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Sir John A. Macdonald


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Program Description

Strengths of Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School ESL Program

  • Our Administration, Students Services, ESL teachers, non-ESL teachers and Secretarial Staff all understand ESL student issues and concerns and all work together to optimize success for ESL students.
  • Every one of our ESL Instructors has achieved an ESL Specialist’s Certificate and has multiple years of experience teaching ESL students.
  • We continually monitor our ESL students and are flexible enough to adjust the level of courses to fit student progress in an on-going manner.
  • We recognize that ESL students must build the strongest base possible in English in their first months in our school in order to obtain success in their senior years and achieve their post secondary goals.
  • We offer the largest selection of subject area congregated classes that allow ESL students to keep on earning credits while they are learning subject specific vocabulary and Canadian methods in preparation for graduation and post-secondary success
  • Our school is the most computerized school in Hamilton with 8 full computer labs and a ratio of 6 students to every computer
  • We have three Settlement Workers in Schools (SWISH) based in Macdonald to help fit into our school and into the community

Interesting Facts and Figures

  • Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School opened in 1970 and presently has an enrolment of 1200 students
  • Our student body represents over 80 countries of origin and over 50 different first languages
  • 10% of our student population is from Africa, 8% from the Pacific Rim, 8% from the Middle East, 4% from Europe, 3% from the Indian Sub-Continent, and 2% from Latin America
  • The current school population is 51% male and 49% female

Aims of the ESL Program at Macdonald

  • The ESL Program focuses on providing ELL students with:
  • Environments and opportunities to develop English and academic competencies without losing credits
  • Preparedness for being successful on the mandatory grade ten Ontario Secondary Schools Literacy Test (OSSLT)
  • Accurate, monitored and adjusted placement in their ESL courses and core subject areas
  • The best English preparation possible for entrance into post-secondary careers
  • Optimal transitions from Elementary to Secondary Programming and from ESL to Regular Programming at the Secondary Level

English As A Second Language Classes at Sir John A. Macdonald

At Sir John A. Macdonald we offer 5 English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and 5 English Literacy Development (ELD) courses. We have 6 teachers in our ESL Department and each one is a Ministry certified ESL Specialist.


All five levels of ESL and ELD courses are offered by the ESL department as well as a full menu of congregated ESL classes. In these classes, ESL students are grouped together to earn credits while learning subject-specific vocabulary and content. Classes include ESL math, science, geography, history, physical education (separately for girl and boys), drama, music, art, computer, civics and carrers, technology, and family studies.

ESL Literacy Students

We also offer special classes for our immigrant students who have had little or no education in their native countries. These classes focus particularly on basic English, math, life skills, and employability skills.

ESL Co-op

As needs arise, we offer a special ESL Co-op class for senior students struggling with literacy skills in English. The purpose is to improve students’ English and employability skills and to assist them as they move from school to the world of work.

English Language Learners (ELLs) Need Time

Newcomers to Canada often acquire speaking skills in a very short time. Higher functioning in the second language takes longer:

It may take up to 7 years for an ESL/ELD student to acquire a level of proficiency in reading and writing, and abstract thinking in a second language that is on a par with the level mastered by speakers of a first language. (The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: Program Planning and Assessment, 1999)

Our ESL Program provides ELL students with the time and support they need to achieve opti-mal results on graduation and ensure pro-gression onto successful post-secondary careers.

ESL/ELD Credits

To graduate each student must succeed in 30 credits. Each ESL/ELD course completed is worth one credit. Graduation requires successful completion of 4 English credits. Up to 3 of these may be ESL/ELD credits but the final English credit must be a grade 12 regular English course. In order to go to college or university, students must finish grade 12 regular English. Any additional ESL/ELD courses completed may be used as optional credits towards the 30 credits needed to graduate.

ESL Congregated Classes

In order to allow ESL students to adjust to the vocabulary, content and procedures in Ontario Secondary School Subject Areas, Sir John A. Macdonald offers courses in the subject areas at the grade 9 and 10 levels in which ESL students are brought together to earn regular credits while concentrating on vocabulary, methods, and content. These courses all count towards graduation and include compulsory courses such as Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Civics, Physical Education and Art as well as elective subjects such as Technology, Business Computers, Drama, and Family Studies.

Courses Offered

ESL Classes

ESL classes are generally for those students who have had uninterrupted education in their home countries and probably have studied some English already. Each course counts as one credit towards graduation.

Level 1: ESLAO “Beginning Communication in English”

An introduction to English designed for students with minimal or no English skills.

Level 2: ESLBO “English in Daily Life”

The builds on beginning students’ knowledge of English and prepares them for the next level.

Level 3: ESLCO “English for School and Work”

This intermediate course further extends students’ knowledge of English with an examination of a broad range of grammar topics and literary terms.

Level 4: ESLDO “Study Skills in English”

This course continues the preparation of the student for entry into the regular english program by concentrating on skills that will help them succeed in the regular English class. It may also be an exit point in to the Applied/College level English courses.

Level 5: ESLEO “Bridge to English”

This advanced course is a final transition into the regular English college/ university preparation courses, providing students with structural and critical skills that will enable independence and success in regular senior level course (not intended for grade 9 students).

ELD Classes

ELD classes are intended for those students who may have experienced gaps in their education and need extra help with literacy (reading and writing) skills. Each course counts as one credit towards graduation.

Level 1: ELDAO “Beginning Literacy”

An introduction to English designed for students with minimal or no English skills.

Level 2: ELDBO “Basic Literacy Skills”

Students develop a further knowledge of basic English structures and read a variety of simple texts.

Level 3: ELDCO “Literacy in Daily Life”

This intermediate literacy course builds on the students existing literacy skills in preparation for the next level and entry into the regular English program.

Level 4: ELDDO “Literacy for School/Work”

This course transitions the student into the Essential/Workplace or Applied/College regular English program.

Level 5: ELDEO “Transitions Literacy”

Updated on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
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