The 2020 Election and Beyond: Resources for ELLs

Multilingual election sign

Find resources for teaching and discussing the 2020 election and subsequent events with your English language learners (ELLs) in the resource list below, as well as resources focused on media literacy.

These resources about the 2020 Election and subsequent events, including the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, include educational resources you can use in the classroom and tips for discussion with English language learners (ELLs) and immigrants.

Special thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for maintaining great resource lists and archives on these topics.

Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol: Resources for Educators

We are compiling classroom resources about the events of January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol as they become available.

Making Space: Teaching After Trauma

In this Edutopia piece, Dr. Tracy Edwards writes, "Although the urge to immediately fix, teach, or somehow solve problems for our students may be strong, we must hold space for reflection, honest dialogue, and questions as they arise."

Discussing political violence with ELLs, immigrants, and refugees

If you are discussing these events with ELLs and immigrant students, please keep in mind that these events will take a lot of time for students and educators alike to process. Students may also have questions about how the police response to the events at the Capitol compares to responses to racial justice protests.  In addition, keep in mind the following:

These events may be particularly traumatic for students who have endured armed conflict, civil war, unrest, and violence in their home country. That violence may be the reason they came to America, and they may have many opinions and questions about current events. Students may also have personal questions and considerations about their own safety or that of their families for a variety of reasons.

  • Consider providing students a private space to share their thoughts, such as a digital journal.
  • Prepare for these discussions in collaboration with counselors and other mental health professionals.
  • Learn more about trauma-informed instruction for immigrant students.

See more in the following:

ELL/immigrant students and their families need to know that they are valued members of your class, school, and community.

  • Continue efforts to make them feel welcome.
  • If you aren't sure what that looks like in virtual settings, ask them what would make them feel more welcome, perhaps in private conversations or small focus groups.
  • Share those ideas with colleagues and administrators as you hear them.

ELLs may face additional bullying or harassment in coming weeks and months.

  • Communicate to your class that all students are valued members of the classroom and bullying or disrespectful speech, including against ELLs and immigrant students, will not be tolerated.
  • Share the importance of these message with other colleagues.
  • See helpful ideas in 8 Tips to Protect ELLs from Bullying in Your Classroom and School.

Students may have deep personal feelings about the outcomes of the 2020 election for a number of reasons.

Some of these reasons include the following:

  • ELL and immigrant students may have felt the impacts of changing immigration policies in recent years, directly or indirectly.
  • They may also have experienced bullying or harassment due to a number of factors, including their ethnicity, language, or religion.
  • Many immigrant families have also been particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic and students may be shouldering heavy levels of responsibility at home.
  • Students may also be concerned about retribution against themselves based on the outcome of the election.

In your instruction:

  • Remember that some students may not wish to discuss these events right away. Students may need time, space, and privacy to process what is unfolding. And, like teachers, many students are exhausted. Finding positive things to focus on and letting students know that you are there to listen when they are ready is an important first step. (See more on this topic from Dr. Tracy Edwards' related Twitter thread.)
  • Proceed with utmost care and sensitivity. Look for ways to embed social-emotional support and learning across the curriculum. While some students may wish to engage in group discussion, others may feel uncomfortable drawing any attention to themselves or their family's situation.
  • Consider reaching out to administrators and mental health colleagues or partners to establish some more robust support for students who are under tremendous strain due to the pandemic and perhaps feeling high levels of anxiety.
  • Avoid making assumptions about any student's experience or political leanings.
  • Explain that the long process of counting votes after the election proceeded as normal and was expected, especially with the high number of mail-in ballots this year due to the pandemic.

See more in the following resources:

Students and families may have questions about what the election and current events might mean for them.

  • Speak with students and families directly to find out their concerns.
  • Acknowledge the difficulty of the uncertainty families have been experiencing.
  • Find out which local organizations have ties to your community.
  • Look for ways to provide ongoing updates of information in families' home languages. Building school-community partnerships have proven to be critical in addressing families' questions and concerns about the pandemic, immigration issues, and other key topics.
  • Don't lose sight of the strengths that ELL/immigrant students and families bring to their schools and our communities every day. The better you know your families, the more deeply you can tap into those strengths.

See more tips here:

See additional tips and resources for discussing the 2020 election with student below.

Lesson plans and articles

Looking Back at Jan. 6, 2021

Teaching the events of Jan. 6, 2021

In addition to these resources, learn how other educators are managing this moment through your local networks or online networks.

Resource lists

Student opinion

About the U.S. Capitol

Responding to trauma

Resources for families

Talking about tough topics in the news

Resources in Spanish

Related resources

Classroom Resources: Media Literacy

Media Literacy

Archived events

Articles & blog posts

Classroom Resources: Election 2020

After the Election

Immigration stories and topics

Election Week: Waiting for Results

Preparing for the 2020 Election

Multimedia: 2020 Election & Civics Resources for Students

Resources for ELLs

Spanish-Language Election Information

Useful Resources from Prior Elections

Books & Authors

My America: Many Voices, Many Stories

These books celebrate a diverse range of American voices and experiences, including voting in an election, immigrating to this country, and the journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Featured Video: Janet Wong reads "Liberty"

Poet Janet Wong reads and discusses her poem "Liberty", which is featured in Poems to Learn by Heart.

Book and Activity Guides

More booklists

Reading Rockets offers the following great booklists about elections, government, and U.S. presidents:



More by this author

Donate to Colorin Colorado


Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.