Understanding Indiana's English Language Proficiency Standards

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Are you looking to become certified to teach English language in Indiana? This lesson will help you prepare as it deepens your understanding of English Language Proficiency standards.

What Are Indiana's English Language Proficiency Standards?

On her first day of kindergarten, your student Lucy walks in full of smiles! When you introduce yourself as her teacher and ask her some basic questions, you are surprised at how well she communicates for having just come to the United States. However, as the day progresses, she seems to struggle academically.

Since Lucy is a student with a home environment, native language, and/or background where the main language isn't English, she is a language minority student. In order to help Lucy thrive in your classroom, you are going to use Indiana's English Language Proficiency Standards. The English Language Proficiency Standards, or ELP, are a set of guidelines that advocate providing equally attainable learning content at each grade level for language minority students. These standards help to ensure that your language minority students are able to achieve challenging, yet age appropriate goals in the English language.

Each student's background varies. Some children may barely be capable of communicating with the English language. Others, like Lucy, can converse well, but still need support in academic areas. Therefore, the standards have defined five levels through which students progress as they acquire and understand the English language. Take a look!

Proficiency Levels Chart

Let's dive in to see exactly what we can and should teach our language minority students as they move through these levels.


The following table provides a brief overview of the main categories of standards.

English Language Proficiency Standard Description
Reading: word recognition, fluency, and Vocabulary Development Listen, speak, read, and write to show knowledge of sounds, syllables, and word parts.
Reading: comprehension Use reading strategies, such as previewing, predicting, and analyzing to understand texts.
Reading: literary response and analysis Use grade-level texts to analyze expressions, enjoyment, and responses.
Writing: process Develop and demonstrate ideas.
Writing: applications Write about familiar objects, events, and experiences.
Writing: English language conventions Use proper conventions in the English language.
Listening and speaking: skills, strategies, and applications Listen and speak for specific purposes to understand and to be understood.

The main categories of standards remain the same for each grade level. However, the complexity of skills and concepts within each one grows as the student progresses through proficiency levels and grade-levels.

By incorporating the standards into your daily lessons for Lucy, you'll be able to meet her needs and help her succeed. Using differentiation during small group or independent work can be an effective approach. You'll be able to teach all of your students and support them in achieving grade-level requirements.

Now let's take a closer look at the standards by grade level.

Standards by Grade

To help students like Lucy, you need to provide various learning experiences in the areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Depending on each language minority student's proficiency level, the range of skills and concepts will vary.


At the beginner's level, students will be able to identify and restate parts of a book as well as signs within their environment. Students gain a basic understanding of sounds that letters make. Through different texts, students can demonstrate an understanding of characters, setting, and plot with non-verbal responses. When writing, beginners will use and create pictures to represent familiar objects. They are only required to know how to write their name at this level. The use of high frequency words will help these students listen and speak during various situations.

Lucy seems to fit into the intermediate level of proficiency. She is capable of:

  • Using simple sight words.
  • Identifying rhyming patterns.
  • Summarizing the main idea and describing the characters, setting, and plot using simple sentences.
  • Selecting books on her own with an explanation.
  • Creating pictures, letters, or up to four words to demonstrate writing ideas.
  • Using up to four words to describe familiar objects with little prompting.

A fluently proficient kindergartener will be able to use more complex strategies while reading, such as categorizing, analyzing, and self-correcting. Level five students are able to respond, write, listen, and speak on grade-level.

Sixth Grade

At the beginner's level of proficiency, sixth graders are able to identify common phonemes and morphemes. As they try to understand informational texts, students will use brief sentences to identify the main idea, sequence of events, and key characters. Students will develop and apply writing skills as they write narratives and simple compositions with basic conventions and sentence structure. They get to prepare and deliver a simple speech with the use of visual aids.

As language minority sixth graders graduate to the intermediate level of proficiency, they are required to:

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