Lesson 2: How can I set level appropriate goals for my ELLs



Learner will anticipate the capabilities of an ELL based on proficiency level and create realistic expectations for their ELLs.

Case Study

Mrs. K has a class of 20 students, three of which do no speak English as their first language. She also finds out that because she has these students, she will be sharing her classroom and working with another teacher, an ENL teacher. Mrs. K feels uncertain and confused about the language that revolves around working with non-English speakers and about teaching with another teacher.

Mrs. K and the ENL teacher have recently found out the levels of their three ELLs: one at emerging and two at expanding. The two Expanding level students speak English quite well socially, but the Emerging level student only gives answers in short phrases or sentences. Given this range of abilities, how can Mrs. K adjust her goals and expectations of these ELLs based on their levels? What additional information may be helpful to determine these expectations?


The five levels of proficiency measured by the NYSESLAT (as mentioned in Lesson 1) are: Entering, Emerging, Transitioning, Expanding, and Commanding. You can read a detailed description of abilities by referring to the image to the right and by referring back to the expectation guide in Lesson 1.

Proficiency Levels for ELLs

In addition to knowing the proficiency level of an ELL, teacher knowledge about the student is as beneficial as ever. For example, teachers can inquire about a student's education prior to being in their classroom, especially if the ELL is entering school at an upper elementary grade or higher.

Sample questions teachers can ask about their ELL students:

  • Was she/he educated in their country?
  • Can the student read/write in their primary language?

The more we know about a student's prior educational history, even if it was in another country and in another language, the more accurate expectations we can make for these students.

One of the most common misconceptions about English Language Learners is: "Once ELLs can converse socially in English, they are then capable of succeeding academically." (Debunking the Myths of English Language Learners, 2015) Often times teachers think that because a student can speak English well, mainly socially or using more basic language, that they must understand English and this skews the perceptions of what teachers should realistically expect from ELLs. The truth is, students develop the social aspect of language quite faster than the academic, this taking almost twice as long as the social component. Therefore, teachers still need to adapt goals and provide support to ELL students. (As seen in Section 2 Lessons 3 and 4)


Debunking the Myths of English Language Learners. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.nysut.org/resources/all-listing/2015/august/fact-sheet-debunking-the-myths-of-english-language-learners

Proficiency level chart: file:///home/chronos/u-e85d071faf4c0f8a5e2dac1ac1e4ebf4c92ea102/MyFiles/Downloads/nyseslat-2015-02-overview-shifts.pdf


  1. Watch- Watch the 5 minute video This Best Way to Learn a Language Will Surprise You!
  2. Listen- Listen to this 3 minute episode: Research Shows Spanish Speakers Take Longer To Learn English. Why?
  1. Discuss- Based on the video and the episode, how do these factors impact our expectations of students? How can Mrs. K adjust her goals and expectations of these ELLs based on their levels? What additional information may be helpful to determine these expectations?

Post your answer in the Discussion section of this lesson, Lesson 2. Your response should pose a question for your classmates to respond to. Respond to at least two other people.


Choose a lesson or an activity you have used recently in your classroom. Briefly describe the lesson or activity and indicate your goals/expectations for ELLs at the Emerging and Expanding levels of English. How do these goals vary from your native English speakers (NES)? Could these alternate goals be beneficial to other students in your class?


Course homepage: English as a New Language: The Basics, Accommodations, and Co-Teaching

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