English Learners

Ohio’s Support Guide for Teachers of English Learners 


I. Introduction


II. Strategies and Resources for Educators

  1. Providing English Language Development Services and Academic Supports

  2. Meaningful Communication with Families 

  3. Ensuring Access to Nonacademic Supports 

  4. Meeting the Needs of English Learners with Disabilities 

III. Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Community Schools 

  2. Resources to Meet Language and Access Needs of English Learners  

  3. Access to Technology

  4. Communicating with Limited English Proficient Persons 

  5. Food Services 

  6. Attendance 

  7. Mental Health Services

I. Introduction

As schools work to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by addressing the health and safety needs of all students, the Ohio Department of Education remains committed to providing supports for Ohio’s educators as they ensure English learners receive critical information and continue remote learning.  

The purpose of this document is to provide supports for educators to reach and teach English learners. This document should be used as a companion to Ohio's Remote Learning Resource Guide and applies the same continuum of remote learning to the unique characteristics of English learners. Finally, as part of the continued communications that occur between Ohio educators and the Department, the document provides responses to frequently asked questions.  

Ohio’s Support Guide for Teachers of English Learners is influenced by the recommendations from Ohio Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, a professional organization whose diverse members advocate and collaborate on behalf of English learners and their families. It is through such partnerships the state works to identify and address issues related to equity and access.   

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II. Strategies and Resources for Educators


1. Providing English Language Development and Academic Supports 

All teachers of English learners impact the rate and quality of their students’ English language development and achievement in the academic content areas. Just as the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher brings expertise in language acquisition, the general education teacher provides English learners with opportunities to practice and refine their developing language skills. When educators co-plan quality instruction that includes linguistically and culturally responsive practices, students can be full participants in all classes. Finding pathways to success in academic content areas empowers English learners to develop the language skills needed for school and life.  

Strategies for Providing English Language Development and Supports 

The following are strategies teachers can use to impact the language learning trajectories of English learners within remote environments. These strategies are based upon principles of best practice for English learners and can be applied to all content areas.    

  • Use visual representations on the screen. Teachers can use visuals, such as graphic organizers, strategically to express higher-order thinking skills and support the use of new vocabulary in conversations with students. They can allow students to use shared tools to write and draw on the screen and encourage communication around academic content.  

  • Use sentence frames. The nonprofit group Student Achievement Partners explains that sentence frames and starters help English learners understand what they should be analyzing within a text to complete a writing or discussion activity. Remote learning teachers should continue to use sentence frames and starters to scaffold instruction with the aim of having students build toward the ability to analyze and write about content without the use of the frames.  

  • Set up for success. Remote learning plans should reflect information from students about their home learning environments. This would include workspace setup, time management and levels of family support available. For example, parents of English learners may have limited or interrupted education backgrounds, so siblings or same-age peers may be an important source of academic assistance for English learners as they learn remotely. 

  • Promote conversation. Talking and interacting with children in the home language should never be discouraged. Supporting parents to communicate in the languages they prefer builds family relationships, benefits students’ overall cognitive development and augments their academic achievement. Remote learning plans can include home language conversation activities that provide opportunities for English learners to maintain and value bilingualism as an asset.  For example, educators can provide conversation prompts for families to use in their languages of choice or encourage older students to prepare, conduct and document interviews with family members.  

  • Reach out to the community. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists can work with community groups to provide online meetings with interpreters to facilitate forums for listening to the concerns and questions of parents within a safe space. The meetings can provide information useful for developing the remote learning plan and meeting individual needs. 

  • Encourage student interaction. Remote learning should include online content for students and teachers to engage in speaking and writing regularly.  

    • For example, a teacher in Granville provides guided reading conferences to her third-grade students once a week using Zoom. She assembles groups of four to six students. Students then take turns reading from a selected text they have received in paper form and is on the screen. To gather data, the teacher takes notes on specific features of each student’s decoding skills and fluency. For English learners who need additional supports, she provides the text ahead of time with a recording to practice before reading aloud with the group. She follows this with comprehension questions and review of key vocabulary. 


