Programming Information
← Back to Programming Information index

Organizing for Instruction

Organizing Senior High Schools

In Alberta, most English language learners are placed in classes with their English-speaking peers according to course selection; however, based on their language proficiency and academic backgrounds they may have specific timetabling requirements. English language learners receive explicit English language support and instruction through small group instruction, differentiation and grouping. Occasionally, some English language learners of lower proficiencies or with limited formal schooling experiences may have sheltered instruction for part of the day and are placed in grade-level courses when appropriate.

Sheltered Courses If there is a larger number of English language learning students at Levels 3, 4 or 5 in your school, it can be beneficial to offer sheltered classes in which English language learners are clustered together in a separate class so that instruction can be specially designed to focus on the language components of a particular subject. Classes work toward the outcomes in the subjects’ programs of study, but provide explicit instruction on the vocabulary, language structures and discourse patterns of that discipline. Examples of sheltered classes are often found in Science 10, English 10 and Social Studies 10. Ideally, these classes are co-planned and taught by an English as a second language (ESL) specialist teacher and a subject-area teacher.
English as a Second Language (ESL) Courses

When schools have a large English language learning population and adequate resources, it is beneficial to offer English language learners with lower language proficiency the ESL 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 courses. If your school has few English language learners and/or limited resources, there may be a school in your district that can accommodate your English language learners with limited English language proficiency.

If it is not possible to offer independent ESL courses, consider enrolling English language learners in the appropriate ESL course, but have them attend an ELA 10-4 or 10-2 class where the teacher will teach the ESL outcomes. The students will receive credit for the ESL course.

If there is a small number of English language learners with specific learning needs at several schools within a jurisdiction, e.g., limited formal schooling or newcomers, the jurisdiction may consider designating a school to host a class for these students.

Locally Developed Courses

Some locally developed courses have been created for English language learners that schools can access by following the guidelines provided by Alberta Education (see Locally Developed Courses).

Adjunct Courses

Adjunct courses may be provided for the most linguistically demanding courses in the mainstream; e.g., primarily English literature courses and perhaps social studies courses. Adjunct courses run parallel to courses such as ELA 20-1 or Social Studies 30-2. They provide additional time to focus on the vocabulary and structures of the materials and to strengthen students' academic strategies, especially as they prepare for diploma-level courses.

Because high school courses require a minimum proficiency in English, a number of locally developed courses have been developed for English language learners at lower proficiency levels so that they may develop language skills needed with age-appropriate content. The following chart shows how students progress through these courses as their language proficiency develops and work toward placement in grade-level high school courses.

The Sample High School Pathways Table chart Word can assist guidance counsellors in determining the appropriate course selection and sequence based on a student’s English language proficiency. It also helps English language learners and their families understand the time it will take to successfully meet high school completion requirements.

Long-term Planning

Create a systematic long-term plan for each English language learner, which may include additional time in high school beyond three years. It is essential that high schools have supports in place that extend until Grade 12 and include transition planning.


Because English language learners enter high school at different ages and with different language proficiencies and backgrounds, their timetables should be individually customized. English language learners need a carefully structured timetable based on language proficiency, skills, knowledge and experience. That is, students take courses with lower linguistic demands first and gradually add the courses with higher linguistic demands as they become more proficient in English. Typically, students take physical education, some arts and some CTS courses first; then add mathematics, then science and finally social studies and English language arts (ELA). This may mean, for example, that English language learners do not take a Grade 10-level English language arts course until the second semester of Grade 11, after they have had the opportunity to develop their English language proficiency.

Samples of Timetables for High School English Language Learners

The following samples illustrate how timetables can be constructed based on language proficiency, previous schooling and educational goals. 

English Language Proficiency Level 2 – Sample Grade 10 Timetable Word

English Language Proficiency Level 3 – Sample Grade 10 Timetable Word

English Language Proficiency Level 4– Sample Grade 11 and 12 Timetables Word

When students with a variety of English language proficiency levels are dispersed across a variety of classes, teachers often have to differentiate instruction across a broad range of proficiency levels in all classes. To allow teachers to plan and use their time more efficiently, groups of English language learners can be clustered by proficiency in particular classes. For example, several English language proficiency Level 1 or 2 English language learners may be clustered in one class so that each teacher differentiates for the group of beginner students, and/or Level 3 English language learners can be grouped for their core subjects. Levels 4 and 5 English language learners may be dispersed; however, teachers should still plan to support them based on their language learning needs.

Copyright | Feedback |