ESOL - English to Speakers of Other
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Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
about English Language Learners (ELL)
What are different names that may be
used when talking about students who do not have English as their
ELL means English Language Learner. ELL is the most common
acronym used for students whose primary language is not English. LEP
is Limited English Proficient. ESL is English as a Second Language.
ESOL is English to Speakers of Other Languages. Students who did not
learn English as their native tongue and/or continue to use other
than English as a dominant language would be considered an English
What is ESOL?
ESOL is the name Georgia has given to its program for teaching
English to Speakers of Other Languages.
What are the goals of ESOL program?
The ESOL program in Clayton County is designed to meet the needs of
students for whom English is not their dominant language. The goal
is to prepare students for success in school and in society through
the development of cultural awareness and English language
proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. There is a
particular emphasis on the skills necessary for students to meet
standards on the ACCESS for ELLs (a language proficiency exam), the
Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) and Georgia High School
Graduation Tests (GHSGT).
How should an English language
learner be placed?
ELLs should have an age-appropriate placement. In the beginning, the
student may seem to be lost and not understand anything happening in
the classroom. Cognitively, however, the student will have achieved
the same grade equivalency in his/her home school. The student has
the ability to understand the classroom assignments, but will need
time to develop the English to understand and do assignments. When
students enter our school system who have had very little education
in their home country, it is still appropriate to place them in
age-appropriate classes. If progress is not being made, teachers may
request an SST meeting to develop an individualized academic plan
for the student.
When a student from another country
speaks English and understands what I say to him, why does he need
to be tested for the ESOL program with the WIDA ACCESS Placement
Just because a student speaks English does not necessarily mean the
student can read, write and do other academic tasks in English. The
federal law requires that all ELLs be assessed for English language
proficiency so that language assistance can be given to students who
need academic help with English.
How can I evaluate an ELL student in
the classroom? How can I assess progress without oral language?
Research states that it takes 4-10 years for students to become
proficient in English. English language learners will acquire
language in much the same way a child learns a first language. The
CAN DO Descriptors (chart below) will help you to understand the
linguistic processes a student goes through. Expect the student to
respond according to the levels of proficiency. Use the CAN DO
Descriptors in instructing and evaluating ELL students.
Click Here for the CAN DO Descriptors for the Levels of English
What kind of materials can be used by the classroom
teacher? Where can I get materials for implementation or
Teachers can use tapes, magazines, pictures, comic books, catalogs,
flash cards, computer programs, a variety of websites, videos,
television, on grade level materials that have been adapted or other
materials in your school’s media center. Ask other teachers about
materials that have worked for them. Ask the ESOL teacher in your
building for ideas for specific resources and ways to modify
materials used in your classroom. The Georgia Department of
Education GLC website at http://www.glc.k12.ga.us/homepg.htm has an
ESOL page that provides many lessons and strategies.
What do I do with a student who seems to be just
sitting there? What is the “silent period”?
The “silent period” is a valid learning time. Do not be overly
concerned if your new arrival is silent and this continues for
several weeks (and sometimes months). Opportunities for the student
to observe are valuable for his/her language acquisition. A
surprising amount of learning takes place when the student sits and
observes. Make sure your instruction includes clues (such as
pictures, gestures, other realia) so that the student can connect
content with language. Do include the student in all activities and
give opportunities for the student to perform tasks, even if he/she
Where can I obtain a dual-language picture
Most media centers may have The New Oxford Picture Dictionary,
Longman Photo Dictionary or The Basic Newbury House Dictionary of
American English. If your media center does not have one of those
dictionaries, be sure to ask the media specialist to order one for
your student to use. In the meantime, ask the ESOL teacher if you
can borrow a suitable dictionary. Computer programs such as
Usborne’s Animated First Thousand Words and Rosetta Stone are
helpful for teaching English.
Who needs to be served by the ESOL program?
All students whose first language is other than English should be
identified and, if appropriate, screened for language assistance
using the Short LAB (until March 2007) or the WIDA-ACCESS Placement
Test (W-APT) (after March 2007). According to the state guidelines,
a student who scores below a cut-score qualifies for ESOL
instruction. If the scores are marginal, other reading comprehension
assessments may be administered and considered in placement. ACCESS
for ELLs is the primary assessment tool used to determine continued
eligibility for the program.
How can I make a student feel good on the first day?
Relax! Smile! Be welcoming! Be patient and gentle. Use common sense.
Your attitude toward the new student will influence the attitudes of
your students. If you regard the arrival of a new student from
another culture as an enriching experience, it will be. Arrange a
tour of the school building to include introducing the new student
to school personnel. Carefully choose a dependable student, not
necessarily one who speaks the same language, to serve as a buddy.
Continue with the buddy system, but rotate this responsibility.
When should I start grading ELLs like a regular
Start grading ELLs like other students as language proficiency
increases. In the meantime, have high, but realistic, expectations
of what the ELL student should learn in your classroom. Refer to the
chart in question #6 as guidance for ways to plan differentiated
instruction and accommodations for ELLs. Talk to the ESOL teacher in
your building about accommodating ELL students and ways to evaluate
What do I do about a student who will not orally
respond in class?
