what is esl classess

What Is ESL Classes?

Demystifying ESL Classes: Unveiling the Essence of English Language Education Classes

Have you ever heard the term “ESL classes” and wondered what it means? Whether you’re a curious parent, a dedicated student, or someone interested in the diverse language education landscape, this post is your guide to unraveling the mystery behind ESL classes. Have you ever heard the term “ESL classes” and wondered what it means? Whether you’re a curious parent, a dedicated student, or someone interested in the diverse language education landscape, this post is your guide to unraveling the mystery behind ESL classes.

What is ESL? Advocating for Precision.

English as a second language (ESL) has changed various times. The acronym ESL is a label we use to refer to English learners learning English as an additional language. A newer and more appropriate term for ESL classes is English language development (ELD) class. In my post titled “ESL vs ELD:

English as a second language (ESL) has changed various times. The acronym ESL is a label we use to refer to English learners learning English as an additional language. A newer and more appropriate term for ESL classes is English language development (ELD) class. In my post titled “ESL vs. ELD: The Case for “English Language Development” over “ESL,” I propose a shift from using ESL classes to ELD classes.

Define ESL

An ESL class is a class that focuses on teaching the English language to limited English speakers. The purpose of an ESL class is to teach English learners to understand, speak, read, and write in English.  The Britannica Dictionary defines ESL as “the teaching of English to people who speak a different language and who live in a country where English is the main language spoken.”

ESL student meaning

Non-English speakers or limited English speakers attend ESL classes. In US schools, students who speak a language other than English are screened using an English language proficiency assessment. The assessment determines a student’s English language proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The evaluation scores determine which students may benefit from attending ESL classes.

The identification of an English learner begins during school registration when parents fill out a home language survey. A home language survey consists of questions that parents answer to identify their child’s language. After receiving a student’s registration, schools review the home language survey to assess whether the student qualifies for English language assessment. This assessment helps determine if the student needs placement in an ESL class.

Who Can Take ESL Classes

The most common reason to enroll or be enrolled in an English language development class is English language proficiency. Some states require English programs to support English learner’s language development and to help students reach English proficiency. An exit criteria in each state determines which students may benefit from being in the ESL class or receiving English language services. 

English Language Proficiency Levels

To identify eligible students for ESL classes, schools administer an English language screener that assesses a student’s proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The results of the placement test are then reported as an English language proficiency level, providing insights into a student’s strengths and areas of improvement in the English language.

Scores on the ACCESS test describe student performance in terms of the six levels of English language proficiency. The proficiency levels help interpret test results and language proficiency performance for each domain. The scores of 1 to 6 report a student’s ability in each section or overall performance on the test.

These scores (shown below) are proficiency-level scores that help communicate a student’s English language proficiency.

Level 1

Entering

Level 2

Emerging

Level 3

Developing

Level 4

Expanding

Level 5

Bridging

Level 6

Reaching

A score of 1 typically indicates a novice level, where basic communication skills are emerging. In contrast, a score of 6 represents an advanced proficiency, showcasing a nuanced understanding and mastery of the English language.

ESL Assessment Test

The English language screener evaluates students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing proficiency. Each section of the screener comprises different components to assess a student’s English proficiency. Schools also administer an annual English language assessment to monitor a student’s progress toward English language proficiency.

The below chart offers a concise summary of the components and structure of the ESL assessment test. This breakdown provides insights into the specific skills assessed in each section of the ESL assessment, offering a brief overview for better understanding.

Listening👂

The listening domain evaluates a student’s ability to comprehend spoken English.

Students get to show that they understand conversations, academic discussions, and oral instructions.

The listening test assesses listening comprehension, vocabulary recognition, and spoken language understanding.

Speaking 🗣

The speaking domain evaluates the ability to communicate verbally in English.

Students respond to prompts, participating in conversations using oral language.

The speaking test assesses pronunciation, fluency, vocabulary usage, and ability to express themselves using academic language.

Reading 📖

The reading domain evaluates the student’s ability to comprehend written English.

Students get to read academic passages, identify main ideas, and interpret information.

The reading test assesses reading comprehension, vocabulary recognition, and students’ ability to analyze the content they read.

Writing 🖋

The writing domain test evaluates students’ ability to express ideas in English.

