that are vulnerable or socially marginalized or generally suffering from inequity. A community near me has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. The community includes many immigrant families, largely essential workers, and many parents and some kids who don’t speak much English. The support of educators and peers is surely more important than ever. 

    • Sarah Ottow

      April 20, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      Yes, the marginalized are even more so right now. I’m sorry to hear about the community near you, Suzanne. We say “we are all in this together” yet some of us are in comfortable boats while others are in lifeboats… It’s important that we stay aware of the inequities and shine a light on ways to bring people together to get the support folks need.

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