Accessibility & Equity: Part 2

Practices for the Virtual Teaching & Learning Environment

Well-Being of Emergent Bilinguals and Students of Color

In recent months, educational articles and webinars have centered on the need to support racially diverse students and emergent bilinguals (EBs) during this unanticipated transition to virtual teaching & learning. What can we, as educators, do to ensure students of color and EBs are getting the attention and support they need, while once again adjusting our teaching practices to the demands of new instructional platforms?

An Advocate in Uncharted Waters: Providing a Safety Net

Restorative Circles

Restorative Circles (sometimes referred to as Connection Circles or Dialogue Circles) proactively build the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face, especially in these uncertain times.


When built into the classroom culture, Restorative Circles have the potential to build whole class relationships and improve group cohesiveness, giving students the opportunity to discuss themes that are familiar and relevant. Restorative circle themes are as varied as the students that create them. Some examples include:


  • Are students having trouble showing up to the online format?

  • Do students feel engaged with their class assignments?

  • What are the areas that bring students discomfort or a feeling of anxiety?

  • What do they hope to achieve during the academic year before them?


While typically conducted in face-to-face classrooms, Restorative Circles can be adapted for the virtual teaching & learning environment. Keeping in mind a Restorative Circle is meant to build relationships, it is important to protect students’ social and emotional well-being. We can do this by decreasing anxiety and uncertainty during circle time. Some suggested practices are:


  1. In lieu of a “talking piece,” circle facilitators could have students bring something they cherish to the virtual class meeting. Facilitators should instruct students to set the item down until it is their turn to share. When a student is sharing, they hold their cherished item so the other students know they are to remain quiet.

  2. Don’t force students to share. Instead, have student volunteers share their responses to the question.

  3. Allow students to type their responses into the chat box.

  4. Split the class into two smaller groups. The cooperating teacher (CT) can lead one circle in a breakout room, while the teacher candidate (TC) leads the other circle in a separate breakout room.

  5. If it is your goal to have all students share, consider using the previous practices first to build confidence. Eventually, you can give the class a sequenced list of student names so they know when their turn is approaching.


If you have emergent bilinguals in your class, you can accommodate students with a buddy system, support translanguaging, and focus on meaning-based communication.


As students share-out, Restorative Circles provide you, as the circle facilitator, the opportunity to collect valuable information about your students’ well-being and hone in on their personal interests and “funds of knowledge” to enrich curriculum instruction.

Session 2: What is translanguaging?

Additional Resources

The following web resources feature strategies that are easy to implement, build trust among members in the class, and gradually move students toward self-confidence:


| The next newsletter focuses on developing rapport. Interested in reading on rapport now? Feel free to check it out here. |