It’s important for teachers to find ways to teach social-emotional learning and character development to help their students build the skills necessary to process the events of 2020 and to persevere and succeed in (for many students) a distance learning or hybrid environment. This can be challenging, especially for ELL teachers.
I teach a first grade dual language immersion program at an elementary school outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Our school district has made character development a main focus and I’ve found some specific strategies and resources that can be helpful for early elementary school teachers – and especially for ELL teachers – who are trying to teach SEL and character development remotely.
Dual immersion in elementary school
My district has around 400 English learners and about five years ago it decided to create a dual immersion program to better serve these students. Our Two-Way Immersion program is a district-wide program housed at my school and specifically serves students who learn academic content in two languages: Spanish and English. I teach the English side and my teaching partner Kristina teaches the Spanish side. We share two cohorts of students, both made up of English and Spanish speakers. The program has been a success. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the growth of the Spanish speakers in their acquisition of the English language and the growth of English speakers in learning Spanish when they previously didn’t know any Spanish.
Character development for dual immersion classrooms
Whether teachers are in a traditional classroom or a dual immersion classroom, it’s important to embed SEL and character education into everything they do. For instance, we use the Biliteracy Unit Framework as our literacy curriculum, and we also incorporate SEL and character development lessons and use the teaching tolerance standards. The first unit we taught this year, for example, was called My Identity. I also have units on kindness and perseverance.