Resources for Providing English Language Development and Supports 

Below are links to resources related to teaching English language development: 

Translation and Interpreter Resources for Educators 

Along with the identification of content that must be accessible to English learner families, teachers should work with competent interpreters for spoken communications and translations of written communications. 

Interpreters and bilingual paraprofessionals can assist teachers in developing and explaining the learning plan for linguistically and culturally diverse families. Along the way, teachers should be sure parents know how to contact them and other teachers.  

The following are translation and interpreter resources that educators who serve English learners can use to make remote learning more accessible. 

  • Talking Points - This app lets teachers communicate in text and video with automatic translation and captioning. It provides direct communication in different languages using phone or internet. A limited version is offered free to educators.   

  • ClassDojo - This app allows translation of messages into more than 30 languages and is available to teachers free of charge. Instantly share photos, videos and announcements on Class Story or privately message with any parent  

  • Vocalink Global - This company has a contract through the State of Ohio’s cooperative purchasing agreement so local agencies, including schools, may utilize its interpreting and translation services on an as-needed basis. This link will take you directly to the State of Ohio landing page. 

  • Affordable Language Services - This organization provides high-quality interpretation and translation with attention to the specialized needs of education professionals. Rates vary depending upon size and type of product(s) required. 

  • International Language Bank - This Ohio-based company provides translation and interpretation services for more than 200 languages and dialects. Rates vary depending upon size and type of product(s) required. 

  • Language Line Solutions - This company provides 24-hour support, with experience and expertise in health service needs during the COVID-19 crisis. Prices are $3.95 per minute for audio and $4.95 per minute for video consultation. 

  • Access to Interpreters - This Columbus-based company provides a range of interpretation and translation services in more than 70 languages to assist parents with limited English proficiency. Rates vary depending on size and type of product(s) required. 

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2. Meaningful Communication with Families 

The transition to remote learning requires parents and guardians to take on new roles as teaching comes into the home. Parents and guardians must provide a learning environment that may include technology that is new to the home. They need to monitor their children’s use of technology for instruction and provide support. Parents and guardians need to mediate teacher expectations with their own expectations for their children and work together as partners to support their children’s learning at home.  

Within this context, supporting parents and caregivers as teachers in home instruction is best accomplished in small, intentional steps to develop positive home-school relationships. The first step is to establish meaningful communication with families.Below are strategies to support meaningful communication with families of English learners. 

Strategies to Create Meaningful Communication and Engagement 

  • Utilize existing data. All information provided to English proficient parents also should be accessible to parents with limited English proficiency. Educators can learn about their students’ families’ or guardians’ home languages and communication preferences by accessing the language usage survey that is part of the school registration process. This information also is helpful in knowing the specific languages for which interpreters and translations are needed. 

  • Dedicated space. If there is not already a designated place in the learning management system for parents of English learners, consider creating one to deliver instruction and learning materials focused on providing parent communications. This could be a folder or subsection, depending upon the instructional tool. The area can become a hub for parents and guardians of English learners to ensure a common place for communications.  

  • Be culturally responsive. It is important to design communication that respects the diverse culture of students’ families’ traditions. For example, some cultures expect older siblings to be responsible for the tutoring of younger siblings and use members of the extended family such as cousins or uncles to communicate with teachers. Recognize when it is appropriate and respectful to reach out to family members to discuss important facts and school structures for the remainder of the year. Consider who will communicate what to whom.  

  • Take time to listen. Respond to concerns by providing safe places for discussion using the means that families prefer. This means teachers should be flexible in using phone, text, emails and various apps to get parents’ input regarding ways to improve home-school communications. 

  • Include students in conversations. Avoid talking with parents or guardians “about” their children in ways that may make the children feel invisible. Facilitate conversations between parents and children. Convey acceptance and encourage communication that uses the home language. Recognize that using one language or another is not black and white. This is a natural part of second language development also known as translanguaging. The ultimate goal of encouraging parent and child communication is to include natural language development that is linked to literacy development. Global Cleveland provides Tips for having conversation about COVID-19 with your kids in multiple languages.  

    • For example, one teacher considered family schedules and set up weekly online video chats. The consistent schedule and sharing with the parents and child supported the family with the help of an interpreter. The teacher observed and gained valuable information about how different family members prefer to communicate using the home language and English. 

