Distance Learning a Challenge for English as a Second Language Students

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Alanna Encarnacion had a lot going on Thursday morning on her back patio.

Encarnacion is a teacher at Gulfstream K-8 in Hallandale Beach. We watched her keeping one eye on her kindergartner daughter, who was on her tablet doing a distance learning activity, while simultaneously teaching her dual language class of third graders.

The kids are getting academics and also, through virtual meetings on the Canvas platform, a way to ease their isolation.

“Some of them do express that they can’t go outside and so this is the only interaction they’re having with others,” Encarnacion said, lamenting not being able to dance with her students, a regular classroom activity for her. “I can’t physically be with the kids and that’s the connections we make day to day.”

So connecting with her kids remotely is better than no connection at all, even as Encarnacion knows some of her students have challenges at home.

“Not all the kids can get on the computer at the time that we meet because there’s other siblings in the house, so they have to get on the computer and talk to their teachers as well,” Encarnacion said, explaining that even though all the kids have individual laptops provided by Broward Schools, connectivity might not be strong enough for multiple siblings to log on at the same time.

Distance learning can be a difficult adjustment for any student. We’re seeing that all over South Florida, but think about the kids who are just now learning English, it can be an even bigger challenge for them.

Veronica Lafee is a second grader, a recent immigrant who attends Gator Run Elementary School in Weston. She’s still adjusting to the language and now, distance learning gets thrown at her. Something else to figure out.

”I know English but it’s a little bit hard because you don’t understand what you have to do because the teacher is not explaining,” Veronica said.

Nidia Cruz teaches English learners, the ESOL students, at South Miami Senior High School. She says the online curriculum provided by Miami-Dade County Public Schools Is good, it’s the issues teachers can’t control which can get in the way of learning.

“So these are the students that are learning English in their homes and they’re probably the best at English and speaking English so they’re responsible for helping their families understand all these new rules, the CDC guidelines, what’s the best things they should do at home, and if they have siblings in the house, they’re the responsible ones, getting them on their technology and their distance learning as well,” Cruz said.

Both districts have translation programs embedded in the laptops they provided free to students, programs which work for multiple languages, not just Spanish.

At Veronica’s house, her parents say it’s hard to keep a second-grader focused on learning from home.

These days, that’s an extremely common observation from parents everywhere, and so is this:

“I rather be in school,” Veronica said, perhaps speaking for her peers all over South Florida.

For more information on ESOL programs, go to or to

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