Ohio’s Support Guide for Teachers of 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. Meeting the Needs of English Learners with Disabilities

III. Frequently Asked Questions

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

  2. Communicating with Limited English Proficient Persons

  3. Mental Health Services



As schools work to reset and restart this fall, the Ohio Department of Education remains committed to providing supports for Ohio’s educators as they ensure English learners receive critical information and continue face-to-face, remote or blended learning.

The purpose of this page is to provide supports for educators to reach and teach English learners as Ohio’s schools reopen. This document should be used as a companion to Ohio's Reset and Restart Page and the Reset and Restart Page for Administrators and Districts Serving Linguistically Diverse Families. It applies the same continuum of remote and blended 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 Reset and Restart Guide for Teachers of English Learners is influenced by 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.
Remote or Blended Learning 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 or blended environments. These strategies are based upon principles of best practice for English learners and can be applied to all content areas.  
  • Collaboration among educators is essential. Teachers of English learners can be most effective when working together with other teachers, paraprofessionals and interpreters to ensure the most appropriate educational experience for each learner.
    • Content and English learner specialists should continue to co-plan lessons by phone, text and virtual teacher-based team sessions. Planning might occur using interactive platforms such as the OCALI (the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) collaborative templates.
    • Setting up regular times for collaboration and using technology to share documents can help teachers support each other in reaching English learners.
    • A virtual meeting or three-way call that includes an interpreter or the bilingual paraprofessional can provide invaluable knowledge and ideas for ways to support English learners in the content classroom.
    • General education teachers also can create separate spaces for English learners to learn in small groups in the remote or blended learning management system. There, English learners may be provided comprehensible instruction, language and literacy supports, and content area learning activities.
  • Use visual representations on the screen. Teachers can strategically use visuals, such as graphic organizers, to express higher-order thinking skills and support the use of new vocabulary in online or in-person 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 using 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 and blended learning lesson 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 or in a blended education delivery model.
  • Promote conversation. Talking and interacting with children in the home language should never be discouraged. Supporting communication in the languages they prefer builds family relationships, benefits students’ overall cognitive development and augments their academic achievement. Remote and blended 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 in their languages of choice or encourage older students to prepare, conduct and document interviews with family members.
  • Encourage student interaction. Remote and blended learning should include online content for students and teachers to engage in speaking and writing regularly. For example, a teacher in Mentor Exempted Village School District is providing daily remote instruction to native English proficient students and English learners on how to use reading comprehension strategies. She assembles groups of four to six students. She intentionally gathers information and establishes trust to plan lessons that connect to students’ prior knowledge and experiences. Students are provided explicit instruction with modeling and oral practice in how to think about text. The teacher works with a co-teacher to record each student’s reading responses. For English learners, she works with the ESL teacher to assure students understand key vocabulary terms—frontloading instruction. She shares a recording of the text for students to listen to and practice before reading aloud with the larger group.
  • 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.
Resources for Providing English Language Development and Supports
Below are 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 trained interpreters for spoken communications and translations of written communications.

Interpreters and bilingual paraprofessionals can assist teachers in developing and explaining the remote and blended learning plans 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 and blended 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.
  • 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 and blended learning can be challenging for parents and guardians of English learners to understand and participate in a rapidly changing school environment. Parents and guardians need caring professionals to recognize when they need supports to access and use technologies, online programs and phone apps that are new to them.

Parents with limited English proficiency may need personalized instruction on how to use communication such as email and forms placed on the school website. They may need coaching on how to monitor their children’s school engagement and use of technology. Parents and guardians need to understand teachers’ expectations for their children and may need assistance in communicating their needs and questions with educators to support their children’s remote and blended learning.

Supporting parents and caregivers as teachers in home instruction is best accomplished in small, intentional steps that help families make meaning of the current health crisis and build trust. Below are strategies to support meaningful communication with families of English learners. In addition, the Department’s Family Engagement: Reset and Restart page and Models for Family and Community Engagement page contain strategies and resources to enhance family and community engagement.

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.
  • Promote conversation in the home language. Supporting communication in the languages they prefer builds family relationships, benefits students’ overall cognitive development and augments their academic achievement. Remote and blended 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 in their languages of choice or encourage older students to prepare, conduct and document interviews with family members.
  • Share resources that support parents during the restart to school. Resources for families of English learners may need to address access to basic services, along with educational supports. The Ohio Commission for Latino Affairs provides Responsible Restart resources and frequent updates for newcomer families on its website. These might be shared with parents, along with resources such as Spanish language videos published by reliable community agencies that work with multilingual families.
  • 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. Encouraging parent and child communication supports the whole child to succeed in meeting challenges in school and life. 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 family 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. 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. In certain cases, students qualify for both English learner and special education supports.
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.  In addition, the Department’s Reset and Restart: Student with Disabilities page, OCALI #Here to Help resources, telehealth resources and Students with Disabilities Compendium of Resources page all contain strategies and resources for serving students 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’s individualized education program and language support plan. See this Webinar on 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. Please consult and share the Parents Rights in Special Education document translated into the top 11 languages in Ohio. The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities Multicultural webpage if full of many valuable resources, and  Disability-related materials in English and other languages are available at Disability Rights Ohio.
  • Provide parents with information in the preferred language and manner. Consider alternative ways of keeping students and families connected, for example, by scheduling telephone calls using Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, text and other modes of communication. Assure automated messages and robocalls are not sent out in English only and provide options to have the same content translated to home languages. Reach out to families directly to ensure information is understood.
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. 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 as schools work to reset and restart. The Department provides a wide array of resources in the Reset and Restart 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. 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 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 Resources, MassLegal 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. What specific resources are there for English learners in need of mental health services, including supports during crisis?
Schools should consult with 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: 1/13/2021 2:00:04 PM