In most cases, it is best not to put ELLs on the spot by asking them
to orally participate before they are ready. Until your student is
comfortable, do not expect him/her to talk. It takes courage for an
English language learner to take a chance on making a mistake in
front of an entire class. Small group work or work with partners
will encourage these students to speak sooner. Encourage them to
answer questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” before
progressing to questions which require more difficult responses.
Accept and reinforce all attempts. Rather than correcting errors,
model correct responses.
How much help with homework can the classroom
teacher expect from the ESOL teacher?
The ESOL teacher will probably be happy to give help with homework
before or after the ESOL class period, if she/he has the time;
however, time does not permit ESOL teachers to give extensive
individual help and to implement ESOL lessons that have been made to
help each student in the group gain proficiency in listening,
speaking, reading, and writing English. Teaching vocabulary used in
content classes so that ELLs can be successful in regular
instructional periods is a high priority for lessons given by ESOL
teachers. Highest priority must be given to the development of the
skills which will help the student make a successful transition to a
new language, a new culture, and become successful in your
What can be done to help ELLs with homework or
If you give homework, in subjects other than math (computation),
limit the amount of work you give but continue to have high
expectations. Remember that English help is unlikely to be available
at home. Use buddies for help with classwork. Remember that the
student cannot succeed even in math if he/she does not understand
the English directions. Help the student particularly with word
problems in math.
How can I get ELLs to work cooperatively in groups?
Do not hesitate to assign ELLs to groups, but be realistic about
individual expectations. Create a balance between ELLs and native
English speakers and allow the group to make presentations or
products that can include students who are uncomfortable speaking in
front of a whole class.
How can I adapt Social Studies or Science curriculum
to meet the needs of ELLs?
Start with the basics. Choose a few important vocabulary words to be
defined. Draw from the student’s knowledge of his/her native country
and use the student as a resource whenever possible. Have the ELL
research a topic from his/her culture to correspond to the one you
are teaching. (You will be facilitating the student’s English
vocabulary acquisition of a topic that he/she knows about.) Use
newspapers and the internet. Understand that ELLs are disadvantaged
in Social Studies and Science because they lack needed reading
skills and because ELLs do not have general knowledge and vocabulary
common to the American students in your classroom. What can you do
at testing time? Try some of the following ideas. Give open-book
tests. Allow the student to use a dictionary in his/her native
language during the testing. Allow for extra testing time. Avoid
essay questions. Consider testing the student orally in an
Should teachers try to discourage the use of the
native language in the home?
No. Research shows that the use of the primary language in the home
does not decrease a child’s ability to learn a second language. A
rich experience in a first language has a positive effect on the
acquisition of a second language. The more the acquirer develops
his/her native language, the quicker English is learned. Students
should be made to feel that both their native language and their
native culture are important and that there is something very
special about speaking two languages or more.
Why do some students learn English faster than
There are a variety of reasons why some students learn language
faster than others. One reason can be that they have more facility
for learning language. Sometimes it is easier for students who have
their first language based in an Indo-European language grammatical
structure. Some students may have difficulties because they had
little formal education in their home country. These students will
not have the experience of learning language for use in an academic
setting and may find academic tasks (like reading and writing)
How many languages do ESOL teachers know how to
speak? What preparation does an ESOL teacher need?
Actually, the only language an ESOL teacher has to know is English.
The ESOL teacher is required to understand theories in linguistics,
particularly how students acquire a second language. A helpful
attribute is to be able to empathize with the student’s desire to
learn English and his/her difficulty in doing so. The ESOL teacher
must be certified in ESOL or have an ESOL Endorsement to teach ESOL.
Three courses, Cultural Issues, ESOL Methods and Materials, and
Applied Linguistics, are required by the State of Georgia for the
When a teacher needs an interpreter to communicate
with parents, is it good to use a student who knows English and the
other language spoken? Are using translation websites a good idea?
In most cases, if you can get the assistance of another adult (in
your school) or request the assistance of the bilingual
paraprofessionals or community liaisons in Clayton County, it will
facilitate the conversation with the parents. Using students can
cause role difficulties and breach confidentiality. When calling or
writing a parent please get the assistance of a bilingual
paraprofessional or community liaison or ask the parent to bring a
family member or friend who can interpret during a parent teacher
conference. Many CCPS translations prepared by Clayton County
translators can be found at the Second Language Learning website
(click on “Services”) at the webpage for Clayton County Public
Please note that internet translation sites are not reliable to
produce good translations.
How can I find out what kinds of things are done in
an ESOL class?
Talk with your ESOL teacher. Better yet, schedule a visit or plan to
co-teach with an ESOL teacher in your classroom.
Cummins, J. (1999). BICS and CALP: Clarifying the Distinction. ED
Thomas, W.P & Collins, V.P. (2001). A National Study of School
Effectiveness for Language Minority Students’ Long-Term Academic
Achievement. Center for Research on Education, Diversity &
Click here for a printable copy of the
Frequently Asked Questions