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Helping Families Support Young English Learners at Home

By Kelli Scardina | January 25, 2021

Kelli Scardina
Kelli Scardina is a senior advisor in equity and systems improvement for emergent bilingual students at Education Northwest. She focuses on designing and facilitating professional learning, coaching, and consulting for technical assistance.

Regardless of their own educational background, students' caregivers, guardians, parents, and family members are their first teachers.

Recognizing the important role family members play in a child's learning (especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic), REL Northwest helped create Supporting Young English Learners at Home: Family and Caregiver Activities.

Developed in collaboration with REL West and REL Northeast & Islands, this cross-REL resource was created in Spanish and English, and it is geared toward families of English learner students in kindergarten through grade 5.

Specifically, the resource comprises nine activities that families can use to build on students' assets and home language to ultimately help them develop their English skills. The activities draw on recommendations from Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners in Elementary and Middle School, a What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide.

The activities include asking questions about stories, playing "Word Detective," and making a meal together. Each activity is designed to strengthen language development through word play and interaction with family members and by engaging in fun, everyday activities (such as cooking and reading).

The cross-REL resource also has an accompanying guide that educators can use to promote these evidence-based activities and help support families.

On February 3, the three RELs that co-developed the resource will host a webinar for educators who want to learn about the strategies outlined in the WWC practice guide, how those strategies are reflected in the nine activities, and tips for sharing the activities with families. In addition, participants will see the activities in action through video clips, as well as hear from family members and educators about their experience.

The webinar also seeks to foster connections among different groups of educators who work with English learner students and their families, such as classroom teachers, community and family liaisons, district leaders, migrant education specialists, preschool teachers, and after-school programming providers.

The cross-REL resource, as well as the February 3 webinar, reflect the REL program's commitment to supporting English learner students and their families so that students can thrive in school and beyond.

Watch a recording of the February 3 webinar.