Frequently Asked Questions By Teachers

(see below for Frequently Asked Questions By Parents)

1. Does the Ministry have set guidelines for ESL support?
Visit: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/eslstandards.pdf
Note: the standards are being updated and a draft should be available in 2012.

As well, see page 8 of the Ministry of Education's Policy and Guidelines:
English language learners vary substantially in their needs for service. Some of the variables which account for this include:
  • the student's strength, proficiency, and literacy in the first language;
  • the level of prior exposure to English;
  • the age of the student;
  • previous school experience;
  • the student's cultural context and emotional situation;
  • the student's learning rate and style; and
  • the demands of the curriculum. These individual differences should be reflected in the services which the student receives.

Student's strengths in the first language typically correlate positively with the acquisition of a second language. As students develop an understanding of the general features of language through their first language, they can bring this knowledge to the task of second language learning. In the BC school system, students are usually assigned to age-appropriate classes. Placement of students who have been identified as needing ESL services should be determined by an ESL specialist in collaboration with the classroom teacher, other professionals as appropriate, (e.g., the school counsellor, the school-based resource staff) as well as with the student and parents. Students should be placed in classroom settings where they can reasonably be expected to succeed.

2. What are the qualifications needed to teach ESL in Richmond?
All new appointees to ESL positions shall have training or be working on course work in linguistics and ESL methodology, or have an equivalent combination of training and experience. Again, using UBC as an example, the contract requirement is for 12 credits in total, comprised of two 6 credit courses, LLED 489 (C) - the applied linguistics course, and LLED 478 (C) - the methodology course. Completion of this program will give the teacher the TESL Coursework Certificate. There is also a Diploma program consisting of 30 credits of core and elective courses. More information can be found at : http://www.lled.educ.ubc.ca/programs/tesl_certificate.htm

The coursework for ELL from Simon Fraser University are:
Educ. 467-4 Curriculum and Instruction in Teaching English as an Additional Language
Ling. 360-3 Linguistics and language Teaching
Ling. 362-3 English as a Second Language: Theory
Ling. 363-3 English as a Second Language: Practice

3. How much ESL support time should my students receive?
The amount of support time ESL students receive is dependent on their level of language and the service delivery model of the school. Students may receive pull-out support, in-class focused support or a combination of both. The intensity of support may vary over the year depending on individual needs.

Suggested guidelines for support:
Level 1 & 2: 4-5 times a week
Level 3: 2 times a week
Level 4: 1 time a week
Level 5: 1 time every two weeks

4. What are the recommended support practices for Primary Grade 1 & 2 , Level 1 students? Pull-out or In Class Support? What is the recommended period of time for pull-out support? Can support be provided in class without pull-out support?

Students should be serviced about 4-5 times a week for Levels 1 and 2. Nevertheless, the timing of this service is dependent on the ESL specialist's availability, staffing schedules, varying needs of the students and school. Timetabling of service needs to be determined through a discussion between the ESL specialist and classroom teacher for best delivery of service and then this information needs to be shared with administration. The service may vary between schools and time of year.

Please refer to section J. Support Delivery Models for discussion on possible models of ESL delivery.

5. How do we best provide ESL support for Level 5 students?
Students at level 5 may appear to be fluent but still have significant needs in developing content language and skills as well as knowledge about culture. The language needs of these students must still be addressed but the support may take many different forms. The ESL teacher may provide direct support with class assignments or may collaborate with the classroom teacher in providing graphic organizers and/or effective reading and writing strategies.The ESL teacher could check in with their ESL 5 students once a week or every two weeks through in-class support or perhaps, provide pull-out support through a brief editing conference with a writing assignment.

6. How is staffing done for ESL?
ESL staffing is allocated to schools based on a formula which considers the number of ESL students combined with their language levels. Numbers are determined based on the 1701 count.

7. How much EA support will my ESL students receive?
Generally schools are not allocated Educational Assistance support for ESL.

