Language Objectives for ESL Students

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  • 0:00 Language Objectives
  • 0:53 Consider Levels
  • 1:25 Objectives by Level & Skill
  • 3:43 Considerations
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jesse Richter

Jesse holds two masters, a doctorate and has 15 years of academic experience in areas of education, linguistics, business and science across five continents.

Need a refresher on some standard level-based language objectives for ESL students? This lesson provides level-based objectives that may be adapted to your own unique teaching style, school requirements, and student needs.

Language Objectives

In ESL education, a language objective is a linguistic skill or ability that students are expected to achieve through strategic instruction in order to support learning of core content. The objective should be clear, pedagogically sound, measurable, and challenging yet achievable.

Language objectives depend on the current ability level of the students and always make a connection between English language and core subjects, such as math, science, or history. For example, students will need to learn terms such as ''divide,'' ''multiply,'' ''add,'' and ''subtract'' to be successful in an arithmetic class. Language objectives must be explained to students, but the teacher will generally build these elements into the lesson plan such that students do not necessarily need to know the specific objectives during instruction.

Consider Levels

With ESL students, we must consider their English language ability levels, but we must also consider their academic ability levels. Just as with mainstream student populations, we have ranges of learning abilities, so we must remember that there is a separation between the two phenomena. We must also keep age in mind. Here, we have a correlation: Younger learners tend to have lower English ability levels. This being said, many people do not set out to learn English until later in life, so we do occasionally have older beginner-level students.

Objectives by Level & Skill

There are many scales used to determine a student's level. But for purposes of this lesson, we'll consider the generic levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The higher the level, the more difficult, sophisticated, and complex the language objectives become. Let's look at examples of language objectives for ESL learners at these levels for the four domains of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Beginner students will be able to:

  • Read and understand simple texts, such as ''The dog is big.''
  • Write letters of the alphabet and basic words such as ''dog,'' ''big,'' ''I,'' ''me,'' and ''you.''
  • Utter (perhaps with incorrect pronunciation) simple words and phrases, such as ''hello,'' ''hi,'' ''please,'' and ''thank you.''
  • Understand simple verbal information, such as the previous examples.

Intermediate students will be able to:

  • Read and understand the gist of basic lexis, such as that found on a restaurant menu, a street sign, or a printed advertisement.
  • Write short sentences but with limited technical vocabulary and some grammar mistakes.
  • Engage in basic conversations, like introductions, greetings, and salutations, and talk about simple topics such as food and the weather.
  • Understand threshold-level verbal information, such as receiving instructions, catching answers to questions, and grasping key words in an extended listening session in order to understand the general topic, context, and/or meaning.
  • Understand subject-specific lexis, such as the math vocabulary mentioned before.

Advanced students will be able to:

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