Supporting english language learners


This website is designed to provide support for K-12 teachers and District ESL Leads from the moment of intake to programming for ELL students in classrooms on a daily basis.

This site features a rich array of forms, guidelines, tools and strategies in order to make careful placement decisions and to maximize ELL students' language development.

New Resources Recently Added to the Site!

K-4 Academic Vocabulary Cards with Tagalog translations and images to support Filipino students.

There are also a set of Grade 4 Social Studies & Science Illustrated Vocabulary cards to help students learn new content words. More grades coming soon!

These new resources can be found under the Programming Tab in the Building Vocabulary and Subject Specific Vocabulary pages.

planning tool for teachers!!

Use the Snakes & Ladders Infographic below to quickly jump to a specific planning and programming section of the website. Just hover over a square on the game board and a hyperlink to the corresponding section of the website will open in a new tab. Click here for a printable/downloadable pdf of this planning model.


Teachers are invited to begin with the FIRST STEPS menu that can be found among the options at the top of this page. This will guide you through what to do with a student when they first arrive, what kind of information might be valuable to share with parents, general placement considerations, characteristics of ELLs and top tips for working with ELLs.

Next, the PROGRAMMING menu will guide teachers through how to assess the proficiency of ELLs from absolute beginners to Level 5s including materials to support the Benchmark Assessment. Following the initial assessment, programming tips highlight key principles that are relevant for teachers across the grades to set language objectives and build language proficiency including how to build background knowledge, extend vocabulary, help students make sense of texts across the curriculum and help them learn together. In order to further support learning, you will find a list of our favourite ESL Apps and Tech Tools that make texts more comprehensible, give ELLS workarounds and reinforce language skills. The Parent Engagement page shares a number of strategies for increasing parental engagement including a selection of translation tools for communicating with parents and ideas for hosting a Parent Information Night.

The PROFESSIONAL SUPPORTS section is designed to support School and District ESL Leads as well as provide links to Alberta Education and Learn Alberta ESL resources.

If you are working with a team of teachers, be sure to visit the PROFESSIONAL LEARNING menu where you will find our newly developed series of 7 videos and learning guides entitled "Supporting English Language Learners". These are one of many featured tools on that tab that could be used to foster discussion and reflection during professional learning events.

“We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.”

Adam Gopnik

Many thanks to the following districts who shared resources and collaborated to build this site so that all may benefit. Our goal for working together was so that all educators and ESL Leads across the province are better able to help ELL students "jump in the pool and learn to swim faster and stronger".

  • Black Gold Regional Schools
  • Edmonton Catholic Schools
  • Edmonton Public Schools
  • Elk Island Catholic School Division
  • Evergreen Catholic Schools
  • Fort McMurray Public Schools
  • Grande Yellowhead Public School Division
  • Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools
  • Northern Gateway Public Schools
  • St. Albert Public School District
  • St. Paul Education Regional Division
  • And proudly supported by the Calgary Regional Consortium

Did you know?

It is projected that the allophone population (those who speak a home language other than English or French) could increase at a rate 7 to 11 times faster than the rest of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada, 2012).

A Glossary of Acronyms Used in The ESL Field

ESL - English as a Second Language (The Field)

ELL - English Language Learners (The students)

EAL - English as an Additional Language (These students know multiple languages and are presently learning English)

ELP - English Language Proficiency (Their language skill level)

AEL - Academic English Learners

L1 - The first language of the learner (Mother tongue, Home language)

L2 - Second language of the learner (The new language that they are learning, may be a third, fourth or fifth language)

LFS - Limited formal Schooling (These students have arrived with very little earlier schooling)

SIFE - Student with interrupted formal education (There are gaps in their schooling)

CLD - Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (Is used as a synonym for ELL students, but this term is broader; it recognizes that the needs of diverse students extend beyond learning English).