ESL Content Standards in Illinois

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

Illinois has made great strides in successfully integrating non-native students into the English-speaking classroom and beyond. Learn about the ESL content standards which shape the foundations of Illinois' ESL programs that enable students to gain practical knowledge and experience to succeed in and outside of the classroom.

How Does Illinois Use Its ESL Content Standards?

Statistics from the 2014-2015 school year show that, as a state, Illinois has been ranked at number 7 in the nation for the highest number of English language learning students. To ensure students meet their goals of obtaining a good education and a strong grasp of English, there needed to be a consistent English as a second language (ESL) teaching structure that would contain core elements while remaining easy to modify. This is basically the function of the ESL content standards.

It's easy to think of the ESL content standards as a set curriculum or general checklist, but this would be inaccurate. The standards don't actually dictate what the ESL content should be; rather, they merely outline what students should know and be able to perform at particular levels of ESL instruction. While the ESL content standards aren't performance indicators, they do highlight the skills that students will need to be successful. Instructors have the freedom to design courses and apply all types of content into the lessons, but the goal should be to establish key English skills with increasing proficiency.

ESL Content Standards Layout

The standards are organized by English language domains and proficiency levels. These serve as a kind of roadmap for both students and instructors, highlighting skills they should gain through instruction. The standards address the 4 aspects of understanding and applying English skills in practical circumstances: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. All of these domains are presented in each of the difficulty levels. Below is a small breakdown of the 5 ESL difficulty levels and some of the standards regarding the 4 aspect domains for each.

Beginning ESL LiteracyStandards
Speaking Name the English alphabet; ask about the time; ask and reply to questions using basic vocabulary
Listening Identify alphabet letters; understand requests for basic information; follow simple oral instructions
Reading Understand the relationship between letters and sounds in familiar words; read and understand simple sentences that use previously learned vocabulary
Writing Write basic personal information; copy familiar words and sentences

Beginning ESL Standards
Speaking Use learned vocabulary to give simple statements and make requests related to basic needs; ask and respond to yes or no questions
Listening Understand yes or no questions, respond to requests for repetition; knowledgeable of life skills vocabulary such as those that describe food and clothing
Reading Read simple instructions that use known vocabulary words; read sentences based on familiar topics; read a paragraph that focuses on a topic with familiar vocabulary
Writing Use capitalization and basic punctuation; finish simple writing tasks such as creating a grocery list; complete short forms

Low Intermediate ESLStandards
Speaking Engage in routine social conversations; give directions to a location; explain personal events
Listening Engage in routine face-to-face conversations; identify the main idea and details in a short conversation
Reading Read in alphabetical or numerical order to find information; understand common abbreviations; identify main ideas in a short, written text
Writing Write short notes and paragraphs; write directions to a well-known location

High Intermediate ESLStandards
Speaking Engage in social conversations; relay a process; use details and examples to help clarify meaning
Listening Follow multi-step directions and instructions that are given orally; distinguish between language that is considered polite and impolite
Reading Read material to get information; understand chronological order and sequencing; uncover the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary by using contextual clues
Writing Write paragraphs that include a main idea, supporting details, and a conclusion; compose simple step-by-step directions; use connectors/conjunctions to connect sentences

Advanced ESLStandards
Speaking Use paraphrasing and elaboration to strengthen meaning; demonstrate collaborative skills in a group; present oral reports and speeches
Listening Follow complex instructions that are given orally; show understanding of conversational openers and closers; understand high-frequency idioms
Reading Understand charts, tables, and graphs; summarize main ideas and supporting details in reading passages; make inferences, draw conclusions, and predict outcomes in reading passages
Writing Write standard, multi-paragraph essays; organize details in a variety of contexts; use comparison and contrast, cause and effect, description, and narration in writing Learning Resources

For teachers and other educators who work with ELLS, our Resources for Teaching English Language Learners, Activities for Teaching English Language Learners, and Activities & Resources for ELL Teachers courses offer insightful instructional tips for teachers and useful lessons for students seeking to expand their English language aptitude. We also offer this Grammar Resources for ELL Students course to help students develop their English language skills. All of our resources are equipped with video lessons, transcripts, and practice quizzes to help solidify understanding of the material. Our courses are also mobile-friendly, which allows you to access courses whenever and wherever you want.

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