English Language Learning, K12 Language Education

How Do We Ensure Teachers Are Prepared for Emergent Bilingual Teaching and Learning?

In the US, emergent bilinguals, also known as English language learners (ELLs) or English learners (ELs), are changing the educational landscape for the better, bringing different talents, skills, perspectives, and cultures to our classrooms. 

This student population, which currently comprises 10% of all public-school students, will increase to 25% by 2025. That means that one in four students will be an emergent bilingual (NEA, 2019; Quintero & Hansen, 2017).

These numbers tell a story: Emergent bilinguals are our future. The question must be asked, then: How prepared are our schools and educators for this future? According to one survey, fewer than 33% of teachers had even a “modest level” of training to support emergent bilingual students. And a 2014 study revealed that only 24% of teaching programs train elementary teacher candidates to support emergent bilinguals (Quintero & Hansen, 2017).

What can be done to better support educators?

Below is a brief overview of the types of support, systems, and tools that educators need to help them more effectively teach and engage emergent bilinguals.

  • Resources for adopting an asset-model approach—helps to ensure students see themselves and their communities reflected and valued in the content they’re taught in school (New America, 2019); learn more about the asset model in the Rosetta Stone white paper Emergent bilinguals are the future: How do we support educators to ensure their success?
  • Tools for creating a more culturally responsive learning environment—this can help students develop a positive cultural identity while learning academic subjects such as math, reading, problem-solving, and civics (Paris & Alim Samy, 2014); get tips for creating a culturally responsive classroom in our white paper.
  • A better way to gauge each student’s abilities and skills—currently, each assessment represents just a moment in time, and students’ abilities show up differently on assessments as their English language skills develop (Williams, 2015).
  • An easier way to update parents and administrators on progress—frequent progress updates can help teachers build strong relationships with the parents of emergent bilinguals, which can have pedagogical benefits for students (Ferlazzo, 2016).

For an overview of administrator needs, download the Rosetta Stone white paper Emergent bilinguals are the future: How do we support educators to ensure their success?

How can technology support teaching and learning?

During these unprecedented times, as educators, administrators, and students adjust to remote learning in the wake of COVID-19, educational technology is more essential than perhaps ever before.

Schools and districts are assessing which programs, platforms, and/or software can best meet the needs of every student, while educators are working diligently to move their lessons online as they familiarize themselves with the latest distance-learning technology. (Rosetta Stone understand this and is currently offering students three free months of Rosetta Stone for Students.)

Addressing the needs of all students includes those unique to emergent bilinguals. For years now, adaptive blended learning technology has proven to be an effective way to support these students by combining English language and academic learning, enabling flexibility for use in the classroom and at home, and allowing students to work and learn at their own pace. Using tech-enabled language learning programs, educators can personalize learning for each student, based on skill and proficiency level. 

To explore new tools and strategies for empowering students in today’s language-learning classrooms, educators can view the Rosetta Stone webinar Classroom Integration: EdTech + Traditional Instruction. EdTech can also impact equity—find out how in the Rosetta Stone eBook How Access to Online Learning Increases EL Equity.

How can educators and administrators assess language learning programs?

There are a number of language learning programs and resources to choose from, especially now during this prolonged time of remote learning. So how do educators and administrators choose the right one for their emergent bilingual students? The following questions can help.

  • Does the program support educational equity?
  • Is it culturally responsive for better student engagement?
  • Does it blend English language learning with academic content areas, like science, math, history, etc.?
  • Does it offer continuing progress monitoring or assessment?
  • Can it be individualized or personalized for each student?
  • Does it provide ongoing actionable data and reports?
  • Does it come from a trusted name in education and language learning?
  • Is it easy to implement and use?
  • Does it combine online and offline instruction?
  • Does it offer corrective feedback?

Why is it so essential to provide educators with the support they need?

To help emergent bilinguals achieve better academic outcomes, technology is important. But ultimately it is our educators who are our greatest asset. Districts and schools must work to ensure their teachers, along with their students, are set up for success. Learn more in the Rosetta Stone white paper Emergent bilinguals are the future: How do we support educators to ensure their success?

For more information about Rosetta Stone language solutions, reach out today, and a sales representative will be in touch.


Ferlazzo, L. (2016). Response: building relationships with families of ELLs. Education Week. Retrieved 4/6/20 from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2016/01/response_building_relationships_with_families_of_ells.html.

National Education Association. (2019). English language learners: research and tools. Retrieved 4/6/20 from http://www.nea.org/home/32409.htm.

New America. (2019). Understanding culturally responsive teaching. Retrieved 4/6/20 from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/reports/culturally-responsive-teaching/understanding-culturally-responsive-teaching/.

Paris, D. & Alim Samy, H. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harv Educ Rev. 84(1).

Quintero, D. & Hansen, M. (2017). English learners and the growing need for qualified teachers. Brookings Institute. Retrieved 4/6/20 from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2017/06/02/english-learners-and-the-growing-need-for-qualified-teachers/.

Williams, C.P. (2015). How to measure English learners’ development more accurately. New America. Retrieved 4/6/20 from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/totalenglishlearners/.