8. Can ESL students receive both LA and ESL support?
Technically they are eligible for both services. If it is believed that the student is having difficulty for reasons other than second language learning they may need the services of the Learning Assistance Teacher. However, the allocation of services is generally decided through the School Based Team.

9. Can an ESL student get Speech/Language services?
As above, technically they are eligible for both services. If a student is having difficulty with articulation or language processing for reasons other than second language learning they may need the services of the Speech/Language Pathologist. However, the allocation of services is generally decided through the School Based Team.

10. Do ESL students need an AIP if they receive ‘in class’ service?
All students who are listed on the Ministry 1701 form must have an Annual Instruction Plan. For audit purposes, we must be able to articulate the service given to students and show evidence, including those who receive ‘Indirect Service’ or in-class support.

11. Do ESL students need an IEP?
If it is determined that the student’s learning needs are beyond typical language learning challenges and they are receiving support beyond the classroom level, they do need an IEP. The IEP would take the place of an AIP. Generally speaking, if the student is on the Ministry List for Special Education, then an IEP is required. For example, you may have an ESL student who has autism, which falls under Category G. An IEP is required for such a student.

12. What kind of ESL support do we provide a non-verbal ASD student? He is only attending school half a day and is on a completely modified program implemented by his EA.
As the ESL teacher supporting a nonverbal ASD child, the ESL teacher needs to be involved in the SBT meetings for this child. As long as he is claimed on the 1701 for ESL, then the ESL teacher's involvement and expertise are needed. At the SBT, you can make suggestions for support materials and strategies to help in his language development. At this stage of language proficiency, you may not be directly involved in the teaching, however your ESL background will provide insights on English language development. Together, you can make plans for his support. In his IEP, there should be some communication goals. Even if he isn't verbal, he can still be working on learning basic vocabulary such as the naming of objects and people using pictures or technology such as apps. Getting in touch with the DST person may also prove to be helpful.

13. Do ESL students write the FSA exams?
Generally Grade 4 and 7 students who are Level 3 and above participate in writing the FSAs.

14. How do I calculate a mark for ESL students? Do they get marks? What should s/he get grades in?
Elementary SL students do not receive marks in ESL however receive performance scales or letter grades if they can demonstrate understanding of the curriculum. The criteria for assigning marks for ESL is the same as for other students. If an ESL student is not able to demonstrate their understanding of the curriculum learning outcomes, they should not receive a mark but rather should receive an asterisk. If however, they are able to demonstrate their learning with adaptations of materials, time, assistance, etc, legitimate grades should be given. This may occur with a Level 1 student who perform well in a subject that has typically less of a focus on language such as physical education or art.

Level 1-2 receive written comments in Primary and Intermediate
Level 3-5 receive written comments in Primary and letter grades and comments in Intermediate.

See Section D on Assessment and Reporting for more details on embedded comments, samples of report card inserts, and final term comments. Go to: http://esl-sd38.wikispaces.com/D.+Assessment+and+Reporting

15. Do Level 3's get performance scales or letter grades?
Yes but it depends how long they have been a Level 3. A new level 3 can have letter grades/performance scales waived or delayed for a term in order to fully consolidate learning. This would probably occur for a Language Arts performance scale/letter grade.

Please note: once you have started giving letter grades and performance scales, students should continue to receive these marks. Ongoing communication with the classroom teacher and if need be, SBT, is essential in such decision-making.

See Section D on Assessment and Reporting for more information.

16. What happens when a student leaves the school? What records need to be sent?
When a student transfers to another school within Richmond, all ESL files (in the school office and in the ESL room) should be handed over to your school secretary who will send them to the new school through the inter-school mail.

When a student transfers to another school district within BC, all ESL files should also be sent with the G4 file. The basic question to ask oneself is: Would this information help support the student if the new school receives it? So, depending upon the student's current ESL level and the amount of accumulated paperwork on the child, you may or may not want to send everything on to the new school district. You could always ask the ESL teacher for her/his opinion.

