422737 / Pixabay


I’m preparing a workshop for teachers (along with co-presenter Melanie Bean) at our school on teaching English Language Learners.

Much of it will be similar to other trainings I’ve done and have shared here.  You can see information about them at:

Could This Be A Good Template For Just About Any Professional Development Session?

More Of What Our Teachers Have Learned About Teaching ELLs – PLUS New Video Of Students Sharing Their Experience



A new addition will talking about specific ways teachers can support ELLs during full-time online instruction.

I’ll be writing short posts between now and the session (it’s scheduled for December 7th) about different points I plan on making (you might also be interested in Here’s Our Chapter On Distance Learning With ELLs & It’s Free To Download (No Registration Required!) ).

The first post in that series appeared last week, Six Ways That Newcomers Can Interact With Online Text.

Today’s post will tackle an issue some of my colleagues have been facing:

How to support ELLs who miss a lot of distance learning classes?  How can they be “caught-up”?

If we were in the physical classroom, most students wouldn’t miss as many classes because they wouldn’t have to care for younger siblings or cousins, or it wouldn’t be as easy to be distracted by the competition – sleeping late, watching movies, listening to music, or, if we weren’t in a pandemic-caused recession, they wouldn’t have to be working at jobs to help support their family.

In addition, if we were in the physical classroom, when students were absent, it would be easier to spend time with them individually when other students were working on a project and the teacher could simultaneously keep an eye on the whole class.

But, as the community organizing saying goes, we have to deal with the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be.

Here are a few ideas, and I welcome additional suggestions from readers:

1. Hopefully, you’re already using multilingual materials in your content classes.  But, whether you are or are not, providing them to ELLs who have missed classes is a great way to help them catch-up on what they have missed.  We have access to Brainpop, which has tons of Spanish-language animated videos in all subject areas.  But if you don’t have that web tool, there are plenty of others, and you can find them at The Best Multilingual & Bilingual Sites For Math, Social Studies, & Science.

2. Either as an extra-credit assignment or as a regular one, have students who are in attendance prepare summaries of your lessons regularly, following a template that you prepare.  Then, during classes when those who are absent show-up, put those students in a breakout room with them to teach what you had taught.  Preparing the summary lessons fits nicely into the dramatically effective strategy of retrieval practice (see The Best Resources For Learning About Retrieval Practice) and there are countless studies finding that preparing to teach a lesson and actually teaching it helps the tutor and the person being tutored (see The Best Posts On Helping Students Teach Their Classmates — Help Me Find More).

3. Building on the idea of retrieval practice, apply a modified version of strategy I’ve previously used in my classes (see A NEW STRATEGY I’M USING TO PROMOTE RETRIEVAL PRACTICE IN CLASS (STUDENT HAND-OUT INCLUDED) and RETRIEVAL PRACTICE UPDATE) – have a warm-up each day where students go into breakout rooms to work together and write summaries of what they learned in class the previous day (again, perhaps using a teacher-created template).  Students who were in attendance the previous day gain the benefit of retrieval practice, and those who were not get to learn from their peers what they missed.  You can call on a group or two to share what they came up with to the entire class.

4. This one takes a little more time but, like the previous two strategies, can help both ELLs and more English-proficient students – prepare a three-minute video summary (see The Best Tools For Making Screencasts) using your slides and your voice-over to post after each class on Google Classroom.

What has worked for you?