The ESL Scales Developed by Curriculum Corporation in 1994 to record the progress of students learning English as a Second Language A useful tool to aid with programming, assessment and reporting. The document is not a syllabus, and needs to be used in conjunction with syllabus documents.
To provide a set of benchmarks against which the full range of ESL learners’ achievements in English may be set To develop a shared language among teachers of ESL learners in specialist and generalist contexts To assist teachers in making consistent formative and summative judgements about ESL learners’ achievements To enhance students’ access to learning To help in identifying ESL learners’ achievements and needs to assist program and curriculum development Purpose of the Scales
First phase First phase ESL learners are students whose understanding and production of spoken or written English is obviously limited in all social and educational situations. First phase students range from complete beginners with minimal or no English to students who can communicate in English with limited fluency about events, themes and topics related to their personal experiences. Students at the end of first phase will have acquired various levels of literacy in English depending on factors such as age on entry and literacy in their first language. As a general guide, an ESL student will have moved beyond first phase after a period of approx 12 months of instruction with ESL support.
Second Phase Second phase ESL learners are students whose understanding and production of spoken and written English is progressing, but is still limited to a range of familiar social and educational situations. Second phase students range from students who have acquired a basic communicative repertoire in English which enables them to participate in some class activities to students who can communicate with some degree of confidence and coherence about subject matter appropriate to their age group but removed from their immediate personal experience. Students at the end of second phase will have made significant progress in their oral English language skills and will have been applying their English language and literacy skills to both formal and informal situations. As a general guide, an ESL student will have moved beyond second phase after a period of three years of instruction with ESL support.
Third Phase Third phase ESL learners are students who generally function fluently and competently in English, but who occasionally need assistance in meeting the particular language and literacy demands of English in specific social and educational situations. Third phase students range from students who have developed a transitional communicative repertoire in English which enables them to function in most language and literacy activities to students who can communicate in English with confidence and clarity to a level approaching that of first language speakers about subject matter appropriate to their age but unrelated to their direct personal experience. Students at the end of third phase will normally have extended their English language and literacy skills in both formal and informal situations and be able to learn and participate effectively in the mainstream classroom. As a general guide, an ESL student will have moved beyond third phase after a period of seven years of instruction with ESL support.
Competence in ESL Pragmatic Competence Organisational Competence Strategic Competence
The ESL scales were developed on the basis of four assumptions: That the acquisition of English is a precondition for successful schooling in Australia for students whose first language is not English. That the English language starting point for ESL learners is different from that of students from English-speaking backgrounds. That ESL learners’ points of entry to Australian schools differ from those of Australian-born students from English-speaking backgrounds. That is, learners may enter at any year level, not just kindergarten. That ESL students’ patterns of development in listening, speaking, reading and writing differ significantly from those of students from English backgrounds. Patterns of ESL development vary most in the earlier stages of language acquisition and often persist in adolescent learners as characteristics of their English language development. Learners’ interlanguage therefore needs to be seen as a stage in the continuum of second language acquisition rather than as a deficit form of English. This highlights the need for procedures that acknowledge growth points in English language peculiar to ESL learning.
The Structure of the ESL Scales The Strands Oral Interaction (listening and speaking) – comprehension and interaction. 8 levels. Reading and Responding – encompasses the ability to understand what is read and to read both silently and aloud. Beginning levels 1, 2 and 3, plus 7 levels. Writing – includes the development of the skills of encoding English into the written form, and the skills of composing and presenting written texts. Beginning levels 1, 2 and 3, plus 7 levels. The beginning levels take into consideration students who are pre-literate.
The Strand Organisers Communication – how the student interacts with the English-speaking environment and communicates in the new code of English Language and Cultural Understanding – what the student understands about the situational and sociocultural contexts that affect the way English is used and interpreted Language Structures and Features – the linguistic structures and features the student uses to create and comprehend texts Strategies – how the student goes about operating in English and acquiring English
Level Statements Describe a continuum of skills and knowledge, and give a holistic description of student performance at each level within the scales, summarising the outcomes and giving a sense of a student’s achievement at that level. Level statements provide teachers with a broad description of a student’s performance and a way into using the scales. The levels of the ESL scales in each stand apply across both primary and secondary school. Each strands highest levels represent language and literacy outcomes in the secondary school only, so would not generally be used for primary school students.
Outcome Statements These reflect the distinctive and essential elements of knowledge and skills in ESL. Outcome statements are based on observable student behaviour, and describe the progression of knowledge, skills and conceptual understandings that students typically acquire as they become more proficient in English.
Pointers Pointers are indicators or signals of the achievement of an outcome. They do not provide a finite list, but do give teachers an idea of what to look for in terms of achievement of a particular outcome.
Using the ESL Scales The scales should be used to assess an ESL student’s skill level on entry to the school/ESL program, to provide a starting point from which to work. Reference should be made to the scales when marking student work, observing the student in class, or reporting on their student, either to parents, the learning support team, or as part of the school’s reporting period. It is important to acknowledge what the student can do – provide them with positive feedback as to their progress, not just their deficiencies. The scales should be used when programming for ESL students, taking into account what they are currently able to do and the skills you would like them to develop. Eg, Level Three for Writing – simple cohesive texts. To move them on to Level Four, you may work with them on paragraphing, topic sentences and conjunctions.
Next Week: Using the ESL scales to benchmark student writing.