New Jersey Department of Education

DOE A to Z: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

English Language Learners (ELL) in the Mainstream

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Term Definition
Affective Filter Hypothesis A “mental block” which prevents the ELL from acquiring new language or fully learning new academic language. Researchers suggest several techniques for lowering the affective filter, such as sheltered instruction techniques. [Krashen, S. and Terrell, T., 1983]

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills is the social, conversational language usually used for oral communication and writing. For Ells, BICS usually takes 1-3.years to develop. Often misinterpreted as language competence by non-ESL professionals. Students need to develop their CALP skills to be fully proficient speakers of English.

CALLA Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach trains teachers to focus on teaching students explicit learning strategies to use for academic tasks. The language strategies instruction clusters the strategies into three categories: Metacognitive [thinking about or preparing for learning], Cognitive [manipulating academic content materials to learn], and Social and Affective [working with others or requesting assistance to learn].
CALP Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency is the academic language of the classroom. It takes students 5-7+ years to become proficient in academic content language due to the absence of non-verbal clues, the abstract nature of academic language, expository nature of content area textbooks, and the increased demands of building and using an academic vocabulary.
Comprehensible Input

ELLs acquire language presented in comprehensible way, through such methods as modified speech, use of visuals, manipulatives, structured instruction, etc. It is sometimes called the “I + 1” of instruction, which means providing “input” which is one step ahead of where the student’s secure knowledge is right now.

Culture Shock

A period of time during which the ELL is experiencing difficulty adjusting to the new cultural environment due to differences between the new culture and the native culture.


Common Underlying Proficiency is a model of bilingualism represented as either two icebergs or a profile of a head with a bubble inside. The model indicates that both first and second language operate through the same central processing system. Thus, if proficiency is attained in first language, it can be used to facilitate the development of proficiency in a second language. [See graphic in Section Two]


English Language Learner describes a student for whom English is not the first or native language.


English as a Second Language. Denotes a specialized program of English Language instruction for non-native speakers of English. An ESL Program consists of 10 or more students in a school district. This program requires the services of certified ESL teacher.


English Language Services. Denotes an instructional program for non-native speakers when there are less than 10 students in a school district. This program does not require the services of a certified ESL teacher.

Language Acquisition

A subconscious process through which the ELL acquires, rather than learns language. It is the “knowing about” language rather than learning academic language.


Limited English Proficient is a term which describes the English Language Learner in the process of acquiring and learning second language.

Monitor Hypothesis

It is believed that ELLs use a monitor from learned conscious language to correct errors in speech, reading and writing. [Krashen, S. and Terrell, T. 1983]

Silent Period

A period of one day to one year in which the ELL does not speak. Usually students at Stage I: Preproduction have a silent period in which they are listening and “absorbing” the language. Before producing it. The silent period varies from culture to culture.

Student Support Schema

A grid with 4 quadrants, which provide a visual representation of cognitively demanding and undemanding tasks for the ELL in academic and non-academic contexts. [See graphic in Section Two]

Total Physical Response (TPR) A method for teaching language to Stage I: Pre-production students. Language is taught through physical activity, mime and gestures. [Asher, 1977]