Level 1 learners (beginners) have little or no spoken English. The end-year Level 1
student may understand high-frequency vocabulary and simple grammatical patterns, but still derives a great deal of meaning from the context and nonverbal cues that accompany speech. Their communication is usually limited to very familiar topics based on personal experience, but they can, with effort, express basic personal needs. Although students arrive in the U.S. with varying levels of English proficiency, it is common for a student who has been in the U.S. one year or less to be a Level 1 learner. Their literacy in English is usually only emergent, mirroring their oral English.
Level 2 learners (high-beginners) can comprehend short conversations and simple written narratives in familiar contexts. A limited vocabulary range in English necessitates frequent repetition and rephrasing for their understanding. They still frequently use contextual and visual cues to derive meaning from speech and text and also rely on guessing in both situations. Their production is characterized by simple vocabulary and verb tenses, as well as simple syntax. Their reading and writing in their new language still lags behind their partially-acquired oral English skills.
Level 3 learners (intermediates) can understand much of the spoken English delivered in authentic settings with some rephrasing and repetition. Understanding grammatically complex structures proves problematic, but, with support, these students are able to master grade level academic content. Their productive vocabulary, with some circumlocutions, is adequate to accomplish many tasks. They can produce many of the basic and most frequently used grammatical structures, but their errors may become more abundant as they venture into less familiar topics and as they test hypotheses or take risks with more complex language structures. With appropriate instructional strategies and
scaffolding of materials, Level 3 ELLs can learn age-appropriate academic content in English. Reading and writing in English often lags behind the students’ more developed
Level 4 learners (advanced) are often orally proficient in English but still acquiring the
English proficiency needed for reading and writing at grade level. They demonstrate an
increasing ability to convey their intended message in both speaking and writing. They do not produce error-free language, but their errors generally do not interfere with meaning. With appropriate instructional strategies and scaffolding of materials, Level 4 ELLs can learn age-appropriate academic content in English.