Teaching young learners in the pandemic has been challenging for many educators, but those instructing English language learners virtually face even steeper obstacles. These students may struggle with remote learning due to lack of access to technology, language barriers, and the inability to practice their language skills with classmates.

In Philadelphia, where about 13% of the district’s nearly 120,000 students are learning English, some teachers say these students feel more isolated than their peers and often struggle with less support from parents who, despite their best efforts, are not necessarily equipped to help with school, either because of language barriers or having to work outside the home during a pandemic. And even as elementary schools began welcoming back younger grade students, some immigrant families remain hesitant to return.

Parents who speak a language other than English at home point to numerous aspects of remote learning as being difficult, from trouble-shooting technology to making sure a student is in the right virtual classroom to voicing concerns over their children’s performance.

But despite these added challenges, some teachers told Chalkbeat that their English language learners have been less likely than other students to return to the classroom as in-person learning resumes.

Teaching English language learners also became more challenging with virtual learning, as common strategies to bridge the language gaps can be difficult to translate to a screen. “They cannot use body language as a cue to interpret the language that I’m trying to teach them,” said Shuxin Chen, who teachers English language learners at McCall. “I use a lot of physical responses, a lot of games or actions to show them the content, I teach language through activities, but now, I’m limited with that,” she said.

Read the full article about challenges for remote English language learners by Melanie Bavaria at Chalkbeat Philadelphia.