13. English, Second Language (ESL)

The linguistic diversity of Ontario's student population continues to increase. Some students at Virtual High School require support in learning the English language and to develop a full range of English literacy skills to enable them to achieve the curriculum expectations in all subjects and at all grade levels.

The programs of study offered by Virtual High School must be flexible in order to accommodate the needs of students who require instruction in English as a second language or English literacy development, and teachers of all subjects are responsible for helping students develop their ability to use English.

Students who enrol in Virtual High School provide information during registration about their English language learning backgrounds, including the number of years they have been learning English. This information is provided to teachers so they can target instruction and provide appropriate accommodations throughout the course. Appropriate accommodations to teaching, learning, and evaluation strategies help students gain proficiency in English, since students learning English as a second language at the secondary level have limited time in which to develop this proficiency. English Language Learners (ELL) at Virtual High School are encouraged to explore opportunities to work in their first language, to use a bilingual dictionary, to keep a vocabulary log, and to use graphic organizers to help them complete complex tasks. ELL are provided with extra time on quizzes, tests, and examinations to ensure they have time to process the demands of the task as well as to process the language. Special consideration is given to more recent evidence of achievement.

Our teachers are acutely aware that it may take up to seven years for a student to acquire a level of proficiency in reading, writing, and abstract thinking in a second language that is on a par with the level mastered by speakers of a first language. Teachers have the support of Department Heads and the Guidance Department to ensure they appropriately accommodate ELL at Virtual High School.