Unit one - Overview of ESL at FIS Upper School

Unit goals

At the end of the unit the participants will:


ESL classes and student schedules

Grades 6-8ESL students do not take the classes listed below. Their schedules are otherwise the same as those of non-ESL students.
ESL 1 (3 classes) Mainstream English, humanities, French / Spanish
ESL 2 (1 class) French / Spanish.

Grades 9-11
Intermediate (2 classes) Mainstream English, plus an elective.
Advanced (2 classes) Mainstream English, plus an elective.
Transitional (1 class) Mainstream English, or an elective.

More on classes and schedules     |   ESL lists

ESL students - range of English language proficiency (on entry to the ESL class)

ESL1 / Intermediate

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  • No prior English at all. No experience in writing cursive.
  • Some basic vocabulary, but a very limited ability to make meaning clear in written and spoken English. Little control of basic verb grammar.
  • Greater English proficiency but inability to comprehend grade-level mainstream texts without considerable support.


ESL2 / Advanced / Transitional

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  • Ability to communicate effectively in written and spoken English, but little knowledge of advanced grammar. Some comprehension of grade-level mainstream texts. Undeveloped academic vocabulary.
  • Good standards of language fluency and accuracy. Ability to comprehend most of grade-level texts, but deficiencies in advanced grammar and academic vocabulary.

The writing samples   icon   examined by workshop participants were provided by students as part of their placement test. Copies are available on request from Paul Shoebottom.

ESL services - support for students

ESL teachers directly help their students achieve academic success by:

ESL services - support for teachers

ESL teachers support mainstream teachers by:

Support for parents | Suggestions for administrators

Grading of ESL students - trimester reports

ESL students should be assigned trimester grades as follows

ESL beginners

First term: Pass / Fail

Second term:   At teacher discretion

Third term:    7-1, as for other students

ESL2 / Advanced / Transitional

7-1, as for other students

More information | ESL lists


A participant in one of the sessions asked about the importance of speaking in achieving academic success. My response is summarized below:

"Speaking can be regarded as the least important of the proficiencies that an ESL student needs in order to achieve academic success. We have had many students over the years who have gained good grades in their classes while still being a long way from native speaker levels of oral fluency. An obvious reason why speaking is not such a significant skill is that students usually have to demonstrate their knowledge through, and are graded on, written not spoken answers.

In fact, it is much more important that students are effective listeners, and can read and write well. In many ways the first prerequisite for academic success is a large English vocabulary - particularly academic vocabulary. Study after study has shown the very strong correlation between reading ability and academic success. And there is an equally impressive number of studies showing the strong correlation between vocabulary size and reading ability.

In summary: if you can speak English fluently but not read, you will not be academically successful at FIS. Conversely, a lack of oral fluency will not prevent you from being successful here if you have a strong academic vocabulary and can hence read and write well."