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3. Ensuring Access to Nonacademic Supports 

Like all students, English learners and their families may need one-time, intermittent or on going physical, social and emotional supports. Each English learner’s capacity to engage in academics is impacted by his or her physical and mental health and safety.  

Many English learners, by nature of their limited access to local resources, social supports and means of communication are disproportionately impacted by a wide range of stressors. Some English learners and families experience stressors related to immigration status or the conditions impacting family members living abroad. In addition, they may feel it is unsafe to access public health and human services. 

Teachers are on the front lines and have unique opportunities to identify nonacademic needs that impact the wellness of the whole family and help families connect to community resources and supports. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists can be especially helpful in bridging the gap for families who often have direct experience of disruption and system disparities.  

Strategies and Resources for Ensuring Access to Nonacademic Supports 

Below you will find strategies and resources to help families access nonacademic supports. 

  • Access to school nutrition programs. During the ordered school-building closure, access to meals still is widely available. This map displays school meal distribution sites throughout Ohio. An important piece of communication with families of English learners includes information about access to school nutrition programs.  

  • Keep families informed about the COVID-19 virus. Share information on how the virus spreads, social distancing and what to do when someone in the family is sick. The Ohio Department of Health offers information to families on COVID-19 in four languages: Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Somali. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers comprehensive information on COVID-19 in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.  

  • Social-emotional health. The Ohio Department of Education has a website for supporting social-emotional health during this crisis. It contains steps and strategies for families that can be used to support children and provides links to additional resources for mental health services.  

  • Information about students and families experiencing homelessness.  The Department’s website for students and families experiencing homelessness during the ordered school-building closure provides guidance and resources for educators and districts.   

  • Student safety during COVID-19. The Department’s webpage on Student Safety During COVID-19 provides districts and educators resources to help identify students who have safety concerns and may be experiencing child abuse and neglect.  

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4. Meeting the Needs of English Learners with Disabilities  

Students with disabilities who are English learners should receive English learner services along with specialized supports as described in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Along with the civil rights obligations that schools address for all English learners, students with disabilities have additional legal rights. Disability considers but does not nullify or supersede the obligations of teachers to provide English language instruction and access to the learning standards that are in English. 

The Ohio Department of Education has developed the resource Considerations for Students with Disabilities During Ohio's Ordered School-Building Closure to support district and school administrators and educators in addressing the needs of students with disabilities. Intervention and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists can access this resource for more information.   

Strategies and Resources for Educators to Meet the Needs of English Learners with Disabilities 

Below is a list of strategies and resources for educators to meet the needs of English learners with disabilities.  

  • Provide disability-specific interpretation and translation supports. Help parents and students understand the remote learning plan using language that is caring and understandable. Considerations for such communications and the provision of needed supports should be made in partnership with parents and with consideration of each family’s needs, with reference to the student’sindividualized education program and language support plan. See this Webinaron Effective Communication with English Learner Parents Through an Interpreter

  • Develop English language communication needs. English learners with disabilities should continue to receive support in developing English language skills. The Ohio English Language Proficiency Standards with the Instructional Guidelines and Resources for English Learners provide achievement-level descriptors and sample activities that are differentiated for the five levels of English language proficiency for each of the domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing across grade bands.  

  • Reach out to the individualized education program (IEP) team. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists, bilingual staff, interpreters, intervention specialists and related service providers should continue to touch base with each other and their shared students to continually improve whole-child and family supports. The academic goals of English learners with disabilities should be addressed in the context of developing relationships of trust between parents and the school’s IEP team. 

  • Provide parents with information in the preferred language and manner. Consider alternative ways of keeping students and families connected, for example, by scheduling periodic telephone calls, using Skype, FaceTime and other modes of communication. Disability-related materials in English and other languages are available at resources such as Disability Rights Ohio

The Ohio Department of Education will continue to monitor guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education and update information accordingly. 

Questions regarding serving English learners? Call the Ohio Department of Education's Office for Integrated Student Supports at (614) 466-4109 or send an email to lau@education.ohio.gov.

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  1. Do the requirements for community schools that serve majority English learner populations differ from traditional public schools?