When a student transfers out of province or country, sending on the ESL files is not necessary. Remember, the fact that the student has received ESL support will be already in the student's photocopied report card comments, in the G4 file.

Note in the case of an audit:
Any funding claim made during a particular school year should have documentation to support the claim (in case of audit and as verification of your district’s funding claims). In the case of a student moving mid-year, ensure you have copied the documentation of all requirements for the student’s claim for the duration of the school year. The documentation and record retention for each District/school’s claims are the responsibility for that district/school throughout the school year. Recommendation from Compliance would be to retain documentation for the supplementary claim for at least one school year thereafter. If 1701 funding is received, then documentation is required.

17. What happens if a student registers in the summer? Can s/he be assessed before school starts?
If the student arrives before mid-June, a scheduled appointment for an ESL assessment may be done at the ESL Reception Centre. If not possible in June, then an appointment will be scheduled for summer ESL reception held in the last two weeks of August. If the student arrives mid-summer, families may get an appointment through the District Office for an assessment at the end of August. Once a student's ESL assessment has been determined through the School Board assessment, the parents will bring a green assessment form to the placed school office.

For families arriving over the summer, ESL assessment appointments can made by contacting the School Board Office at 604-668-6000 for an assessment time during the last two weeks of August. If the student is an International student, then most appointments will be made through the secretary for International Education (604-668-6217).

18. What happens if a parent does not want his/her child to receive ESL support?
In a few rare cases, parents refuse to accept the offer of ESL support. We do our best to help parents understand that ESL support is not a negative label but an enhanced support to develop the child's fullest learning potential. SWIS workers also help to clarify issues but in the end, if the parent refuses support during an ESL assessment at the School Board, we simply record this on the student ESL assessment and call to let the school know. No 1701 funding is claimed and no ESL support is provided. Later on, if the parents change their minds, then we can reassess, start a new file, provide support and claim 1701 funding for support the following September.

19. How should you complete the Spring Census?
Full background on the Spring Census is found in section D: Assessment and Reporting. Here below is a summary of the steps:
1. Attend the Spring Census Training held in March where you will receive instructions and testing materials
2. Determine a schedule that works for everyone and aim for completion one week before the due date, keeping in mind, some children may be away sick. You will have approximately one month to complete the assessment.
3. To determine a schedule, you will need to think about how you will collect the following information:

K - 7 : oral interviews
Gr. 1-7 : unassisted writing samples
Gr. 2-3: Primary Reading Assessment (RERA)
Gr. 4-7: Intermediate Reading Assessment (RERA)

Note the differences in levels:
Levels 1-4 students participate in the following assessments during Spring Census:
LEVELS
Grades
Oral
Reading
Writing
1 - 4
K
yes
no
no
1 - 4
1
yes
no
yes
1 - 4
2
yes
yes
yes
1 - 4
3-7
yes
yes
yes
Level 5 students participate in the following assessments during Spring Census:
LEVELS
Grades
Oral
Reading
Writing
5
K
no
no
no
5
1
no
no
yes
5
2
no
yes
yes
5
3-7
no
no
yes
4. Using the matrices, determine the level of each student. E.g. Reading 3, Writing 4, Oral 3 - Overall ESL Level 3. Use your professional judgment, erring on the side of caution, especially when it comes to the reading and the writing.
5. Record the breakdown of the levels and the overall level on the student list received at the Spring Census Training. If a student is at an in-between level, say level 2/3, record the LOWER number only. The database will not understand a bracketed number.
6. Exit any students who have already had two years of Level 5.
7. Submit the list to your school secretary who will enter this data onto the District ESL database. If possible, you may consider helping the secretary by reading aloud the levels as she inputs the data, but some secretaries may prefer to enter the data on their own.
8. Communicate with the ESL Coordinator or School Board secretary if you are having any difficulties entering data on levels.
9. The secretary will check the complete box on the computer when done.
10. Print a hard copy for your records.
11. All data is visible virtually and so no paperwork needs to be submitted to the SBO.

