English Language Learner/Sheltered English Instruction Vocabulary

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)

Also known as Conversational or Social Language. Everyday, straightforward communication skills that are helped by contextual support. The language ability required for verbal face-to-face communication.

Communicative Competence

The ability to use any form of language appropriate to the demands of social situations. The components of communicative competence include linguistic knowledge, cultural knowledge, and interaction skills.

Dual Language Program

Also known as two-way or developmental, the goal of these bilingual programs is for students to develop language proficiency in two languages by receiving instruction in English and another language in a classroom that is usually comprised of half native English speakers and half native speakers of the other language.


English language learner. A national-origin-minority student who is limited-English-proficient. This term is often preferred over limited-English-proficient (LEP) as it highlights accomplishments rather than deficits. Massachusetts law defines an English learner as a student who cannot perform ordinary classwork in English.

English as a Second Language (ESL)

A program of techniques, methodology and special curriculum designed to teach ELL students English language skills, which may include listening, speaking, reading, writing, study skills, content vocabulary, and cultural orientation. ESL instruction is usually in English with little use of native language.

English Language Learner (ELL)

An alternate term that is used to describe a limited English proficient (LEP) student, which focuses on the development of the English language, rather than viewing the native language as a deficit. Massachusetts law interchangeably uses the term English learner in place of ELL.

English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes (ELPBO)

A document designed by the Massachusetts Department of Education which includes benchmarks and outcomes that outline the progress of an ELL student as s/he acquires English proficiency in the four domains of language. The benchmarks and outcomes are assessed annually using the Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment (MEPA) and bi-annually using the Massachusetts English Language Assessment – Oral (MELA-O).

Formerly English Limited Proficient (FLEP): A student who was formerly an LEP student who has a level of English proficiency that approximates that of a native English speaking student.

Four Domains of Language: Comprehension (Listening), Production (Speaking), Reading, and Writing.

Informed Parental Consent

The permission of a parent to enroll their child in an ELL program, or the refusal to allow their child to enroll in such a program, after the parent is provided effective notice of the educational options and the district’s educational recommendation.

Home Language Survey

A survey required by the Office of Civil Rights upon a student’s admission to a public school to determine the predominant language spoken in the student’s home.

Language-Cognitive Needs Profile

A form in the cumulative folder of a student who has been identified as an English language learner upon entry into the Holyoke Public Schools. This profile is a record of initial and other assessment data, (BSM, literacy, Lau category), English proficiency levels, and other language related information. We are required to update it regularly.

Language Dominance

Refers to the measurement of the degree of bilingualism, which implies a comparison of the proficiencies in two or more languages.

Lau Categories

Categories of Relative Proficiency defined by English and Spanish Proficiency Levels and Equivalents 1975 Lau Categories:

  • A: Mono-lingual speaker of a language other than English;
  • B: Predominantly speaks a language other than English;
  • C: Balanced Bilingual;
  • D: Predominantly speaks English;
  • E: Monolingual speaker of English. A Lau category always remains the same regardless of the student’s proficiency level in English over time.

Limited English Proficient (LEP)

Individuals who, by foreign birth or ancestry, speak a language other than English, and either understand and speak little or no English. (See ELL)

Language Proficiency: Refers to the degree to which the student exhibits control over the use of language, including the measurement of expressive and receptive language skills in the areas of phonology, syntax, vocabulary, and semantics and including the areas of pragmatics or language use within various domains or social circumstances. Proficiency in a language is judged independently and does not imply a lack of proficiency in another language.

Low Incidence Population (LIP): Similar to LEP, except that the individual is not a member of the dominant English learner group. In Holyoke, Spanish is the dominant English learner group. Students whose first language is not Spanish are considered LIP. They must receive structured English support.

Massachusetts English Language Assessment – Oral (MELA-O): A bi-annual assessment designed to measure a student’s progress in Listening (comprehension) and speaking (Production) based upon the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes (ELPBO).

Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessment (MEPA)

An assessment designed to measure a student’s progress in reading and writing based upon the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes (ELPBO).

Native Language (L1)

The first or initial language learned by a child.


Scaffolding is an interactive method of teaching and learning where the teacher provides a temporary framework for the learner who is working just beyond his/her independent capabilities (NTDE, 1995). It can and should occur in all aspects of learning in order to assist students to achieve their potential, and comprises the temporary guiding, modeling and cueing of students. This is achieved by the teacher sharing the cognitive workload to link the known to the unknown using the techniques of: cueing and questioning, demonstrating and modeling, role and problem identification, planning, monitoring, and evaluating

Through the teacher’s scaffolding students are encouraged to assume increased responsibility for their learning. In practical terms, scaffolding might include such things as: Having concrete examples for reference, body language & gestures, language accompanying action, building on to what students say, rephrasing, guided questioning, charts and frameworks, picture cues, word lists, negotiating texts before students write independently, and working from oral to written.

Scaffolding reduces the possibility of the student making mistakes by doing the activity with the learner (Gray, 1990).

Second Language (L2)

This term is used in different, overlapping ways, and can mean: (1) the second language learned (chronologically); (2) the weaker language; (3) a language that is not the “mother tongue”; (4) the less used language; (5) the target language. This term is sometimes used to describe third and further languages.

Sheltered English Immersion (SEI)

An instructional approach used to make academic instruction in English comprehensible to ELL students. In the sheltered classroom, teachers use physical activities, visual aids, and the environment to teach vocabulary for the concept development in mathematics, science, social studies, and other subjects.

Structured English Immersion Program

The goal of this program is acquisition of English language skills so that the ELL student can succeed in an English-only mainstream classroom. All instruction in an immersion strategy program is in English. Teachers have specialized training in meeting the needs of ELL students, possessing either a bilingual education or ESL teaching credential and/or training, and strong receptive skills in the students’ primary language.

Submersion Program

A submersion program places ELL students in a regular English-only program with little or no support services on the theory that they will pick up English naturally. This program should not be confused with a structured English immersion program.

Transitional Bilingual Education Program

This program, also known as early-exit bilingual education, utilizes a student’s primary language in instruction. The program maintains and develops skills in the primary language and culture while introducing, maintaining, and developing skills in English. The primary purpose of a TBE program is to facilitate the ELL student’s transition to an all English instructional program while receiving academic subject instruction in the native language to the extent necessary.