Community school and traditional public schools have the same obligations to meet the language and access needs of students and support parent communication. Some community schools have larger percentages of English learner students who may attend both the traditional public and community school during their schooling. During the ordered school-building closure, community and traditional public schools are encouraged to share resources and ways to support remote learning for their English learner students. Community schools and districts that belong to Title III Consortia should call upon their groups to provide resources and virtual venues for communication about serving their English learner students. An example of a Title III Consortium providing such supports is the Hamilton County Educational Service Center

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  1. What resources are available to districts to meet the language and access needs of English learners?  

The Department is working alongside schools to share online and community resources to assure English learners are not left behind during the period of the ordered school-building closure. The Department provides a wide array of resourcesin the Remote Learning Resource Guide along with resources in this supplemental guide for teachers of English learners. Some professional organizations that support the whole-child needs of English learners have provided resources such as these: Ohio Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages website, the Ohio TESOL resources list and the Learning from Home Series offered by the Center for Applied Linguistics.  

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  1. How should teachers best continue teaching students who do not have access to the internet and/or a device? 

Local decision-makers are encouraged to work closely with Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists, including paraprofessionals who have specialized knowledge and rapport with students and families who, due to limitedEnglish proficiency, may not have access to the wide range of essential communications and basic services needed during this unprecedented public health crisis. Schools and districts must not neglect responsibilities to continue the multi-faceted instruction of English learners and supporting access to Ohio’s Learning Standards. Ohio's Remote Learning Resource Guide provides strategies for offline learning.   

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  1. Who can assist schools and districts in communicating with parents with limited English proficiency? 

Providing interpretation and translation supports is part of a continuum of parent communication outreach. It begins with trained staff who inquire about parent language preferences during school registration. With this information, school administrators and local school leaders develop, implement and revise their language access plans. A language access plan is a document that spells out how to provide services to individuals who have limited English proficiency. Language access plans should be tailored to& the school community and mode of instructional delivery but may include sections such as a needs assessment, language services offered, notices, training for staff and evaluation. Key partners in developing and implementing accessible communications are Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, bilingual paraprofessionals, technology coordinators and community liaisons. The OSPI Interpretation and Translation ResourcesMassLegal Services and WIDA ABCs of Parent Engagement collect resources that may assist schools in developing and implementing language access for all. In addition, please refer to the Translation and Interpretation Resources section of this guide for links to more translation/interpretation services.

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  1. How can schools assure English learners and their families are included in the food services and school lunch initiatives that are provided to all students during this period of ordered school closures? 

Food service directors and staff are partners with schools in assuring that English learners and families with limited English proficiency receive equitable access to school lunches. It is important to ensure parents understand the instructions for picking up food for their children. Parents with limited English proficiency may not feel they are allowed, or perhaps safe, to go outside of their homes to pick up food at the sites that are open to all students and families. Districts can help families feel safe by providing information on accessing school lunch in their home languages. Teachers and staff who have positive and trusting relationships with families also can relay this information to families. The Department's Supporting Whole-Child Nutrition website provides a map of current district school feeding sites. 

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  1. Can English learners without access to technology be required to make up any number of missed days or hours due to school closures through remote learning? 

Ohio’s Remote Learning Resource Guide recognizes that some Ohio families, including those with limited English proficiency, lack reliable access to digital resources, technology and the internet, which limits the availability of virtual learning. Districts should develop local remote learning plans that accommodate all students who do not have reliable access to technology for instruction. The Department’s webpage for the Coronavirus encourages schools to partner with educational service centers and Information Technology Centers to seek solutions regarding remote learning.  

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  1. What specific resources are there for English learners in need of mental health services, including supports during crisis?  

Schools should consider using Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages specialists in the setup, communication and delivery of these services since they often are knowledgeable about the barriers and crises English learner students and their families may face. Resources in Spanish are available on the Ohio Commission for Hispanic and Latino Affairs website. In addition to resources for social-emotional learning on the Department's website, resources for mental health services for students can be found at local children's hospitals, county alcohol, drug addiction and mental health services boards, and local community health agencies. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services' coronavirus homepage provides resources related to mental health in times of crisis.

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Last Modified: 4/29/2020 11:22:48 AM