• Closter ESL Program Q&A for Parents


    1. How many students are there in ESL class?

    Class size averages around 12-15 students in the middle school.  Classes at the elementary school are in small groups.

    Middle school classes are mixed grade and mixed ability.  Students are not separated by ability.

    2. Which countries do ESL students come from?

    Closter is a diverse community, with schools serving students speaking many different languages, including:  Korean, Hebrew, Chinese, German, Greek, Gujarati, Russian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Hindi.

    3. How many English Language Arts periods do ESL students have per day?  How many hours per day?

    The Closter ESL Program is a high-intensity program, with students receiving up to two periods in elementary school and up to three periods in middle school, depending on the grade and language needs of the child.  Middle school students may spend up to 2 ½ hours a day in their ESL language arts/social studies block of time.  The middle school ESL teacher is also a certified reading specialist and teaches language arts content in addition to language development.

    4. What do ESL students learn in ESL class? Do they learn English grammar? Do they have a lot of homework?

    English learners are instructed daily in the development of the four skill areas:  listening, reading, speaking, and writing. 

    Students learn phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, literature study, grammar, and writing skills.

    Homework is assigned daily, with weekly assignments and projects in all classes. Students are expected to maintain an agenda of their written homework assignments.  Homework is also posted on teachers’ websites.

    5.  What is the language used in the class?

    The ESL program is an English-only program.  All instruction is in English.  Students have native language (Hebrew and Korean) speaking peers who assist in all classes.  There is a Korean speaking ESL teacher at the elementary school.

    6. What kinds of topics are taught?

    ESL teachers follow the Common Core curriculum, the same as regular language arts classes, but use modified books and materials.  Topics are taught by themes in units of study.  Some themes include:  Helping Others, Exploration, Achieving Success, and The World in the Future.  The middle school uses the Pearson Longman Keystone textbooks.

    7.  Are ESL students a part of other classes?

    ESL students are in regular classes for math, science, social studies, and special area subjects like art, music, health, and gym.

    Beginning and intermediate level students receive modified quizzes, tests, and projects.  They may not receive a grade until they have developed sufficient language skills.

    8. Can ESL students get help after class or after school?

    Teachers are available during the day or after school according to scheduled times posted on teacher websites.

    Additional help is also available in school at KH2- Kids Helping Kids tutoring program during recess.

    9. How long will ESL students stay in the program?

    Achieving fluency is based on the child’s proficiency level, which is determined upon arrival.  Students are expected to achieve one proficiency level each year.  If a student is a beginning level (1 out of 6), it may take up to five years to achieve proficiency, however students at lower proficiency levels often show greater growth and reach proficiency sooner.  Typical achievement is within three years.  However, it is important to remember that each child is unique in his/her language development.  There is no limit to the number of years allowed in the program.

    10. Can ESL students catch up with the others after leaving ESL class?

    The ESL teacher recommends exiting only for students who have reached the academic and language level of their peers.  The ESL program is the only program in the district designed to improve the language skills of English learners. 

    11. Is it difficult for ESL students to make friends at school?

    It is typical that ESL students experience feelings of isolation, which is why activities in all classes are cooperative- students work in pairs and groups daily to promote interaction and English speaking skills in content class and ESL class.  Native language partners are available to assist students in content classes.  Closter has school clubs, performance groups (band, chorus, orchestra), and sport teams (soccer, volleyball, basketball, football, baseball) to help them make friends outside of class.

    12. What privileges can ESL students have? For example, can they use a dictionary when testing?

    All English learners receive extended time and the use of a bilingual dictionary on quizzes and tests, including standardized tests.  Students at beginning and intermediate levels of proficiency receive modified work and assessments, and are exempt from receiving report card grades.  The ESL teacher also provides support for content classes at all grade levels.

    13. Do ESL students learn another language?

    In grades 7 and 8, Spanish is taught as a core subject in all public schools in New Jersey.  Beginning level students in grades 7 and 8 may attend an additional period of ESL instead of Spanish if the schedule allows it.  Students in other grades are exposed to Spanish but might not receive a grade until they are ready.

    14. How can the parents of ESL students know of their children's academic behavior at school?

    What tests do ESL students take?

    ESL students are tested when they arrive to determine their incoming proficiency level in English.  Parents receive a letter indicating their child’s proficiency at entry.

    All students must take the state standardized (PARCC) math test during their first year in the U.S.

    All students take the ACCESS for ELLs test of English in the spring.

    During their second year, students must take the state standardized (PARCC) English Language Arts test.

    4th and 8th grade students also take the state science exam at the end of May.

    15. Are ESL students graded?

    ESL students at proficiency levels 1, 2, or even 3 are not graded.  When students are ready, at proficiency level 4, they receive grades in all subjects.

    16.  How can I prepare my children in advance for this program?

    Children will need two-way bilingual dictionaries (paper versions, not electronic) to use in all classes and on all tests.  They should be reading and writing about native language books- both fiction and non-fiction- on a regular basis. 

    Audio books are a great way to expose children to the sounds of English- be sure that your child is reading along as he/she is listening to the book. 

    There are many English language websites and games online.  See the ESL teachers’ webpages for links.  The ESL teachers are:  Ms. Kennedy (Hillside), Ms. Chin (Hillside) and Ms. Churchill (Tenakill).

    17.  What are the benefits of being in the ESL program?

    Language is a powerful force in our lives- in both social and academic settings.  ESL students have the opportunity to develop English language skills and academic knowledge simultaneously in a sequential course of study.  Students also learn unique aspects of American schools and study cultural topics.  ESL students are a resource to our community and our schools.  They are valued for their knowledge and background as contributors to school learning communities.