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English as a Second Language

Category 3 - Language Conventions

. . . grammar is closely tied into meaning and use of language,
and is inter-connected with vocabulary.

Lynne Cameron

Learning language conventions using a communicative approach involves activities that focus attention on form in context in order to facilitate the understanding and the expression of accurate and meaningful oral and written messages.

In the Cycle One program, although there is no Language Conventions category, students discover the phonology, the music or rhythmicality1 of the language, and develop an ear for English through listening to a variety of songs, rhymes, stories and authentic audio-models.

In the Cycles Two and Three program, language conventions refer to grammar, phonology, punctuation and spelling. Grammar contributes to developing all three competencies.  Phonology supports the development of the competency To interact orally in English. Punctuation helps develop the competencies To reinvest understanding of oral and written texts and To write texts, and spelling pertains exclusively to the competency To write texts.

Learning context is a feature found in the ESL Progression of Learning chart that describes the conditions under which students progressively construct knowledge throughout the cycles. It highlights the differences in the learning environments as defined in the Cycle One and the Cycles Two and Three programs.

Elementary Cycle One Learning Context

Elementary Cycles Two and Three Learning Context

No direct links can be made between the Essential Knowledge sections of Cycle One and Cycles Two and Three as there is no Language Conventions category in the Cycle One program

The student's attention is directed to targeted forms in context, their function and their contribution to the meaning of messages

Student constructs knowledge with teacher guidance.

Student applies knowledge by the end of the school year.


Student reinvests knowledge.

  Cycle One   Cycle Two Cycle Three
1 2 3 4 5 6
  Word order
  • Uses knowledge of word order in simple sentences to construct meaning
  • Forms simple sentences (e.g. I like apples. Emily can sing and dance. Bring your book.)
  • Places adjectives before nouns (e.g. red car, beautiful day)
  • Uses knowledge of regular and common irregular plurals to construct meaning
  • Writes an “s” at the end of nouns for regular plurals (e.g. kayaks, oranges, toys)
  • Uses irregular plurals frequently encountered in class (e.g. people, children, feet)
  • Places articles before nouns (e.g. The bag is heavy. It’s a computer. She’s an athlete.)
  Verb tenses
  • Uses knowledge of verb tenses to construct meaning (e.g. imperative, past, future)
  • Uses verb tenses targeted for tasks
  Intonation and pronunciation for the functional language frequently used in class
  • Uses intonation and pronunciation that can be understood by an English speaker
  • Uses knowledge of capital letters, periods, questions marks, and commas between items in an enumeration to construct meaning of texts
  • Writes a sentence with a capital letter at the beginning and a period or question mark at the end
  • Writes commas between items in an enumeration
  • Spells words as found in explicit models and resources targeted for carrying out tasks
  • Spells words as found in open-ended models and available resources targeted for carrying out tasks
The term rhythmicality is used in the Elementary Cycle One program. It appears in the article " Poetry and Song as Effective Language-learning Activities" by Alan Maley (Rivers, Wilga M. Interactive Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p.93.)

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