How to Differentiate for ELLs through Online Learning.

Updated: Jul 27


No one can replace the incredible teacher you are in person, but how can we make the best of the situation we are in, and use digital learning in our favor to support our ELLs even while they are at home? If we can set up a structure and make sure technology is running smoothly, then there are some enormous benefits for our ELL students to experience. 

Let's walk through 5 ways you can differentiate for the needs of ELLs through online learning both through the lens of a homeroom teacher and an ESL teacher. Maybe this will be a wonderful co-teaching opportunity for all of us to learn, which will make us stronger for the next school year. Make sure to check out the free Co-teaching Cheat Sheet at the end to help you and the teachers you work with beginning on common ground and move forward together! 

1. Assign appropriate activities. Let's take advantage of the fact that testing has been canceled, and we can focus on what our ELLs need to continue to grow in their foundation of English. 

Ways to do this: Use the app Seesaw and allow your students to share what interests them! Encourage them to look around their surroundings and talk about it. Make sure to check out the Seesaw Activity Library for a ton of great lessons already planned! Another great way is to assign books through Reading A-Z at the student's level. They are offering a 90-day free trial and is an excellent way for your students to select from a variety of books that interest them, all while you can follow their progress. 

You can also use my ELL Newcomers Digital Centers, which will give your students a mini-lesson video, voiced over slides teaching vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, and opportunities to practice what they are learning. These are perfect for assigning to your students and monitor their progress or areas they need further support it while they work independently at home. Check out more here! 




2. Encourage your ELLs to translate the materials when they don't understand. If they are using technology anyway, encourage them to translate what they need to comprehend what they are learning. This also might be a great way to encourage parents to become more involved with their child's education, when they can understand the material in their native language and talk about it in their native language. 

Ways to do this: You can send home materials in English, with a translation in their native language on the right side. Or take advantage of apps that do this for you like TalkingPoints or Remind to send home assignments in their native language for parents to be able to support better at home. 

3. Continue to use visuals, audio, and sentence frames. 

Ways to do this: When you are teaching or recording videos to share, use props! Students always love when you are silly with them, so why not print a large ear and use it to see if they are listening to you? Or a giant pointer finger to point to the word in the book. You can also add audio files now to Google Slides (hooray!), so for any classroom work that is assigned, ESL teachers could voice over the materials so that your ELLs have the language support they need. 

Want to get a set of Teaching English Online Props for FREE? Click here


4. Set clear goals of what skills you want your ELLs to focus on, or even better, have them set their own goals! 

What do we want our students to get out of this time? Helping our students become self-reflective, motivated, and confident is definitely on the top of the list for me. Use this time to help each student take responsibility for their learning and to accomplish new goals! 

Ways to do this: Set up a daily check-in with the students. This can be an easy way for them to share with you what's going on, reflect on their day, and set goals for the week. When everything is thrown out of place, we all need some reminders and goal setting opportunities. 

5. Look for small ways to encourage English practice. 

It could be as simple as sending a voice message to a friend on the phone or only watching tv shows in English. Those small steps can make a huge impact! 

Ways to do this: Email or send home this free Practice English and Home Bingo Game for easy ways for students to continue to grow in English even if they live in a home that speaks another language. 




How else can we support ELLs through online learning? 

Join the IYL Facebook Group and continue the conversation with us! 




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