English Proficiency Levels

English Language Acquisition Proficiency Levels
English Language Proficiency Levels serve as a guide of what can be expected of an English Learner's language abilities.

Level 1 - Entering
Limited or no understanding of the English Language
May produce some isolated words or expressions
Responses may be non-verbal
Benefits from visuals, labeling, and concrete examples

Level 2 - Emerging
Limited ability to communicate in English
Understands simple directions
Begins to recognize environmental print
Limited understanding of English vocabulary
Limited ability to decode unknown words
Little knowledge of English conventions when writing
Low expressive and receptive vocabulary

Level 3 - Developing
Able to communicate more effectively in English
Oral and written communication may still contain some errors that impact meaning
Able to follow more complex verbal directions
Expressive and receptive vocabulary increases

Level 4 - Expanding
Able to communicate in more complete sentences with minimal errors that impact meaning
Greater understanding of words in content areas
Understands more abstract ideas/concepts

Level 5 - Bridging
Communication in English will sound fluent
Ability to decode words more efficiently
May still struggle with academic vocabulary
Understands more abstract ideas

Level 6 - Reaching
Communication in English will be comparable to native English speaking peers

More information on the English Language Proficiency Levels can be found by clicking here.

Can Do Descriptors
The Can Do Descriptors serve as a resource for teachers to determine what students “Can Do” at each language proficiency level. The Can Do Descriptors consist of four language domains (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). They discuss the use of graphic, sensory, and interactive supports to help ELs effectively engage in language and academic content in the classroom.  This range of expectations can then be used to help teachers plan instruction to meet the needs of all ELs.

An example of a Can Do Descriptor is as follows:

For the given level of language proficiency, with support English Learners can:

Language Domain - Listening
Level 2 - Emerging

  • Sort pictures, objects according to oral instructions
  • Follow two-step oral directions
  • Match information from oral descriptions to objects, illustrations 

The WIDA website was used as a resource and more complete examples can be found by clicking here

Other Levels of Language

Social Language - Refers to the basic social language that students need to communicate with each other. This type of social language is typically used in the lunchroom, on the playground, etc. Social language skills are usually acquired first and continue to develop throughout the language acquisition process. Often times a child will seem fluent but has only truly developed enough vocabulary to successfully respond and understand the English language in social settings.

Academic Language - Refers to language used in academic learning. This can often take 5 or more years for students to develop. This is the language that is required for students to interact successfully in content areas in the classroom. Students must become familiar with content vocabulary and also be able to display skills such as comparing/contrasting, inferring, and synthesizing.

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