20. What if a student is away during the Spring Census and misses the test?
You will need to find other evidence to support your decision-making on the overall level and the breakdowns. Hopefully the student will return before the Spring Census is over. We suggest teachers start the assessments early so illness does not interfere with the completion of the Spring Census.

21. What if a student is already Level 5? Does s/he participate in the Spring Census? If not, what do we record for the breakdown of the levels?

Level 5 students participate in the following assessments during Spring Census:
LEVELS
Grades
Oral
Reading
Writing
5
K
no
no
no
5
1
no
no
yes
5
2
no
yes
yes
5
3-7
no
no
yes
For Level 5 students in grades 3-7 who do not participate in the formal RERA reading assessment, record Level 5 for their reading score. Do not leave any blanks for the level. Otherwise the student's name and data may be deleted from your school list once the database is "rolled over" into next year.

Note, in the very rare case of a Level 5 student's level being dropped to a level 4, then the student should have all levels recorded for oral, reading, and writing, Grades 1-7.

22. What if a student gets a really high score on the reading but is otherwise performing as a beginner?
Use your professional judgment and look for other samples of evidence to validate your decision-making. The reading assessment is one snap-shot on a given day and being multiple-choice in style, it may not be sufficient evidence to determine the reading comprehension of that student.

23. What if the child has had 3 years of ESL, he's at Level 5 but a letter went home last year informing the family that he would no longer be receiving ESL support. Now the school feels that he still needs some support. Can that child receive ESL support once again?
Once the letter has been sent, it is difficult to back track. However a discussion with the parents about what is involved in Level 5 ESL support and a conversation about the life-long learning process of a second language may convince them of the value. It should be mentioned that as the student progresses through the grades, the language demands increase. As a Level 5 student, the ESL student will check in with them once a week and help edit them edit their written work and provide valuable language coaching. With the parents' agreement, ESL Level 5 could be reinstated because there is time remaining in the funding formula.

24. What if a new student arrives in April or May? Does s/he need to participate in the Spring Census?
No, they were tested at at the School Board very recently. You should receive the test from the School Board as evidence to go in the student's file. Students arriving from out of the district or out of the country between April 1 and June 30 need not be assessed in school.

25. What do you do if you have a student who is currently receiving ESL support but is not on the Spring Census list (i.e. the District ESL database)?
The school should check with the School Board secretary to determine if the child has already been assessed in District Reception. If not, the school should inform the parents that the child needs to have a language assessment done at the School Board. A convenient time will be provided for them to attend the assessment. This will confirm that the child needs language and/or cultural support, ensure that they will be entered in the District database, receive the appropriate additional SWIS support, and that the school will receive staffing allocation for ESL.

26. When teaching content, how do I choose the content to teach when I'm pulling students from more than one class?
Ideally, schools will provide in-class support and so this problem can be avoided. Nevertheless, it isn't always possible and so teachers need to find a common theme relevant to all the students in pull-out and perhaps relevant to the whole school. This could be a seasonal topic, current events, Canadian content (sport, geography, history), holiday theme, school events (track) or current events (see The WestCoast Reader as an excellent resource).

27. What if a regular classroom teacher asks me to teach and assess their socials or science program for her class since I'm pulling out her ESL students at the time she/he is teaching that subject?
The ESL teacher's role is to support the language development of the ESL students and this time is supplemental over and above the specific subject curriculum. Therefore you should not be responsible for other specific curriculum. If you have a conflict with a classroom teacher over what and how you teach your ESL students, ask your administrator for guidance and support.

28. Once a student has started to receive letter grades, can we go back and not give letter grades if they are having trouble or their grades are low?
This is a decision best discussed by your School Based Team. Assessment and evaluation should be fair and valid. If language development is hindering demonstrated understanding in a content area, then it may be appropriate to not give a letter grade. Sometimes when a student gets to Level 3, learning issues begin to show which are not tied to language learning.

