What does it mean to be an ELL?


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Participants will be able to identify the different language proficiency levels as provided by English language proficiency exams.

Participants will be able to apply their knowledge of language level to determine what an ELL can do.

Pre Assessment

Write the answers to the following questions on paper or on a digital document. Be as detailed as possible in your answers.

1) What do English proficiency scores show?

2) How do the scores affect how English Language Learners are taught and/or supported at school?

Key Words

NYSITELL: the English proficiency test that a student takes if they are a newcomer to America, have not been previously identified as an ELL, or if they had traveled to another country for an extended period of time immediately prior to enrollment

NYSESLAT: the English proficiency test that an ELL takes in the Spring of each year

Mini Lecture

Instructional Support

Based on the NYS English proficiency tests (NYSITELL and NYSESLAT), student scores are categorized into 5 separate language proficiency levels. These are entering, emerging, transitioning, expanding and commanding. Based on the language level, students can require up to 180 minutes per week of stand alone instruction and up to 180 minutes per week of integrated ENL instruction. In brevity, the entering and emerging level students are required to be a part of a stand-alone ENL class, and all levels are required to have a dually certified content and ENL teacher or an ENL co-teacher during a portion of their whole group learning. For additional information on these requirements, go to the following page: ENL instruction requirements.

Language Proficiency Levels

On the NYSITELL and NYSESLAT exams, students are tested in four areas: listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is possible that students can receive a perfect score in one language facet, and a failing score in another. The student level is determined based on the overall performance of the student in all language areas.

Take a look at these Can Do Descriptors in order to better understand student abilities at each level. These are the tasks and expectations for students at each language proficiency. Take note of the grade levels presented at the top of the sheets.

Can Do Descriptors

Additional Resources

At this point, you may be wondering what co-teaching really means. Co-teaching in the context of ENL is when two teachers work together to focus on both content and language objectives. The teachers help meet these goals by providing explicit instruction and integrative acitivities for both learning targets. This will be addressed more in unit 3, but in order to better understand what this may look like, feel free to watch the following video. (I suggest watching until 4:00, but you may watch the whole video to better grasp the teacher's roles and how these concepts are developed through student activities.)


Stand-alones, on the other hand, are small groups that focus explicitly on language goals. These classes only contain English Language Learners, and although students should engage in content material during these classes, the learning targets are focused on developing English language abilities. The following video is just a portion of an ENL class. While you watch, try to identify what the teacher might be trying to teach the students and how this differs from content classes.



Using slide 2 on Jamboard, write down your reactions to the information presented above. You can use the following questions to guide your thoughts:

1) Did you learn anything new about how students are supported in learning language?

2) Were any of the assertions you made in the pre assessment incorrect?

3) Are there any questions you still have?

**You can add a sticky note, text box, drawing or image on Slide 1. There are no requirements for this space; just use this time to react as you see fit! Keep in mind that this is a public collaboration space, so you and others will be able to see the responses.

Assess Your Learning

Use the link to complete a quick quiz. You may use your notes to help!



Anslow, Rhys. (2017, January 5). TEFL Lesson Planning Part1: 'Starting a lesson right!'. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOckLEkdPz4

GreatCitySchools. (2013, July 25). Co Teaching for English Language Learners in NYC. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7IfQ8oYPBA

(K-8) English as New Language (ENL) Units of Study and Staffing Requirements. CR Part 154-2 (2015) New York State Department of Education. https://www.nysed.gov/sites/default/files/programs/bilingual-ed/enl-k-8-units-of-study-table-5-6-15.pdf

WIDA Consortium. (2012). The English Language Learner Can Do Booklet. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. URL.

Continue to Unit 2!

What are ELL barriers?