Students respond to prompts, including essays, to convey written information in English.

The writing test assesses a student’s writing proficiency, grammar usage, and ability to organize ideas in writing.

Components of ESL Classes

ESL classes can vary in structure and approach from one location to another. While schools have the flexibility to select the model and type of ESL classes they provide, there are common components that tend to overlap across different educational institutions. These shared elements contribute to a foundational understanding of what ESL classes generally entail, fostering consistency in certain aspects of English language learning programs.

Curriculum Overview

There are English language curriculums available to teach English as a second language. English language curriculums cover listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Many curriculum and instruction routines focus on teaching academic English language skills. This includes vocabulary development and grammar skills that address different proficiency levels.

ESL Teaching Methods

There are different teaching methods used to teach English as a second language. For instance, communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) are two prominent methodologies in ESL education that emphasize interactive and student-centered approaches. Immersion programs provide increased academic reading, oral language, and writing exposure.

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)

CLT focuses on promoting communication as the primary goal of language learning. This method encourages students to engage in real-life communication situations, emphasizing meaningful interactions over rote memorization of grammar rules. Students collaborate on tasks that simulate authentic language use, such as discussions, role plays, and problem-solving activities.

Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT)

TBLT emphasizes learning through tasks that require language use. In TBLT, students work on projects or activities that necessitate language skills, ensuring that language learning is a tool for achieving practical goals. Both methods aim to develop students’ language proficiency dynamically and engagingly, fostering a deeper understanding of language within authentic contexts.

Immersion Programs

Immersion programs are educational approaches designed to facilitate language acquisition by providing learners with an immersive environment where the target language is the medium of instruction. These programs aim to develop proficiency and fluency in the target language by surrounding learners in various subjects. Immersion programs immerse students in an English-speaking environment, fostering language learning through exposure.

This method is particularly effective for developing language skills in a natural, context-rich setting. Immersion programs can take different forms, including total immersion, where all students participate in language classes in the target language, or partial immersion, where certain subjects are taught in the target language while others are in the native language.

Benefits of ESL Programs

ESL language classes help English learners acquire proficiency in English. Firstly, these programs provide a structured and supportive environment for language learning, catering specifically to learners whose first language is not English. ESL classes focus on developing listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, enabling learners to communicate essential language skills effectively in various contexts.

Moreover, ESL education promotes cultural understanding and integration, fostering a sense of community among diverse learners. It empowers individuals to navigate an English-speaking environment, enhancing their academic, professional, and social success opportunities. ESL classes often employ interactive and communicative teaching methods, making the learning process engaging and practical.

Improved English Language Proficiency

One well-seen benefit is the level of improvement in English language proficiency. For instance, a student who may enter an ESL class with a proficiency level of 1 will eventually improve their English language skills to a proficiency level of 2 or above.  Improved English language proficiency is also apparent when students go from being able to speak social language to learning academic language.

Enhanced Academic Performance

Another benefit of ESL classes is enhanced academic performance. As students’ language proficiency increases, their performance in content learning increases. Their ability to understand what’s being taught in class increases as students get to practice and use the English language. 

Increased Communication Skills

ESL classes help students increase communication skills. As students become comfortable speaking the language, their communication skills improve. These communication skills are reflected in writing skills as students become comfortable writing in English.

ESL Class Formats

There are various formats of ESL classes. The traditional classroom setting provides students with a class-level experience where an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher provides English language instruction regularly. Online ESL classes provide a virtual approach to teaching English. 

ESL classes experience educational challenges in schools. For instance, a class with students of different proficiency levels may experience challenges addressing everyone’s English language needs. 


In conclusion, exploring ESL (English as a Second Language) classes is a transformative journey toward linguistic proficiency and cultural integration. If you are considering ESL classes, remember it’s never too late to learn another language.  The benefits of ESL classes extend beyond language acquisition to cultural understanding and improved opportunities in academic and professional realms. Check local educational institutions, community centers, or online platforms for ESL programs tailored to your needs.

ESL classes provide a supportive environment for diverse learners, whether you’re a beginner or looking to refine your language skills. Embrace the opportunity to broaden your language horizons, connect with others, and confidently navigate the English-speaking world. The key is to take that first step, and the resources are there to guide you on this empowering language-learning adventure.

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