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Frequently Asked Questions




Question: The 2021 EQAO guide does not include language regarding Multilingual learners not participating as outlined in previous years. Can we still defer our Multilingual learners?


Answer: This question was posed to EQAO and they confirmed that the previous definitions are still in place for deferring Multilingual learners. Therefore, the following deferral conditions still stand:



The student is working towards an OSSD but is not able to participate in the test, because

  • the student is an English language learner and has not yet acquired a level of proficiency in English sufficient to participate;
  • the student has been identified as exceptional by an Identification, Placement and Review Committee and would not be able to participate in the test even if all accommodations were provided;
  • the student has not yet acquired the reading and writing skills appropriate for Grade 9 or
  • the student has a temporary condition owing to illness or injury (e.g., a broken arm) or is new to the school, and appropriate accommodations cannot be provided.

EQAO also stated that Multilingual learners can go directly into the OSSLC, instead of being deferred as in the past.  






Virtual/Home Learning


  • Invite the ESL/ELD as a teacher to your Google Classroom, D2L or online learning platform.  The ESL/ELD teacher has the opportunity to connect with ELLs in your class and help them navigate your assignments through a virtual meeting (with video).
  • Demonstrate how to add the Google Translate Extension if they can read and write efficiently in their home language.
  • Google Translate Extension from the Chrome Store -
  • Provide a checklist of assignments and check in that they can read and find the checklist.
  • Comminicate via student’s home language.  Some school boards offer access to phone interpreters (such as MCIS or Language Line).  Don’t worry if you can’t access a phone or live interpreter as teachers can also use Microsoft Translator to set up a private virtual ‘room’ where students can join usng a language of their choice.  Everyone in the virtual room can ‘chat’ using their home language. Teachers can record a transcript of the conversation and link it in their online learning platform (Google Classroom, D2L, etc.) for future reference by students.  Check out more ideas of how Microsoft Translate can be used in education to connect with families and in lessons.  
  • Translate subtitles and save a recording of transcript in a Google Meet by using the  Tactiq Google Chrome Extension and cc tool.  Learn more and see examples @TactiqHQ.  
Yes, if an ELL is on STEPs 1-2 and require modifications to access curriculum leanring as an ELL in class, they will benefit from modifications to curriculum learning opportunities through distance education. 
Educators may consider using the following online tools to provide opportunities for students to provide feedback, demonstrate learning or communicate within an asychronous online learning environment:
  • Flipgrid - educator provides a prompt and students respond with a short video response
  • Google Jam Board - a digital whiteboard where students can collaborate or respond to an educator's prompt
  • Mentimetor - presentation slides that can be shared via a code for student feedback 
  • Kahoot - a game based learning platform where students can answer questions from their device

Adaptations to Curriculum


Yes, if they are at the beginning steps/stages of learning English. In most Ontario school boards, this means ELLs on STEP 1-2 should have modifications to their curriculum learning.  This is documented on the report card by checking the ESL/ELD box and by clearly communicating what this means to the student’s parents/family.


* This is subject to interpretation - in some boards schools modify for steps 1-3 ESL, 1-4 ELD.  The ESL/ELD document says in the early stages of language acquisition - it doesn’t specify STEPs.  Provincially some boards refer to being on Step and others to working on Step - this is significant and allowed, just as some boards use step 1A or step -1 to indicate not completed step 1. 

To provide them the time to focus on the key skills, strategies and content while at the same time beginning to develop academic and social English proficiency.  ELLs can take 3 times longer to access the new content in curriculum learning since they have to maneuver between their home language and the new language.

No, even though the term is the same, the practice is a little different. 

ELLs Transitioning to Secondary


The student’s aspirations, aptitudes, and prior learning,  NOT the level of English language proficiency should determine pathway decisions in course placement (e.g., academic, applied, locally developed, university, college, workplace).


Building a Timetable for Newcomer Secondary Students - MOE Monograph


Students who are starting to learn English as an additional language (STEP 1 or 2) can be successful in mainstream courses when:

  • Instruction includes opportunities for hands-on learning
  • The language of instruction is modified to the student’s level
  • English language is purposefully taught alongside the curriculum
  • Teachers are comfortable with using multiple modalities (lectures combined with visuals, text, hands-on learning, and small group instruction.)

Consider the STEP assessment which contains information about:

  • Language level
  • Prior education (e.g., age-appropriate skills/knowledge, limited prior schooling)
  • Curriculum is different  in other countries.
  • English classes in other countries  may focus on language but not literary analysis.
  • Math strands may not be covered in all grades.
  • Background in specific subject areas
  • Familiarity with activities (art, sewing, auto-mechanics, construction)
  • Lived-experiences such as migration, war, work 
  • Aspirations and pathways


The principal has the discretion to make substitutions for a maximum of 3 compulsory courses at the secondary level to address the specific needs of English language learners.

ESL/ELD Programs and Services: Policies and Procedures for for Ontario Elementary and Secondary Schools, Kindergarten to Grade 12, p. 26


Other considerations:

  • Place students in age-appropriate courses when possible.
  • ELLs may need more than 4 years to complete high school requirements.
  • For older students who are at the early steps, consider courses (welding, automotive, design) that may not be available at an alternative education centre. Students may reach age 21 before graduation and not have these opportunities.
  • Balance timetables to include some courses with fewer reading and writing expectations.
  • Consider Learning Strategies courses to support academic success and to provide additional opportunities to develop learning, literacy and math skills.
  • Cross-grade selections may be necessary (Grade 9 English and Grade 11 Math).
  • ELLs can benefit from and be successful in some courses without prerequisites (e.g., A photography class may be an appropriate choice, even if the student has not taken Visual Art).
  • Some ELLs may be able to meet the expectations of  two ESL or ELD courses in the timeframe of one credit (110 hours), earning the credit for the higher level.  In other cases, some ELLs may need more time to complete a course (ESL/ELD and mainstream) than a traditional semester allows (220 hours) due to gaps in education and/or the complexity of language and concepts in a course. *For more information, see pg 26 of ESL/ELD Curriculum document.
  • Look for opportunities to help ELLs engage in the life of the school.

The current STEP levels of ELLs will indicate the appropriate ESL/ELD course placement.  The following chart (pg. 21) from the MOE STEP User Guide Initial Assessment  outlines how STEP OLB and OLLB levels align with secondary ESL/ELD courses.

            Teachers can also refer to the MOE ESL/ELD Curriculum document to understand how the ESL/ELD course pathway that aligns with mainstream secondary English courses (pg. 14).



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Classroom Teachers



The curriculum can be modified (i.e. expectations omitted, refocussed, substituted) to allow ELLs to progress along the language continua while learning through the age appropriate content.


Teachers can use the Ministry's STEP Continua in September or when the student first joins the class to decide the current English language proficiency for speaking, reading and writing.  This process will in turn indicate next steps for strategic scaffolds to accelerate the language and curriculum learning.  


For ELLs requiring English Literacy Development (ELD) programming:


For ELLs requiring English as a Second Language (ESL) programming:

Teachers can use the STEP level to make a programming plan, set small goals, assess demonstrated progress and then to set new goals.


Check these videos from the Ministry of Ontario's ELL Gains website:

Closing the Learning Gap  and Adapting Assignments to Support ELLs

Learning Through The Curriculum 

Adapting the Classroom Program for ELLs 


Check out the advice from Ontario educators :

Designing an Inclusive Learning Environment for English Language Learners


Coming soon. 
Coming soon.