Facilitating Online Learning

These resources address how schools and educators can create distance learning plans and lessons that take into account the unique learning needs of English learners.


ELLEVATION Instructional Activities

ELLEVATION has created instructional activities specifically designed for English learners (ELs) developing English language proficiency and learning academic content through distance learning. The activities include demonstration videos, graphic organizers, slide decks, and student work examples. Activities are available in English and Spanish. 

Wide Open School

This platform, launched by Common Sense Media, provides a collection of free online learning experiences to help teachers and families engage students learning from home. The site can be searched by resources for educators or families. The educator resources are divided into elementary and secondary and then by subject. There are also sections for English learners (ELs), special needs, arts, daily schedules, virtual classroom setup, and live digital events. The EL resources include links to multilingual online content and platforms for distance learning. The Wide Open School platform also provides Access for All Students—clearinghouse of information for lower-income families to gain access to Internet services and resources for families requiring services for health, hunger, shelter, and mental health needs.

CAL Online Learning Resources

The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) is offering free resources for teachers, administrators, policymakers, and student teachers. The site includes a Learning from Home series and Ed Policy One-Takes. The Learning from Home series includes webinars on language learning activities at home and reading and writing activities to promote literacy in the home. Previous webinars are accessible through video recordings, handouts, and PowerPoint slides. Upcoming webinars include topics such as language and math at home. The Ed Policy One-Takes examine the real-time implementation of state and federal policies enacted in response to COVID-19 across the country. The series includes a video webinar on the impact of assessment waivers and future topics include funding opportunities and virtual instruction.

Ellevation Distance Learning

Ellevation has provided free, research-based K–Grade 12 activities specifically adapted to support teachers of English learners in distance learning environments. The English/Spanish activities include how-to video instructions, tips and tricks, graphic organizers, video examples, and more. Each activity includes suggestions for high, moderate, and light support for students.

Report Summaries

Engaging Stakeholders in Continuous Improvement of English Learner Programs & Services during COVID-19 & Beyond

This state leadership guide introduces a set of equity-focused resources for state education agency (SEA) leaders to use to engage state and local stakeholders in continuous-improvement processes focused on English Learner programs and services. The guide and its accompanying resources are organized around the three prongs of the Castañeda (1981) framework: (1) Grounding EL-focused continuous improvement in evidence-based principles; (2) Supporting implementation with adequate resources and personnel; and (3) Monitoring progress to ensure effectiveness. Parts 1 and 2 include resources that SEA leaders can draw upon to ground their work to serve English learners. Part 3 presents a progress-monitoring tool that SEA leaders can use with district and/or school leaders to collaboratively develop comprehensive EL programs.

Supporting Adolescent English Learners in Distance Learning. What Can Schools and District Leaders Do?

This brief is part of a series from the National Research and Development Center to Improve Education for Secondary English Learners. The brief provides concrete and actionable suggestions for districts and school leaders, educators, families, and policy makers on how to support English learners in a remote learning environment. The brief also focuses on how schools and district can develop and implement effective and efficient professional development practices that will help their educators support English leaners’ academic progress. 

National Survey of Public Education’s Response to Covid-19: Spotlight on English Learners

This brief shares findings from a survey administered across the United States to public and charter school systems regarding their response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on English learners. Survey results indicate varied levels of support for resources necessary towards the education of English learners in distance learning environments, such as the availability of support in languages other than English and time for general education and English learner teachers to collaborate.

Chapter 22: Distance Learning with ELLs

This chapter, written by Larry Ferlazzo and Katie Hull Sypnieski, comes from their upcoming book, The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide, 2nd Edition. The authors have made the chapter available early to support educators teaching in the age of COVID-19. Ferlazzo and Sypnieski address how to best support English learners (ELs) during distance learning and offer a number of instructional strategies and resources. Topics include building relationships with students, cooperative activities, feedback, equity, and supporting parents of ELs. Tech tools and samples of student activities are described throughout the chapter.  

Making the Connection: Communicating with ELLs and Their Families During School Closures

This article, written by Lydia Breiseth for Colorín Colorado, includes tools, resources, and tips for maintaining connections with English learners and their families during school closures. Breiseth offers strategies for making communication a priority and determining contact information and preferred methods of communication. She also provides resources for translation and describes the importance of check-ins for learning and social-emotional health. The article also includes “Voices from the Field” with advice and insights from educators across the country as well as links to related resources on the Colorín Colorado site. 

