ICYMI: 2021 WIDA eConference Session Highlights

October 22, 2021

In case you missed it (ICYMI) live, we highlight some of the themes, chat box happenings and TIL (today I learned) takeaways from a selection of 2021 WIDA eConference sessions.

Get the session recordings

If you were a registered attendee and would like to rewatch a session or view one you missed, visit the 2021 WIDA eConference Canvas site and go to the Agenda tab. You will have access to all recordings until December 31, 2021, at 11:59pm CT.

Without further ado, the session highlights...

Keynote Presentation: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Theme: Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Sympathizer,” delivered the keynote address. During his speech, he talked about his experience as a refugee in America.

Viet’s keynote in Tweets...

“A beautifully honest and powerful keynote by Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen during the WIDA eConference this morning. Thank you for sharing your story.” – @leech_the_teach

“Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen has rocked this keynote session. As an immigrant/US citizen myself, he is speaking to my heart. Language, memories, and stories matter as we grow success for our English learners.” – @teacherxatli

“Inspired and grateful for Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s keynote at #WIDAeConference this morning. His words echoed my heart & call us to tell more complex & true stories that include both the humanity & inhumanity of all, especially those who are not usually at the center.” – @HarmonyLoop

“… if you can hate people you’ve never met before, you can love people you’ve never met before.” – @ml_teachesl

“The power of language. Stories matter.” – @BaumanELD

Session: Collaborative Conversations Around the WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition

Theme: Presenters Margo Gottlieb and Jennifer Daniels walked attendees through, as Margo put it, “how you might spark collaboration.” They talked about how collaboration is key to making sense of the 2020 Edition.

From the chat box

  • Is it recommended to include only one of the four Key Language Uses when identifying/writing language objectives for lessons? No, they are fluid and interact with each other – introduce each and every one of them!
  • Conversations with colleagues is a key next step!


Session: Creating Equitable Science Instruction for Multilingual Learners

Theme: In this session, presenters David Crowther and Rita MacDonald helped session attendees “do more to integrate science into language.” They walked attendees through Making Science Multilingual’s Design Principles for Engaging Multilingual Learners in Three-Dimensional Science.

From the chat box

  • How can we overcome the obstacles that multilingual learners face? Co-teaching; more experiments; have more former multilingual learners come back and share their experiences; become scientists ourselves!
  • What do you do now to elicit student ideas during sense-making? I love introducing vocabulary in the context of the learning; use of sentence starters and modeling; silent gallery walks presenting the topic; show a science content picture and ask students what they think is happening; I always start with an “I notice/I wonder” chart: I give them a picture of our topic, and I have them write down their ideas in English or their home language, then they share out; start with a phenomenon; get everyone involved!


  • If we choose to teach science just as literacy, we’re doing multilingual learners a disservice. Introduce new language within the context of new learning and use everyday language from the beginning of the lesson.
  • We need to teach science as an exploration of phenomena. When you start with a phenomenon, there’s no language required. Natural curiosity takes over.
  • An online offering is coming soon! Look for more information from WIDA in February.

Featured Session: Unsettling Language Barriers: Redefining Communicative “Problems” and Reimagining Decolonial Possibilities

Theme: In this featured session, presenter Jonathan Rosa used visuals and real-life examples to help attendees think critically about the effect that colonialism has on how we frame marginalized populations’ linguistic practices as perpetual learning impediments.

From the chat box

  • We use "academic language" so frequently as educators but there is no measure for this in research or in life whatsoever. This has led me to pivot to focus on formality in language for my classes instead of "academic language."
  • I've been learning more about "biography-driven instruction” and how beneficial it is for students to share their stories and perspectives with each other.
  • I think the US needs to accept multilingualism as the norm … by not recognizing the diversity of language usage in this country we could at least understand how different accents, dialects and languages are used to exclude and prejudge people.


Spotlight session: How to Form Family Partnerships with Purpose & Power

Theme: In this session, presenter Leila Kubesch shared her tips, strategies and (can we just say… AMAZING) examples for educating and engaging families in their child’s learning. Leila, who is a fount of creativity, impressed attendees with incredible idea after idea during this one-hour session.

From the chat box

  • I always wanted to put together a vendor list of parent businesses to promote for them. Has anyone ever done this? Find a way to connect your project to family businesses and a way to invite families to come in and talk about their business.
  • This is the most amazing presentation. You are so fearless. Just goes to show it never hurts to ask!


  • Home visits work! Pro tips: send a letter to parents assuring them it will be a short visit; be willing to meet when it works for them; do a mock home visit with students.
  • Creating an in-house yoga studio could be a great way to connect students, families and staff.
  • Have unused windowsills? Turn them into free libraries!

Session: A Discussion Among Teacher Leaders: Planning for Implementation of the WIDA ELD Standards Framework

Theme: During this session, moderator Chris Montecillo talked with a panel of teacher leaders, which included Mike Gary, Molly Ross and Elisabet Sena-Martin, about their strategies for implementing the WIDA ELD Standards Framework, 2020 Edition. Throughout the session, presenters shared their excitement for “WIDA 2020” (which is a cool new chant, founded in this session) and real implementation approaches that worked for them.

From the chat box

  • It’s about having an asset-based mindset.
  • How can you get buy-in from content teachers? This could be an opportunity to ask content teachers “what do you hope students will be writing or putting on the board?” Then you could have a really rich conversation about those points of teaching language.
  • What do you hope/expect to see a couple of years from now as you continue this work? More seamless collaboration with ESL teachers and content teachers.


  • If teachers of multilingual learners want to be invited into the content teacher space, they need to invite content teachers into their space first!
  • Build on your strengths! And think about the strengths that you bring.
  • Important theme from the panelists: “We don’t have to do this work in isolation. And don’t forget to own our expertise – which is harder than owning what we don’t know. But we have to do both.”
  • For more ideas, read the WIDA Voices from the Field: Implementing the WIDA ELD Standards Framework news article.

Save the Date!

The 2022 WIDA Annual Conference is set to take place on September 28-30, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky.


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