Multilingual Learners (ML)

Yarmouth Schools is committed to providing supportive and effective English as a Second Language (ESL) services to its English Language Learners (ELLs) and their families. Our goal is not only to help ELLs become English proficient but to also make the content of the classroom more accessible.

English Language Learner (ELL) students in grades K-12 participate in the administration of the ACCESS for ELLs® language proficiency test. ACCESS provides a standardized measurement of academic language proficiency for ELL students throughout the state of Maine and in other states. With this information, we will be able to monitor individual ELL student progress on an annual basis. 

Maine Department of Education - English as a Second Language and Bilingual Programs


Second language acquisition research claims that it takes many students 1-3 years to learn “social” language (or the language of the playground), and 5-7 additional years to learn academic language [or the language of the classroom (Cummins, 1979)]. Therefore, it can take some students 10 years to be considered fully English proficient, and this does not take into account any additional learning disabilities or challenges, etc.

ELLs have a double cognitive load in school: they are learning English and they are learning in English. Due to the extra efforts, ELLs must exert in the classroom to learn, some ELL behaviors such as delayed responses, struggle for word recall, or distractibility are often mistaken for learning disabilities. Many of these behaviors can be caused by the language acquisition process as opposed to a disability. It is important for teachers and parents of ELLs to understand some of the key components of the second language acquisition process in order to ascertain the ELL's strengths and needs in and out of the classroom.



Approximate Time Frame

Teacher Prompts


The student

  • Has minimal comprehension.

  • Does not verbalize.

  • Nods "Yes" and "No."

  • Draws and points.

0–6 months

Show me …

Circle the …

Where is …?

Who has …?

Early Production

The student

  • Has limited comprehension

  • Produces one- or two-word responses.

  • Uses key words and familiar phrases.

  • Uses present-tense verbs.

6 months–1 year

Yes/no questions

Either/or questions

Who …?

What …?

How many …?

Speech Emergence

The student

  • Has good comprehension.

  • Can produce simple sentences.

  • Makes grammar and pronunciation errors.

  • Frequently misunderstands jokes.

1–3 years

Why …?

How …?

Explain …

Questions requiring phrase or short-sentence answers

Intermediate Fluency

The student

  • Has excellent comprehension.

  • Makes few grammatical errors.

3–5 years

What would happen if …?

Why do you think …?

Questions requiring more than a sentence response

Advanced Fluency

The student has a near-native level of speech.

5–7 years

Decide if …

Retell …

For Early Production students, questions that require a one-word response, such as yes/no and either/or questions, are acceptable. You also want to begin asking students at this stage questions that require a phrase or short sentence.

Speech Emergence students should be asked to answer questions that require a short-sentence response. It is OK to sometimes ask these students questions requiring a multiple-sentence response, but it is not OK to ask them questions requiring a pointing or one-word response.

How about Intermediate and Advanced Fluency students? It is OK to ask them questions that require a lot of verbal output, but it is not OK to ask them questions requiring minimal verbal output.

You can use tiered questions to include all ELLs in whole-class activities or one on one to check comprehension or content learning. To accomplish this, you will need to know each student's stage of language acquisition.

Links- (brief overview of the second language acquisition process)





Games for Language Practice

Learning Tools