Fact Sheet: Providing Services to English Learners During the COVID-19 Outbreak

This fact sheet from the United States Department of Education outlines states’ responsibilities to English learners (ELs) and their families during extended school closures and remote learning. It provides specific guidance in a question and answer format on annual English language proficiency (ELP) assessment, entrance requirements, providing services to ELs, use of Title III funds, exit procedures, and communicating with parents of ELs. The fact sheet also provides additional resources from the U.S. Department of Education.  

Offline Learning at Home: Ideas for English Language Learners

This article, written by Beth Skelton and Mia Ariela Allen for Colorín Colorado, provides ideas and best practices for reaching English learners (ELs) without access to the Internet as well as ideas for building on families’ cultures, home languages, and assets. The article includes ways to partner with families; offline learning opportunities for developing speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills; and tips for creating accessible learning packets. The article also provides infographics and insights from EL educators in the field.     

Critical concepts in distance learning for multilingual learners

This article, written by Erick Herrmann, provides six critical concepts for instructing English learners, both face-to-face and through distance learning. The six critical concepts are: 1) Consider the Linguistic Demand of Assignments, Websites, and Materials; 2) Build Background Knowledge; 3) Comprehensible Input: Videos, Pictures, Infographics; 4) Guided Practice and Feedback; 5) Interaction; and 6) Assessment. Concepts include links to articles discussing the concepts in-depth.

Distance Learning Solutions

This list of resources, compiled by UNESCO, includes resources for psycho-social support, digital learning management systems, systems built for use on basic mobile phones, systems with strong offline functionality, online course platforms, self-directed learning content, mobile reading applications, collaboration platforms, tools for teachers creating digital learning, and external repositories of distance learning resources. Many of the resources are available in multiple languages.

6 Key Considerations for Supporting English Learners with Distance Learning

This article by Heather Skibbins, educator at SEAL, begins with equity considerations for English learners (ELs) during distance learning before moving into research on effectively teaching ELs. For each of six key research foundations for ELs, Skibbins explains the implications for distance learning and provides strategies for instruction. The article addresses academic language, oral language, thematic instruction, differentiation, home language, and family engagement. The article contains links to relevant materials. 

Remote Learning Guidance from State Education Agencies During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A First Look

This report by MIT online learning expert Justin Reich provides remote learning guidance based on a recent 50-state review of remote learning plans. The report finds areas of commonality across state remote learning policies and provides three research-based recommendations for remote learning. The recommendations are: 1) place issues of equity at the center of remote learning plans, with increased guidance for special populations; 2) instructional guidance should acknowledge the challenges and constraints of home-based, remote learning; and 3) information should be communicated clearly with multiple target audiences in mind. The review also encourages state agencies to provide additional support and guidance for schools serving English learners.

Distance Learning During COVID:19: 7 Equity Considerations for Schools and Districts

This issue brief from the Southern Education Foundation shares seven equity considerations for schools and districts related to distance learning. These considerations include access to Internet and technology equipment, support for students with special needs and English Learners (ELs), wraparound services such as counseling or food support, support for teachers, impact on students’ and teachers’ mental health, and expectations for parents. The brief highlights school districts that are currently addressing each equity consideration and links to their pages.

Supporting English Learners through Technology: What Districts and Teachers Say about Digital Learning Resources for English Learners (2019).

This study collected data during the 2016─17 school year through a nationally representative survey of districts that enrolled English Learner (EL) students, a teacher survey that included both mainstream teachers and EL specialists, and case studies of six districts to provide more in-depth information about district and teacher practices. Findings cover how districts and teachers identified digital learning resources (DLRs), how teachers used DLRs, supports for and barriers to DLR use, and suggestions for improving the usefulness of DLRs in instruction of EL students.

Educator Toolkit on Using Digital Learning Resources to Support English Learners (2018).

The Educator Toolkit aims to support educators in using technology to help their English learners gain proficiency in English and meet academic goals.

Fact Sheet: Technology Use with English Learners (2019)

This fact sheet from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) reports data and information from the U.S. Department of Education, national study of English learners and digital learning resources, Supporting English Learners Through Technology (2019) and the Educator Toolkit: Using Educational Technology — 21st Century Supports for English Learners (2018).

5 Things Educators Can Do to Support Instruction for English Learners During COVID-19 (English Learner Success Forum)

This article from the English Learner Success Forum contains two infographics, one for educators and one for districts, with five actions to support instruction for English learners (ELs) during school closures. The infographic recommends that districts and educators (1) ensure two-way systems are in place for parents and educators to communicate; (2) provide access to quality multilingual learning resources so parents can supplement learning at home; (3) guide and monitor remote learning to ensure equitable access for ELs; (4) collaborate with vendors to ensure continuity of grade-level learning for ELs; and (5) provide support and job-embedded professional learning for educators. The infographic recommends that educators collaborate with their school’s EL coordinator to ensure online learning includes ELs, provides daily opportunities for students to speak and be formatively assessed, engages parents as allies, and emphasizes student agency, curiosity, and exploration. The infographics include links to relevant resources.

