Incomplete Learning and Our Population of English Language Learners

With just over 5 million English Language Learners (ELLs) nationwide, now more than ever it has become imperative to find ways to support them and help close learning gaps. The COVID pandemic has had an impact on all students, but English Language Learners were home with limited spoken English in most cases, thus further impacting their learning. The English Language Learner population is the fastest growing population in U.S. public schools, and although most English Language Learners are in elementary schools, upwards of 60% of public school districts in the United States report having an ELL population in their high schools. We must find ways to support them if they are to achieve academically. So how do we support them?

Provide Educator Training 

Educators attend numerous professional development sessions every year. How many of these sessions provide practical training? Specifically, how many of these sessions give educators tools with which to support their ELL populations? In my experience very few professional development sessions provide useful or practical strategies that can be readily or easily implemented in the classroom. Providing educators with training that gives them useful and practical tools and strategies to address the needs of English Language Learners is an important first step in the challenge to support them.

Provide Educators with Resources

The allocation of resources is also paramount if we are to help close the learning gaps for English Language Learners. It is not enough for us to train the educators- they need resources to help them implement the strategies learned in their training. Whether it is an electronic translator, electronic apps, visual or audio media, online games, subscriptions to lessons, electronic libraries, or simply lesson plan support, arming our educators with resources is an essential part of supporting our English Language Learners. These resources and their associated costs are easily missed when we build budgets, and we need to make the conscious effort to include them during budgeting and planning. Customized professional development, including strategies and tools for your specific ELL population, is available from a number of education companies and can be invaluable to helping educators become proficient in supporting the English Language Learners in their classrooms.

Communication is Key

Educators (especially across the curricula), family members, school administration and counselors are all vital to the ELL success- so they must communicate and plan together.  Just as 504 or IEP committees communicate and plan together at least twice per academic year, so should those involved with the ELL’s progress. It is vital that all involved in helping the student achieve, communicate in order to ensure the ELL has support in the classroom, in the home, and in their social-emotional development and health. If the English Language Learner is having a difficult time socializing, for example, it can affect their learning in the classroom, thus impeding their academic achievement. If we can build a community of support around the ELL, he or she will be more likely to assimilate and learn more seamlessly. 

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