29. I teach ESL in a French Immersion school. What support model works best in these classes?
ESL children are eligible for support while in French Immersion but how this support is provided varies depending on a number of conditions. Here are some suggestions:
  • If claiming the ESL child on the September 1701 count, then ESL support MUST be provided by an ESL specialist, record of service and files must be kept, and assessment and reporting must be kept up to date.
  • Some French Immersion teachers prefer to create a "French Only" zone in their classroom and will not allow English to be spoken in the classroom. If this is the case, then a pull-out model of ESL service is the best choice.
  • In French Immersion, parents are advised that ESL students are provided with less ESL support than they would receive in the regular English program.
  • If the ESL teacher is bilingual, it is best to provide in-class ESL support, especially in the primary grades.

For Grade 6 Late French Immersion (LFI), there is no ESL support but support will resume in Grade 7 if need be. The intensity of support can however vary and so depending on their needs and the schedule, pulling them out for an hour or an afternoon once every two weeks may work best for those at Level 4-5. Keeping an English journal and reading log would be a great start for ESL support. That way the journal writing can help determine the focus for instruction. For the Grade 7's, schedule in class ESL support during their English Language Arts time.

Finally, remember each ESL child needs an updated, signed AIP by an ESL teacher, specific ESL instruction, previous SBO assessment and Spring Census test(s), 3 report cards and their ESL comments, and a schedule for support. Evidence of support before Sept. 30 needs to be placed in the student's file and so as a minimum requirement, get an unassisted writing sample from all students before September 30th.

30. What about Core French? Should ESL students take Core French?
The Ministry's mandate is for all Grade 5-7 students to receive Core French instruction in BC, but the Ministry provides an exemption that allows ESL support to be provided during the French instructional time if needed. This may be the case for the ESL Level Ones and sometimes Twos who need significant support. Because of scheduling availability of ESL staff and timetabling, some students may need to receive pull-out ESL support during their Core French time and this is sometimes unavoidable.
ESL students are sometimes the best Core French students because of their repertoire of skills in learning languages. Their success in learning French may be a good way to help build their self-esteem. Core French learning strategies that focus on basic communication skills, vocabulary building through the study of cognates, word families, and the study of cultural nuances will transfer to the learning of English. Research shows that learning French does not impede or interfere with the learning of English and in many ways enhances learning.

Note, in the 1701 count in September, ESL students enrolled in Core French or French Immersion should be counted in both the ESL and Core or Immersion French categories.

31. What about a struggling learner in French Immersion who is ESL? Should we decide if s/he should leave the program and if so, when?
A struggling learner in French Immersion probably will have similar difficulties in English. The decision to leave the French Immersion program is something that needs to be discussed with the SBT and the parents. There are many factors to consider, including first language, self-esteem, friends, age of the child, developmental challenges if any, and support at home. Note that a French Immersion student leaving the French program may have to go back to his/her catchment school.
For instance, a child in Grade 2 who is experiencing significant difficulties learning to read in both languages, may be best suited in the English program and when ready, consider applying for the Late Immersion program in Grade 6.

Frequently Asked Questions By Parents
1. What can I do to help my child when I don't speak English (well)?
Research shows that children that socialize with English speakers will acquire English more quickly than those who don't. In order to ensure your child has enough opportunities to use English, consider finding situations where your child can use English outside of school, such as in Brownies or Cubs, sports teams, musical programs, and community centre programs. Once the child has friendships established and opportunities to practice English, then the next need to focus on is reading. Going to the library and reading to and with a child regularly will do much to enhance their language acquisition. Parents might also consider taking adult ESL courses as well.

2. How long will it take for my child to learn English?
It generally takes a year or two to develop basic conversational skills (BICS) and five to seven years to fully acquire academic language (CALP). For some children, it may take less time and others more. This will depend on their personality, intelligence, and opportunity to use English in a social setting. Arrange play-dates for your child with an English-speaking child if possible. Join after school community centre sports, music, art activities and play groups. Visit the library and read regularly to and with your child. When ready, your child will read to you.