Supporting Multilingual Learners (MLLs)/English Language Learners (ELLs) During the COVID-19 Shutdown

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) has compiled general guidance for supporting English learners (ELs) during distance learning. The document includes guidance on tech tools for keeping in touch with students such as live or recorded video and assigning reading and writing tasks. The document also contains a list of resources for continued literacy and language development for ELs. The list indicates if the resource is printable, needs an adult, the languages available, the English language proficiency (ELP) and grade level, and action steps for teachers. The document includes links to all relevant resources.

Achieve the Core

Student Achievement Partners is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving K–Grade 12 student achievement through evidence-based action. Through Achieve the Core, Student Achievement Partners provides information on professional learning, planning for instruction, and classroom resources. The Planning for Instruction materials include resources for planning instructional supports for English learners such as mathematical language routines and writing scaffolds. The Classroom Resources include ELA and math lessons for grades K–Grade 12, textbook adaptations, and an academic word finder.

Working with WIDA Global Educators: Teaching Multilingual Learners Online

WIDA developed this document by consulting with educators in the WIDA International School Consortium who have experience teaching online. For each of WIDA’s 10 guiding principles, the document outlines what teachers and multilingual learners can do to facilitate effective online learning. It also provides links to online resources.

Practical Strategies and Resources for EL Distance Learning

This is a blog post by Dr. Eugenia Krimmel, founder of CollegeESL.com and an ESL Instructional Coach at Commonwealth Charter Academy in Harrisburg, PA. The post shares points to consider when beginning to teach English learners (ELs) in a virtual setting, technology logistics, and strategies for effective distance learning for K–12 ELs. Dr. Krimmel describes two types of cyber learning environments—synchronous and asynchronous and the advantages and disadvantages of each. She also describes the appropriate balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning by English language proficiency level. Dr. Krimmel provides strategies for modeling, content resources for ELs, and resources for communicating with families.

Online Learning in the Wake of COVID-19: Tips and Resources for PreK–12 with Equity in Mind

This article from New America offers resources for facilitating online learning with equity in mind. The resources are being compiled and updated by New America’s Teaching, Learning, and Tech team. The team focuses on helping more students gain access to remote learning, engaging parents in distance learning, finding and using openly licensed digital learning materials as a part of distance learning, and choosing and using digital media with young learners. The article explains that in order to provide equitable learning opportunities, English learners (ELs) and their families will need access to materials in their home language. The article provides links to a list of digital resources for EL students that will be updated continuously.

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day

Educator and author Larry Ferlazzo compiles and shares resources for educators. Resources include videos in Spanish to help parents and students access technology for remote learning, video tips for parents supporting remote learning, video tips for educators teaching remotely, six potential models for school schedules during remote learning, and Ferlazzo’s own online teaching plan for English learner students. The site is updated regularly.


Learning from Home: NYC DOE Aligned Curriculum (Teaching Matters)

Teaching Matters has created lessons and activities for teachers of grades K–Grade 8. The content is designed for Google Classroom but can be adapted to other platforms as well. The site includes a video Language Acquisition Support Tutorial with considerations for English learners (ELs). The framework of best practices includes comprehensible input, lowering the affective filter, developing all four modalities of language, and transfer from home language. The video provides examples of how to adapt the content for ELs.


New York State TESOL Webinars

The New York State TESOL association is offering a series of webinars on teaching K–12 English Learners (ELs) online. There are multiple new webinars posted weekly. Topics include using voice and video as tools for beginner ELs and students with interrupted formal education, remote co-planning for teachers, cooperative activities for ELs that require only a phone, and several webinars on specific technology tools such as Flipgrid, Google Classroom, and Seesaw. Recordings of past webinars are available on the NYS TESOL YouTube page.

Webinar: Supporting English Learners through Technology

This webinar and presentation from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) and Dr. Phil Vahey, Director of Strategic Research and Innovation for SRI Education, provided an in-depth look at digital learning resources that can strengthen instruction of English learners.

Equitable Practices for Online Learning—Free Webinar Series

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) has developed webinars and digital workshops for educators on topics such as equitable practices for teaching online, the digital divide, and tools and tips to alleviate the homework gap. Past webinars are accessible by video recording and more webinars are forthcoming.