Distance Learning for Emerging Bilinguals


Considerations for Humanizing Practice

Shifting to distance learning is a significant transition for teachers, students and families. As you continue in this work, it is worth considering the following: 

  • Start slow and simple - The sheer number of digital resources and tools available to you can be overwhelming. There is no need to use everything at once. Start slow, use the tools you know, and be confident in your capacity as an educator. 

  • Be kind to yourself and others - These are uncertain times. Be sure to extend grace to yourself, your students, families, colleagues and leaders. 

  • Prioritize relationships - In addition to safety and other physical needs, a sense of belonging is foundational to learning. Time spent building relationships with students and families is time well-spent. 

  • Promote love of learning  - Curiosity is an innate human characteristic. Focus on the types of learning activities that tap into this love of learning through student choice, opportunities for critical thinking, and supportive adult and peer conversations.

  • Establish norms and routines - An effective launch to distance learning will require clear expectations for teachers, students and families. Routines and norms can help support mental health for everyone involved. 

  • Iterate to improve - The evolving nature of our current situation means that we will need to be flexible and adaptable through multiple iterations of our plans.  

Multilingual Communication Tools and Resources

It is important that you are able to continue communication with your students or families. What should you be communicating to families? 

  • Support families in accessing information critical to physical health and safety

  • Ensure that families have information and resources to stay in contact with the school

  • Prioritize love, belonging, care and respect for all families and communities 

  • Provide students and families information about the continuing support that will be available for emerging bilinguals

If you do not have access to district interpreters and translators, please consider some of the following resources: 

Learning Resources for Each Language Modality

This list includes examples of digital and analog tools for supporting language development in each domain during distance learning. Do not overwhelm students and families with tools. Choose a small number of resources that will become part of your regular routine. 

*Resource is available in multiple languages

Ideas and Strategies to Support Emerging Bilinguals During Distance Learning

Synchronous Learning Opportunities

  • Provide Google Voice numbers to all teachers so that they can make phone calls to students and families

  • Encourage individual or small group conferring

  • Virtual class meetings for oral language development (i.e. online conversation circle) with Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.

  • Office hours for drop-in student questions and support

Asynchronous Learning Opportunities

  • Learning Choice Menus / Activity Boards (See ESL at Home for tech-free multilingual activity boards for K-8 students) 

  • Ensure that all teachers voice instructions through video or audio, including QR codes/links on paper packets

  • Recorded video lessons (with Loom, Screencastify, Screencast-o-Matic, etc.)

  • Consider using interactive notebooks, individualized learning plans and/or project based learning 

  • EL Teachers provide scaffolds and feedback on distance learning assignments for other courses

Professional Development 

  • Teacher-led EL Distance Learning PD for mainstream teachers (synchronous or asynchronous) 

  • Regularly scheduled collaboration time between EL and mainstream teachers 

  • External PD offerings for teachers (See WIDA Self-Paced eLearning courses)

Other Ideas and Strategies

LIEP Plan Distance Learning Appendix

All Minnesota schools are required to develop and communicate a plan for serving students identified as English Learners, including during distance learning. MDE has recommended that you develop an appendix for your Language Instruction Education Program (LIEP) plan. Examples of LIEP Plan Distance Learning Appendices from several local districts are available in the MDE Guidance on Using Distance Learning for English Learner Programming

Your LIEP Plan Distance Learning Appendix should include the following elements: 



Contact for Information

ELD Instruction 

  • What will EL teachers do?

  • Include a combination of the Ideas and Strategies above. 

  • Include information about how you will differentiate across proficiency levels. 

Include contact information for the following as needed: 

  • EL Coordinator 

  • EL Teacher(s)

  • Building Principal

  • Equity Coordinator

  • Family Liaisons

Mainstream EL Support 

  • What will content teachers do to support English learners?

  • Include professional development opportunities of mainstream teachers from the Ideas and Strategies section.

Include contact information as needed. 

Communicating with multilingual/ multicultural families 

  • How will you share this information with families? Include your communication plan and strategies here. 

  • Use Multilingual Communication Tools and Resources as needed. 

Include contact information as needed. 

Additional Resources and Information

The following links have a multitude of resources and information for distance learning. While much of it is not specific to multilingual learners, these links and resources can provide some additional information about tools and strategies for distance learning.