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Supporting MLLs: Bridging English language learning for SIFE’s and Newcomers

by Candice Bland on

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to education systems worldwide. In the United States, one significant challenge has been addressing the needs of Multilingual Learners (MLLs). With interruptions to in-person learning, many MLLs have faced difficulties in acquiring and developing English language skills. However, amid these challenges, there are also opportunities for growth and improvement. In this article, we'll explore the challenges faced by teachers and MLLs and propose solutions to bridge language learning in English language proficiency, with a focus on SmartClass' English Learner Curriculum and teaching platform as part of the solution.

1. Understanding the Challenges

A recent analysis of WIDA ACCESS test assessment data reveals several key challenges faced by MLLs in the US education system. Proficiency in reading and speaking has remained consistent over the years, but there has been a decline in listening skills, particularly in early elementary grades. Writing skills were already declining pre-pandemic and continued to do so across grade levels. Additionally, Latino/Hispanic & Latinx English learners, who make up a significant portion of the MLL population, reported lower average proficiency compared to their non-Hispanic peers.

The pandemic exacerbated these challenges, especially for younger students who missed crucial developmental opportunities due to disruptions in schooling. As a result, many MLLs are not making the yearly progress in their English as a New Language courses, impacting their academic progress. (You can read more about the full study and results on edweek's website

2. Solutions for Educators

To address these challenges, educators can take several proactive steps:

  • Reviewing student scores and programs: Educators should thoroughly analyze students' ACCESS online assessment scores and review their language instructional programs. This includes evaluating the effectiveness of dual-language classrooms versus traditional language instruction outside mainstream settings.
  • Disaggregating data: It's crucial to disaggregate data by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status to identify disparities and tailor interventions accordingly. Understanding the specific needs of MLLs from diverse backgrounds is essential for targeted support.
  • Integrating language instruction: Language instruction should be integrated into all subject areas and mainstream classrooms. Professional development programs have emphasized this integration, but it's essential to ensure it is implemented effectively. ALL students benefit from learning the academic language of each discipline, especially MLLs.
  • Holistic approach: Educators should interrogate their policies and practices to ensure that the needs of MLLs are not treated as an add-on but integrated into the ethos of the school. This holistic approach fosters a supportive environment for ELLs to thrive academically.
  • Leveraging L1: Ensuring that the students’ native language, the language of their heart, is honored, leveraged, and maintained is a crucial component for the success of MLLs in their journey of acquiring English as a New Language.


3. How SmartClass can help

SmartClass' English Language Learner curriculum and teaching platform offer valuable resources to support MLLs and address the challenges highlighted above:

  • Customized learning: SmartClass provides over 3000 digital MLL activities that can be tailored to each student's proficiency level and learning pace. This ensures that MLLs receive targeted and individualized instruction to improve their language skills.
  • Interactive lessons: The platform offers interactive lessons that engage students in reading, listening, speaking, and writing activities. This helps address proficiency in all four language domains and improves overall language skills.
  • Teacher support: SmartClass provides teachers with tools and resources to track student progress, analyze data, and differentiate instruction. This enables educators to provide targeted support to MLLs based on their individual needs.
  • Cultural relevance: SmartClass incorporates culturally relevant content, ensuring that MLLs feel represented and engaged in their learning. This promotes inclusivity and enhances the learning experience for all students.
  • Activity creation: The SmartClass Teaching Platform allows teachers of any subject to create activities to supplement or complement the already existing MLL curricula. Academic language of all disciplines can easily be taught using the same platform and activity templates students are used to for their English language learning. This ensures that there is equitable access to content and concepts for MLLs by way of a linguistic focus on curricular topics. 

Addressing the challenges faced by Multilingual Learners in the United States requires a concerted effort from educators, school districts, and policymakers. By reviewing student scores, disaggregating data, integrating language instruction, and adopting a holistic approach, educators can better support MLLs in their academic journey. SmartClass' English Learner Curriculum and teaching platform offer valuable tools and resources to enhance English language proficiency and empower MLLs to succeed in school and beyond. Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, we can bridge the process of language acquisition with the curricular grade-level content concepts to ensure that ALL students have equal opportunities to thrive. 


Candice Bland

Candice Bland

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