Pages - English as a Second Language (ESL)
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English as a Second Language (ESL)
English as a Second Language (ESL)

English Language Learners

English language learners are students whose first language is not English or is a version of English different from that used in Ontario schools.

The Board provides a variety of services and programs for English language learners to support student achievement and the development of English language proficiency. The type of supports provided will depend on many factors, including the student’s level of English language proficiency.

Teachers have access to different frameworks to determine the student’s level of English proficiency including Stages, STEP and the secondary ESL curriculum.

How are English Language Learners supported in school?

There are two programs that support English language learners:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) for students who have had the opportunity to develop age-appropriate literacy skills in their first language.
  • English Literacy Development (ELD) for students who have had limited opportunities to develop language and literacy skills in any language. Students may have had limited access to education.

Students typically develop social language skills in English, within one to two years. Academic language however can take more than seven years. As a result, students will receive supports in their learning for many years.

Students who are English Language Learners should receive ESL/ELD program support until they have the level of English required to learn effectively in English with no ESL/ELD support. The decision to discontinue ESL/ELD support is made by the principal, in consultation with the student, parents/guardians, and ESL/ELD and classroom teachers.

Elementary School

Supports provided to learners will promote English proficiency and academic success. Students will receive instructional supports by subject teachers in the classroom. In addition, students may also receive:

  • Additional support from the ESL/ELD teacher in the classroom.
  • Tutorial support provided several times a week to small groups.
  • Support from the ESL/ELD teacher in a small group setting for a block of time outside of the classroom.

In elementary school, a student’s English proficiency will not influence their grade placement.

Secondary School

Students who are English Language Learners receive appropriate support to ensure academic success and development of English proficiency. These supports include accommodations and/or modifications to curriculum expectations. Additional supports offered in secondary school may include:

  • ESL courses
  • ELD courses
  • individual assistance on a tutorial/resource basis
  • sections of secondary subject-specific courses designated for ELLs

Students should speak with guidance counsellors about course selection and pathways leading to their postsecondary and career goals.

Note: When looking at graduation requirements, students may substitute up to three ESL or ELD courses for compulsory English credit requirements. The remaining English credit shall be chosen from one of the compulsory English courses offered in Grade 12.

Supporting your Child’s Learning

There are many ways parents can support their child’s learning and get engaged in their education.

Consider having a conversation with your child’s teachers to discuss the development of English learning, and the supports they are receiving. Share important information about your child’s experiences within and outside of school, including interests, strengths and goals.

Questions parents may want to ask the principal or teacher:

  • What is my child’s level of English proficiency and how is their proficiency assessed?
  • How is their English learning being monitored?
  • What supports and strategies are in place to support their English language learning and their academic success?

Adult Learning

The Board also offers Adult ESL Courses through the Continuing Education Department.

Where can I learn more?

  • Students, the student section of the website includes lots of resources, including graduation requirements and course selection information, tips on time and stress management, and post-secondary pathways.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education resources provide more information about English Language Learner Programs and Services, the Ontario curriculum and Ontario’s education system.
  • Find out how the YRDSB Reception Centre helps families and students complete the necessary steps to register for and to become part of their school community.
  • Did you know that the Google Translate tool in the top right corner of our web page can help translate website content?
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