Learning vocabulary is key to improving reading comprehension so share new words with your child. Try to make connections with other words you know in English as well as connect them to similar words in your home language. Sing songs, say rhymes, play games and talk to your child in the language that you feel most comfortable in and is your strongest. Also, take your child to parks, recreational facilities, museums, libraries, theatres, banks, restaurants, the bus or skytrain, etc. These experiences will help your child to develop an understanding of our community and everyday living.

3. Should we stop speaking our First Language at home?
No. In order to be successful in acquiring another language, it is important to have a strong foundation in a first language. This is very important for the language growth but also for understanding and building connections with family, culture, identity and general knowledge. Stories in a first language will support understandings in the second. Children that are highly verbal and use a varied vocabulary show signs that they have a strong foundation in their first language.

4. If my child is receiving ESL support, can s/he enroll in French Immersion?
Many children in Richmond speak another language at home and are successful in English and in French. All ESL students are assessed at the School Board office whatever program they are entering, but this is not to determine their suitability for French Immersion as all students are welcomed in French Immersion. However it is important to note that during the primary years of Early French Immersion, ESL assistance is not provided to the same degree as it would be provided in the English program. Therefore parents should consider ways of maximizing the child's experience to English outside of school time. This can be done by enrolling the child in community centre arts programs, sports programs, Brownies or Cubs, and encouraging their child to play with other English-speaking children after school.

For Grade Five ESL students considering enrolment in the Grade Six Late French Immersion (LFI) program, it is recommended that students be at least at ESL Level 3 before entering the LFI program as LFI is solely dedicated to French language acquisition and curriculum. ESL support cannot be provided in LFI to the same degree as in the regular program. Parents of an ESL child wishing to enrol in LFI should consider alternate ways to maximize their exposure to English outside of school hours.

Nevertheless, research has shown that students can certainly learn more than one language successfully. Learning a third or fourth language is a common occurrence in many countries of the world. In the case of the question regarding French and ESL, there may be commonalities between the student's first language and French which do not exist between the first language and English. This would be advantageous to the student and would aid the learning of English. A document titled "A Review of the Literature on Second Language Learning" prepared by the University of Calgary (2006) states that:

"...Learning a third language is aided by proficiency in the first language, and acquired skills can be transferred among the languages spoken. Students for whom English is a second language may benefit from third language acquisition, depending on the model of instruction." (p.68)

Sometimes children may require learning assistance in helping them to develop their language skills as well as become successful in learning the regular curriculum. If there are concerns, the student's situation may need to be reviewed if there appears to be a specific, identified learning issue or cognitive challenge.

5. How does the French Immersion program compare to the English program?
Students enrolled in French Immersion study the same curriculum as students in the English language program. The only difference between the English and French Immersion programs is the language in which the curriculum is taught and the students learn, as well as a significant exposure to French-speaking cultures. However please note that students in Early French Immersion do not receive any formal English language instruction until Grade 3. Thus, parents of ESL students should consider the choice of Early French Immersion carefully if their child is a beginning learner of English. Perhaps if this is the case, entry could be delayed and the child could enter French Immersion in Grade One or even in Grade 6 Late Immersion.

The same concern regarding language proficiency holds true for students considering entry into Grade 6 Late French Immersion. Students entering Grade 6 Late Immersion will have very little instruction in English. Therefore parents of children needing ESL support considering French Immersion should discuss this option with the school teacher and/or principal before enrolling the child in the program.

6. What about Core French? Should ESL students be taking Core French?
Because of the ESL student's repertoire of skills in learning languages, they often can be highly successful in Core French, often better than their unilingual Canadian counterpart. Their success in French may be helpful in building their self-esteem while struggling at times in other areas. Indeed, it is most desirable that they get a Core French foundation in preparation for entry in Grade 8 French. Core French learning strategies that focus on the development of basic communication skills, vocabulary development through the study of cognates and word families, as well as the study of cultural nuances will transfer and enhance their learning in English. Learning French will not impede or interfere with the learning of English and research shows that learning French is a benefit.