Teaching K-8 Multilingual Learners Literacy & Academic Content

The Teaching K-8 Multilingual Learners Literacy & Academic Content Online Professional Learning Course will help you more effectively prepare your emergent multilingual students in elementary and middle grades with the skills they need to be successful in school. This is a critical challenge for K-8 teachers as the number of Multilingual Learners continues to increase in the United States.

The percentage of public school students designated as English Learners in the United States rose from 8.1 percent (3.8 million) in 2000 to 9.6 percent (4.9 million) in 2016 (Institute of Education Sciences, 2019). Moreover, a higher percentage of Multilingual Learners are concentrated in the lower grades of US public schools. For example in 2016, 16.2 percent of kindergartners were identified as Multilingual Learners while only 8.5 percent of 6th-graders; 6.9 percent of 8th-graders and 4.1 percent of 12th-graders were designated as Multilingual Learners (Institute of Education Sciences, 2019).

This course draws on the recommendations of the Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English (Multilingual) Learners in Elementary and Middle School Practice Guide, published in July 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education's IES What Works Clearinghouse. The Practice Guide, developed by a panel of expert researchers and practitioners, provides educators with specific, research-based recommendations for effective teaching practices. It focuses on the foundational skills that enable Multilingual Learners to understand academic vocabulary, integrate oral and written English language into content areas, develop written language skills, and participate in small-group interventions for literacy and language development. These skills are grounded in the foundational values of ensuring equitable learning opportunities for Multilingual Learners, amplifying and honoring Multilingual Learners' home and family cultures, engaging in literacy as social practice and scaffolding instruction with Multilingual Learners.

The overarching goal is for participants to understand and be able to apply the panel's recommendations to their teaching with Multilingual Learners in elementary and middle school.

Course Objectives

  • To build an understanding of and reflect on instructional strategies and methods to better support K-8 Multilingual Learners.
  • To engage educators in perspective-taking opportunities to better relate to and understand the strengths of Multilingual Learners and the instructional challenges that impact learning.
  • To guide educators in building a repository of resources, activities and skills to bring back to their classroom, school and learning community.

Learn More

After the orientation unit, there are four main units in this course, each addressing one of the recommendations from the Practice Guide:

  • Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities
  • Integrate oral and written English language instruction into content-area teaching
  • Provide regular structured opportunities to develop written language skills
  • Small-group instructional intervention to students struggling in areas of literacy and English language development

Note: English language learning and practice can be amplified through honoring, affirming, and encouraging the use of students' heritage language(s). Please view this Institute of Education Sciences resource on the benefits of translanguaging to support students' bilingual and multilingual development (PDF).

In each unit, you will participate in a number of activities to help you dig into the content.

  • Introduce each Practice Guide recommendation
  • Connect your own prior knowledge
  • Read and Engage with Multilingual Learner instructional strategies
  • Notice Multilingual Learner strategies in action
  • In Classroom Scenario, participants record their observations and insights
  • Apply and Reflect on your learning
  • Dive Deeper into expert panel discussions and additional resources

You are able to move through this course at your own pace. Participants can register for the course as part of a school-based or cross-school PLC or as an individual.

In lieu of course facilitators, you will be engaging with course content through the PLC Guide (for school-based and cross-school PLCs) or Individual Reflection Journal (for individual participants). To receive a certificate of completion for the course, each participant must submit a completed PLC Guide or Individual Reflection Journal in Unit 5 of the course.

If moving through the course as a PLC, create and submit a team name (and share with your PLC members) when registering. Each person in your PLC will need to register for the course and complete the certificate requirements, including submitting a completed PLC Guide, to qualify for a certificate of course completion.


Marie Himes

Marie Himes

Director of the New Literacies Collaborative and Research Scholar, Friday Institute
Sarah Bausell

Sarah Bausell

Research Scholar, Friday Institute
Hiller Spires

Dr. Hiller Spires

Executive Director Emerita, Friday Institute
Brittany Miller

Brittany Miller

Digital Learning Coach, Friday Institute
Kristi Day

Dr. Kristi Day

Director - The Office of Academic Standards, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Javier H. Arizmendi Penaloza

Dr. Javier H. Arizmendi Penaloza

ESL Teacher, Glenn High School, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Public Schools
Jackie Reylea

Dr. Jackie Reylea

Assistant Professor, NC State University
Aida Walqui

Dr. Aida Walqui

Senior Research Scientist, National Research and Development Center for Improving the Education of English Learners in Secondary Schools, West Ed

Participants will have the opportunity to earn a certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development during the Teaching K-8 Multilingual Learners Literacy & Academic Content course.

In order to earn a certificate, participants must:

  • Complete the course registration online form, including questions regarding participants' background, organizational affiliation, and goals for engaging in this online learning experience;
  • Verify that you spent at least 15 hours participating in the course;
  • View and explore each unit's primary content resource(s);
  • Engage in each unit's application activities;
  • Complete and submit the PLC Guide/Individual Reflection Journal; and
  • Provide feedback in the end-of-course survey.

You can submit the certificate to your local agency with a request for CEUs. Granting of CEUs will be subject to the policies and procedures of your state and local agency.

Future Start Date(s) TBD
Duration 6 units
Cost Free
Primary Audience Teachers of Multilingual Learners
Elementary School Teachers
Middle School Teachers
Certificate Available Yes
Certificate Hours 15
Developers Marie Himes
Sarah Bausell
Hiller Spires
Brittany Miller

Previous Courses

Fall 2021
Spring 2021
Fall 2020