English Language Development

The English Language Development domain describes skills for children who are English language learners (ELL). Similar to those acquiring a first language, children who are learning English as a second language understand more English initially than they can produce. This domain includes children’s receptive skills, or their ability to understand spoken English, and includes children’s expressive skills, or their ability to speak English. The indicators and examples describe a variety of the types of skills children may exhibit over time as they acquire English. As children gradually learn more English, they will be able to express themselves in English more often. The English Language Development domain also describes the types of literacy activities that support ELL student’s language acquisition. However, children should also continue to develop the ability to communicate effectively in their home language because such skills provide a foundation for learning English.

English Language Development

Children may . . .

Children may. . .

Suggested Supports
Adults may . . .

1. Receptive English Language Skills:  The ability to comprehend or understand the English language.

  1. Participate with movement and gestures while other children and the teachers dance and sing in English.
  2. Acknowledge or respond nonverbally to common words or phrases, such as “hello,” “good bye,” “snack time,” “bathroom,” when accompanied by adult gestures.
  3. Point to body parts when asked, “Where is your nose, hand, leg…?”
  4. Comprehend and respond to increasingly complex and varied English vocabulary, such as “Which stick is the longest?” “Why do you think the caterpillar is hungry?”
  5. Follow multi-step directions in English with minimal cues or assistance.
  • Respond with gestures, act out, or role play—depending on level of understanding—in response to stories read aloud.
  • Match oral language to classroom and everyday objects.
  • Sort pictures or objects according to oral instructions.
  • Respond verbally or nonverbally to simple oral commands or statements.
  • Draw pictures in response to oral instructions.
  • Use gestures and body language to support communication with children, as appropriate to their level of language acquisition. 
  • Connect English words or phrases to children’s home language, as appropriate and possible.
  • Introduce braille to children who are blind or visually impaired.

2. Expressive English Language Skills:  The ability to speak or use English.

  1. Repeat word or phrase to self, such as “bus” while group sings the “Wheels on the Bus” or “brush teeth” after lunch.
  2. Request items in English, such as “car,” “milk,” “book,” “ball.”
  3. Use one or two English words, sometimes joined to represent a bigger idea, such as “throwball.”
  4. Use increasingly complex and varied English vocabulary.
  5. Construct sentences, such as “The apple is round,” or “I see a fire truck with lights on.”
  • Repeat words, simple phases, or some facts from illustrated short stories.
  • Complete phrases in rhymes, songs, and chants.
  • Answer yes/no or other simple questions, as appropriate to level. 
  • Name classroom and everyday objects.
  • String words together to make short sentences.
  • Describe pictures, classroom objects, or familiar people using a variety of words for various levels of language learners.
  • Provide a rich language environment that exposes children to vocabulary.
  • Provide assistive technology for children who have language delays, are deaf or hard of hearing.

3. Engagement in English Literacy Activities:  Understanding and responding to books, storytelling, and songs presented in English.

  1. Demonstrate eagerness to participate in songs, rhymes, and stories in English.
  2. Point to pictures and says the word in English, such as “frog,” “baby,” “run.”
  3. Learn part of a song or poem in English and repeat it.
  4. Talk with peers or adults about a story read in English.
  5. Tell a story in English with a beginning, middle, and end from a book or about a personal experience.
  • Distinguish between same and different forms of print (e.g., single letters and symbols).
  • Trace figures and letters.
  • Reproduce letters, symbols, and numbers from models in context.
  • Produce familiar words/phrases from environmental print and illustrations.
  • Create content-based representations through pictures and words.
  • Use gestures, actions, and real objects to help children understand what is being read, chanted, or sung.
  • Help children make connections between speech and writing, such as matching icons, symbols, or words to corresponding pictures or objects.
  • Help children make connections between books and stories in their home language with those in English.
  • Help children tell stories and recount experiences with a beginning, middle, and end; write down their dictation and let them illustrate if desired.