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English as a Second Language 307
English as a Second Language


Secondary school ESL and ELD programs are generally intended to support newcomers to Canada who do not speak English as their first language.


For their first few years in Ontario schools, many English language learners receive support in one of the following two distinct programs designed to meet their language learning needs and/or to help them develop the literacy skills they need in order to continue their education and participate fully in life in Ontario: English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are intended for students whose first language is a language other than English or is a variety of English significantly different from that used for instruction in Ontario schools. Students in these programs have age-appropriate first-language literacy skills and educational backgrounds.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Courses
These courses are designed for English language learners who have had opportunities to develop language and literacy skills in their own language appropriate to their age or grade level.
Most English language learners are in this group. These learners may be entering secondary school from elementary school alongside their English-speaking peers, or they may be entering secondary school in Ontario having recently arrived from other countries. They can read and write in their own language within the expected range for students of their age in their own country. They can build on their existing first-language skills when learning English in an ESL program.

The five ESL courses are based on levels of proficiency in English. Depending on the learners’ previous experience with English, students may be placed in ESL Level 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. For example, a student who has been in full-time education in his or her country of origin but who has never studied English would be placed in ESL Level 1. A student who has been in full-time education in his or her own country and has studied some English might be placed in ESL Level 2 or 3 on the basis of the initial English language assessment. A student who has studied English for several years might be placed in ESL Level 3, 4, or 5 on the basis of the initial English language assessment.
Courses in English as a Second Language
Course: ESL Level 1 
Course Type: Open
Course Code: ESLAO
Credit Value: 1
Course: ESL Level 2
Course Type: Open
Course Code: ESLBO
Credit Value: 1
Prerequisite: ESL Level 1 or equivalent*
Course: ESL Level 3
Course Type: Open
Course Code: ESLCO
Credit Value: 1
Prerequisite: ESL Level 2 or equivalent*
Course: ESL Level 4
Course Type: Open
Course Code: ESLDO
Credit Value: 1
Prerequisite: ESL Level 3 or equivalent*
Course: ESL Level 5
Course Type: Open
Course Code: ESLEO
Credit Value: 1
Prerequisite: ESL Level 4 or equivalent*

*“Equivalent” may be an equivalent course of study in other provinces in Canada or in other countries, or a proficiency level determined through initial assessment.

Listening and Speaking
1. demonstrate the ability to understand, interpret, and evaluate spoken English for a variety of purposes;
2. use speaking skills and strategies to communicate in English for a variety of classroom and social purposes;
3. use correctly the language structures appropriate for this level to communicate orally in English.
1. read and demonstrate understanding of a variety of texts for different purposes;
2. use a variety of reading strategies throughout the reading process to extract meaning from texts;
3. use a variety of strategies to build vocabulary;
4. locate and extract relevant information from written and graphic texts for a variety of purposes.
1. write in a variety of forms for different purposes and audiences;
2. organize ideas coherently in writing;
3. use correctly the conventions of written English appropriate for this level, including grammar, usage, 
    spelling, and punctuation;
4. use the stages of the writing process.
Socio-cultural Competence and Media Literacy
1. use English and non-verbal communication strategies appropriately in a variety of social contexts;
2. demonstrate an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship, and of the 

   contributions of diverse groups to Canadian society;
3. demonstrate knowledge of and adaptation to the Ontario education system;
4. demonstrate an understanding of, interpret, and create a variety of media works.


Research studies show that it takes five or more years for most English language learners to catch up to age peers in using English for academic purposes, although some will accomplish this earlier, and some will need much longer. Most English language learners are able to function effectively and confidently in everyday language situations within a year or two. For example, they can follow classroom directions and maintain simple conversations about familiar topics and routines. During this time they also acquire a basic vocabulary of high-frequency words and phrases (such as friend, hungry, “Say it again, please.”). However, it can take much longer for English language learners to catch up to their age peers in academic language.
The rate at which an English language learner acquires proficiency in English, adapts to the new environment, and integrates into the mainstream academic program will be influenced by a number of general factors. Factors affecting the successful acquisition of English include the following:
  • The acculturation process. It is acknowledged that most newcomers experience a period of cultural adjustment. Newly arrived students will move through the stages of acculturation at an individual pace. The rate at which individual students experience the acculturation process may vary even among members of the same family. Some students may experience elements of different stages at the same time; some may remain in one stage for an extended period of time or may repeat characteristics associated with an earlier stage if the process has been interrupted.
  • The migration experience. Many newcomer students have arrived in Canada with their families as part of a voluntary, planned immigration process. However, some students have arrived from countries in chaos, have spent time in refugee camps, or have experienced personal trauma caused by natural disaster, political upheaval, or family disruption. The level of development in the first language. English language learners who are at age-appropriate levels of language and literacy development in their own language are more successful in learning English. Prior experience with English. Some newcomers, especially those of secondary school age, have studied English in their own countries. Placement of these students may vary according to their level of proficiency in English.

Personality or Motivational Factors
Some students are more likely to seek out opportunities to use the new language and take the risks involved in experimenting with English. Others may need encouragement and support to do this. The amount and quality of prior schooling. Students who have significant gaps in their schooling have more to catch up on and will need more support over a longer period of time. The presence of learning exceptionalities. English language learners show the full range of learning exceptionalities in the same proportions as other Ontario students. When special education needs have been identified, students are eligible for ESL services and special education services simultaneously.


The ESL curriculum is based on the belief that broad proficiency in English is essential to students’ success in both their social and academic lives, and to their ability to take their place in society as responsible and productive citizens. The curriculum is designed to provide English language learners with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve these goals. Its aim is to help students become successful English language learners who can:
·       use English to communicate effectively in a variety of social settings;
·       use English to achieve academically in all subject areas;
·       take charge of their own learning, independently and in groups;
·       select and use effective learning strategies;
·       integrate confidently into mainstream courses;
·       use English effectively to advocate for themselves in all areas of their lives;
·       make a successful transition to their chosen postsecondary destination (work, apprenticeship,  college, university);
·       function effectively in a society increasingly committed to the use of information technology;
·       use critical-literacy and critical-thinking skills to interpret the world around them;
·       participate fully in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their communities and of Canada.
This culminating vision of successful English language learners identifies the language skills and capabilities required for success in Ontario’s education system and for full participation in Canadian society. The expectations outlined in the ESL curriculum are designed to enable students to develop these important skills and capabilities. For many English language learners, achievement of the expectations may require them to adopt new ways of learning and new ways of interacting with others. However, growth towards full linguistic and cultural competence in English should not be at the expense of students’ own languages and cultures. A major goal of any instructional program for English language learners should be to encourage students to value and maintain their own linguistic and cultural identities so that they can enter the larger society as bilingual and bicultural individuals. Such young people are able to choose language and cultural norms that are appropriate in any given situation or cultural context, and can fully participate in and contribute to our multilingual, multicultural Canadian society. The ESL curriculum expectations are designed to help English language learners develop the skills they need to develop proficiency in everyday English and, most especially, the proficiency in academic English that will allow them to integrate successfully into the mainstream school program. It is important to recognize that while English language learners are in the process of acquiring academic language, their age peers are not standing still in their learning of grade-appropriate language and concepts. In effect, English language learners must catch up with a moving target. Thus, an effective curriculum for English language learners integrates academic language and literacy skills with subject-matter concepts and critical-thinking skills from the very beginning levels of instruction, so that students can gain as much momentum as possible as they progress to full participation in mainstream classes in the various subjects.


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