SFUSD Designs Distance Learning for English Learners

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SFUSD Designs Distance Learning for English Learners

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San Francisco (May 7, 2020) - As part of the San Francisco Unified School District’s distance learning plan to support the continued education of each and every student, educators are finding new ways to provide the grade-specific English language development (ELD) support that students receive while school buildings are open. 

In designing lessons for all students and particularly English learners, the SFUSD Multilingual Pathways Department has considered what kinds of supports students need in making meaning of English. This includes slowing down, checking for understanding, providing scaffolding such as graphic organizers, vocabulary, and multiple representations (say directions, write directions, post directions).

Teachers are encouraged to continue building in opportunities for students to practice oral language in online classrooms as well as using various tech tools and platforms to practice developing language skills independently, such as short videos to demonstrate language production and development. Teachers are also meeting students in small groups, which provide targeted, authentic opportunities for students to get real-time feedback on their language development.

“We know that English learners are not a monolithic group, and developing language skills requires productive talk between students and teachers. When students are not in classrooms, this oral language development must be nurtured in other creative ways,” said SFUSD Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Enikia Ford Morthel. “Engaging learning activities and interactions that provide many opportunities for students to practice, hear and produce language and express their thinking are critical components of distance learning.”

For students in Transitional Kindergarten through 2nd grade, teachers make phone calls to engage students (in pairs or small groups) in academic conversations and use a language objective once or twice a week. Some schools also use this time to check on social emotional support for students and introduce new words or vocabulary to students.

For students in grades 3-5, the Multilingual Pathways Department has adapted the Wonders ELD resources and created a sequence of daily assignments for the week that teachers at school can access. There are also two lessons a week that teachers can use synchronously with whole or small groups of students with emphasis in academic conversations and the California ELD Standards. All teachers and students in grades TK-5 have access to lessons through a variety of technology platforms and applications including Google Classroom, Clever, Wonders ELD, Imagine Learning, Newsela, and more. 

For students in 6th through 12th grades, the Multilingual Pathways Department has designed thematic units for different levels of English proficiency. The department has created a high-quality, rigorous curriculum that is relevant to the experience students are having now. The curriculum is designed to support language development by building on the experience students are having and supporting them with new vocabulary and language skills that help them to make meaning and communicate about their experience. The curriculum is designed to address social and emotional wellness as well as language and literacy skills. All SFUSD teachers are being asked to prioritize connecting with students.

SFUSD offers 50 language programs across the district that reach over 9,400 students. Sixty-four percent of SFUSD elementary schools host a language program and 31% of K-5 students are enrolled in a language program. Of these programs, 13% are in biliteracy programs, 14% are in Dual Language Immersion programs, 3% in Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) and 1% in newcomer bilingual programs. Additionally, eight newcomer pathway programs in middle and high schools have specially designed programs for recently arrived immigrant youth.


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