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Supporting Multilingual and Immigrant Students During School Closures


Written by Tamara Alsace, Ph.D. and Gliset Colón, Ph.D.

Part I: Available and Accessible Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the educational landscape of our country. More specifically, in New York State, all P-12 schools have moved to remote learning for an indefinite amount of time. The instruction varies widely, from regularly scheduled Zoom, Google Classroom, or other teleconference platform lessons with groups or individual students, to “packets” of worksheets to be completed at home, presumably with the assistance of families and with little or no support from a teacher. The digital divide, especially across socio-economic strata, is only one of the challenges facing educators and multilingual families. Circumstances such as living space, access to healthy foods, and of course the socio-emotional strain of living in a time of fear and uncertainty all impact teaching, learning, and daily living.

The response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be a moving target as there are new developments almost daily. One thing that should remain consistent however, is the level of support we provide to our multilingual learners (MLLs) and immigrant students. Although we as educators are facing many challenges and concerns, it is imperative we provide our multilingual families with resources to ensure students remain academically engaged throughout this difficult time.

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) Reimagine Learning offers tips to districts on moving to online learning and specifically in supporting ELLs/MLLs during the COVID-19 crisis, including ways to communicate with families. For more information, visit:

The following are resources that can be shared with educators and families.


Low Technology

Online learning 

E-Books and other Literacy Resources

  • has many Spanish (and English) e-books with audio narration available in 30+ other languages.
    • has a host of resources and activities for parents to do with kids at home. It includes Lexiles, grade levels, and genre, along with a system for filtering by literary device, skill, etc. Grades 3-12.
    • Grades PK-2.
      • Sponsored by the Colombian Ministerio de Cultura, Maguaré is a one-in-a-million find for Spanish materials. You can access over 100 picture books, poems, and tongue twisters. (A few are set to music or include audio as well).
      • has books for adults, children, and everything in between.
      • Other sources of free e-books (the books here are older, including some classics) are:

We recognize the amount of resources shared online is astronomical and can be overwhelming, and hope these listed resources can serve as a foundation for those who are struggling to engage their students remotely. The important thing for all of us to keep in mind is that we are learning as we go and that the situation is new and difficult for everyone. We must remember to be flexible and forgiving of ourselves and others as we struggle with a new reality, learn from our mistakes, while also making sure that we prioritize self-care and celebrate our successes. We are in this together and we will get through it together!

Part II: How are we doing?

Realizing that our educational communities are struggling to adjust to new circumstances during the COVID-19 shutdown, NYSABE and its partners at NY-AFFIRMS, are interested in hearing about the challenges districts, schools, and teachers are facing in order to determine areas of focus for our advocacy efforts. Please take a moment to visit the Regional Education Survey - COVID-19 Response at the following links: or and complete the comprehensive survey developed by the NY Immigration Coalition. Also, please share with colleagues and families.

Survey topics include: Remote Learning (Early Childhood and K-12), Food Access, Childcare for Essential Workers, Technology, Language Access, Services - (IEPs, ELLs, Students in Temporary Housing), Early Childhood, and Adult Education.

Survey questions include but are not limited to:

  • Has your school district and/or school transitioned to use packets, take home materials, or other printed materials?
  • What are other ways your school/district is delivering educational opportunities for kids at this time?
  • What other issues are ELLs/MLLs/immigrants accessing remote learning experiencing?
  • Do all students have access to a computer?
  • Are there other technological issues families are having to access online learning? Please explain.
  • How are ELLs/MLLs/immigrant families being informed on how to access food, childcare, and remote learning?
  • Have students who require special services been able to receive them as schools transition into remote learning? Please explain.
  • Are early childhood centers in your area remaining open?
  • Have adult education programs moved to remote learning?
  • Are there other education issues affecting ELLs/MLLs/immigrants you would like to share with us?

We appreciate your participation in this survey. The data collected will be aggregated and will not identify individual respondents. Your responses will help inform our advocacy agenda by giving us valuable insights into the challenges faced as well as needed supports.