Union Highlights: New Resources to Support Educators, Students, and Families

Supporting English Language Learners


ColorinColorado.org, a collaboration of PBS station WETA and the AFT, is the nation’s most widely accessed website serving educators and families of English language learners (ELLs) with information on how to help ELLs succeed in school. The resources on Colorín Colorado are used in professional development and for family outreach by schools across the country and reach more than three million users each year.

Several new literacy resources are now available. They’re all specifically designed for educators and families who are hungry for culturally responsive, multilingual tools to support student success, school-family partnerships, and professional growth.

The collection “Using Diverse Books with ELLs: A Guide for Educators” offers numerous practical tips for expanding access to books for ELLs and immigrant students—including how to choose books that reflect students’ diverse experiences, cultures, and languages, and how to ensure books will be challenging but not frustrating for students. Visit this collection to learn more about why students need access to diverse books and how these books can support writing instruction, and to get specific recommendations for high-quality books across grades, subject areas, genres, and topics.

Another valuable resource is the family literacy video series, which has three new projects available in multiple languages. “Being Bilingual Is a Superpower!” is an engaging animation developed for family members of ELLs, with practical and easy recommendations to support language and literacy development at home. “Family Literacy Tips” is a series of short public service announcements featuring an early childhood educator with practical tips for supporting reading at home regardless of adults’ reading levels. Tips include ideas for families of young children, school-aged children, and teenagers.

Lastly, the “Indigenous Family Engagement” series was developed to share culturally responsive messages for Indigenous families from Latin America. The first culture highlighted is the Mam culture, with educator Henry Sales discussing in English, Spanish, and Mam the importance of preserving family language and culture and of families’ rights for language access.

These and many more resources for ELL educators can also be found on the new free web app, Colorín on the Go.

Professional Development for Reading Instruction

The AFT has many opportunities for members to learn new teaching strategies, reinforce best practices, and stay up to date on helping all learners become strong readers. Beginning Reading Instruction and Reading Comprehension Instruction are the AFT’s flagship reading courses offered either in a train-the-trainer model or as participant training. Beginning in summer 2023, two new modules will be offered that combine content from both courses in manageable time chunks.

First is a new 10-hour asynchronous e-learning course that will help any AFT member learn about the science of reading and high-leverage instructional practices. Next, Reading Interventions 101 is designed to help educators understand what makes a successful reader and how to support struggling readers with appropriate interventions. Participants will analyze student data to identify skill deficits and develop an instructional intervention plan with evidence-based reading strategies. 

For more information on these courses, contact Lisa Dickinson in the AFT’s Educational Issues Department: edickinson@aft.org.

Apply for the Next Teacher Leaders Program Cohort

It’s time to identify the next cohort of AFT Teacher Leaders! The yearlong Teacher Leaders Program brings together a select group of teachers who want to learn how to take active leadership roles in their schools and communities, build their profession, and strengthen union connections to the community.

The AFT Teacher Leaders Program supports the goals of union locals and provides them with

  • strong ties to community organizations and community leaders;
  • an informed teacher voice and member engagement opportunity;
  • a vehicle for positive messaging about public schools and their unions; and
  • a pipeline for future school and union leaders.

Applications for the Teacher Leaders Program are due April 20. For more information, visit aft.org/position/teacher-leadership or contact Lisa Dickinson at edickinson@aft.org for a link to the program’s informational webinar.

[Illustrations by Rafael López]

American Educator, Spring 2023