Attending to the social-emotional needs of bi/multilingual learners

By Samuel Aguirre of WIDA Español


Day-to-day education of multilingual learners is in constant change. Most schools across the country are returning to in-person instruction, statewide assessments are being implemented to catch a glimpse of students’ gains from the last year, and soon we will be getting ready to close out the school year. In times like these, it is easy to focus all our attention on the academic and language gains of our students, and leave less time for their social-emotional needs. For that reason, this month’s column offers considerations for attending to the socio-emotional needs of bi/multilingual learners.


As educators, we are constantly focused on supporting our students’ holistic needs, which includes their social-emotional wellbeing. COVID-19 and distance learning added many barriers in the way we support our students. It is harder to fully comprehend our students’ social-emotional needs when we interact with them across a screen. Producing authentic opportunities for them to collaborate with peers in virtual breakout rooms is also a struggle. Nonetheless, returning to in person instruction can provide renewed opportunities for us to engage in meaningful social-emotional learning. It is especially important that we do this before our students leave the classroom for the summer break.


In the middle of the pandemic, educators like Kris Scully, author of the Pathway 2 Success blog, and state agencies like the Virginia Department of Education shared strategies to integrate social-emotional learning into the virtual curriculum. As we return to the classroom, there are ways we can continue said practices in person. Below is a list of considerations that builds on the two resources from Kris and the Virginia DOE. As you implement these in your classroom, be mindful to make them explicit to your students. That way, they can develop skills to seek out supports on their own in the future.


Considerations for attending to the social-emotional needs of bi/multilingual learners:

  1. Conduct short, one-on-one interviews with your students to learn about their lives outside of school and integrate your findings into lessons that can benefit all
  2. Create opportunities for students to feel welcomed in the classroom learning community
  3. Add multilingual/multicultural references around your classroom to remind all students that it is a welcoming environment for all
  4. Provide team-building activities that support students in connecting with their peers
  5. Brainstorm ideas for students to safely meet with peers over the summer
  6. Provide students, parents, and families with a list of social services that they can call on over the summer

As you work with your bi/multilingual learners this spring and prepare for the summer break, build opportunities for social-emotional learning in your classroom. It is also important that you acknowledge your own social-emotional well-being. For that, I invite you to keep an eye out for WIDA resources on this topic. WIDA Español recently published a web article on mindfulness, which you might find useful. To receive WIDA Español News, which will include a series of web articles to support your work with bi/multilingual learners, select “WIDA Español” as an interest area on this news sign up form.


To receive WIDA Español News, which will include a series of web articles to support your work with bi/multilingual learners, select “WIDA Español” as an interest area on this news sign up form. works to build a multilingual/bilingual community among dual language programs and dual immersion programs all over the country! Including Texas Dual Language Programs, California Dual Language Programs, and Miami Dual Language Programs, if you are from a Dual Immersion program from Texas Dual Immersion Programs, California Dual Immersion Programs, Houston Dual Language Programs, Chicago Dual Language Programs and Miami Dual Immersion Programs, reach out to us! We want to hear from you!

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