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Newcomer Innovations

ELL is a specially designed curriculum to support newcomers with low levels of English literacy - especially if they are in for a long wait to join LINC. It is free to use and the Mothers Matter Centre is keen to support organizations in using it.

What is ELL?

The Early Language Learning (ELL) project was an innovative project funded by IRCC between 2018-2020. The project was a pilot and was implemented at two sites; in Toronto by Working Women’s Community Centre and in Vancouver by ISS of BC. Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) supported coordination, quality control, capacity building and documentation for the pilot. ELL added on english language learning support atop our core HIPPY model.  The ELL project:

1. Developed a structured English curriculum for multiple language level students/clients.

2. Introduced group based English classes  following the curriculum developed – twice a week (2 hours/class) taught by an instructor.

3. Added an extra 30 minutes to the HIPPY home visit for English language support and practice with the home visitor to complement the group based classes.

4. Created synergies between the Home Visitor (HV) and language instructor to offer holistic English language support for mothers in the HIPPY program.

ELL Curriculum

The ELL Curriculum was originally designed for use with a HIPPY program for newcomer mothers, but can stand alone as a language class or be used to support conversation circles or tutoring. ELL covers 12 key settlement topics such as Knowing Your Community, Settlement and Community Services, Physical and Mental Health, Financial Literacy, and Canadian Parenting norms. Newcomers work toward informal skill-using tasks, build confidence, learn about key resources in the community, and break the cycle of isolation surrounding immigrants and refugees with low levels of English so they are more ready for structured LINC learning when their personal circumstances allow.

ELL curriculum Sneak Peek:



What is ELL? The Early Language Learning Curriculum, or ELL Curriculum, from Mothers Matter Centre, is a set of documents to guide and support the delivery of real-world task-based English language instruction for adult newcomers with low levels of English (literacy to CLB 3). Designed as a service enhancement to the long-running Multicultural HIPPY Program for immigrant and refugee mothers of young children, ELL can also be used on its own to provide structured, informal English training in a classroom and/or with one-on-one English practice tutorials. Materials designed for the tutorials can also be used to support conversation circles.

Who can use the ELL curriculum? Is it free? Organizations or programs that wish to use the ELL curriculum free of charge to support newcomers learning beginner levels of English should contact Mothers Matter Centre for access.

Who are the target clients of ELL? The target clients of ELL are adult newcomers with low levels of English (as measured by the Canadian Language Benchmarks, literacy to CLB 3). The original target newcomers for ELL were mothers of young children. However, ELL can be used with both men and women. Certain units or parts of units are particularly beneficial to newcomer parents but learners do not need to be parents to participate. Units targeting parenting can be skipped if not applicable to the particular participant group.

How does ELL help newcomers? ELL helps newcomers by increasing language knowledge, ability and confidence to communicate in social and community situations, to access community resources and to become less isolated.

Can ELL be used in all programs for newcomers or only in programs for newcomer moms? Although originally designed for a program with newcomer moms, ELL can be used in all real-world task-based English language instruction programs for adult newcomers with low levels of English (literacy to CLB 3).

What does ELL look like with a HIPPY program? Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is an evidence-based program that works in the home to support vulnerable and isolated mothers in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher. When ELL is paired with a HIPPY program, newcomer moms still learn and deliver the HIPPY core curriculum as a priority, but also attend English language classes once or twice per week to work on their English while their preschool-age children are looked after by qualified childminders. The HIPPY Home Visitors also participate in the language classes as teacher assistants, helping the teacher deliver activities and occasionally using interpretation to help the newcomer moms with understanding complex concepts. The language classes are followed up by 30 minutes of home tutoring support based on the tasks the teacher is working toward in class, delivered by the Home Visitor after the HIPPY curriculum portion of their home visit. Nothing about the HIPPY Core curriculum delivery is compromised when ELL is included. ELL documents are designed to be familiar to HIPPY Home Visitors and participants so that delivery can fit as seamlessly as possible into an existing HIPPY program. Essentially, ELL is “value-added” for the newcomer moms in HIPPY.

Why should a HIPPY program include ELL -what are the benefits? While newcomer moms in the Multicultural HIPPY Program naturally pick up some English through exposure to English conversation, materials and presentations while working through the HIPPY core curriculum, the more structured approach to learning English with the addition of ELL increases the amount and quality of language learned by HIPPY Program participants. Increased facility with English provides newcomer HIPPY moms with more tools for success in the community and with their children’s schools and education. Because of its real-world task-based approach to learning, ELL also acts a supportive bridging or pre-LINC program for clients who cannot attend LINC because of childcare or because they are not ready for formal learning in a classroom. ELL builds classroom-readiness skills as well as familiarity with many concepts and learning methods clients will encounter if they eventually go to LINC. This preparation has the potential to shorten the amount of time needed in LINC for clients to prove the CLB 4 level of proficiency needed for citizenship.

How is ELL different from LINC? Based on research with HIPPY participants on their needs and desires for English language training, ELL is similar to LINC in several respects: Real-world task-based learning Settlement language focused for community interaction Aligned to Canadian language benchmarks Communicative and interactive classroom approach Client input to learning through Intake and monthly needs assessments Builds client autonomy for learning through reflections and action-oriented feedback ELL is different from LINC in that it is structured as informal learning as opposed to formal language training using Portfolio Based Language Assessment to evaluate and assign new benchmarks. Rather than doing assessment tasks, newcomers only work toward skill-using tasks and receive comments-only feedback to help them improve. Participants therefore do not receive LINC certificates from ELL to be used toward citizenship.

Does ELL include language assessment? Does it use PBLA? Every curriculum needs to measure language gains. Unlike LINC, PBLA is not used in ELL. Instead, the ELL curriculum emphasizes improvement over achievement. Learners work toward language tasks in class then complete skill-using tasks to show themselves and their teacher what they can do. Instead of marks, the teacher provides oral and written feedback to help guide the learners in how they can complete the task more successfully. The focus is on building on whatever language the newcomers already have, so they feel successful.

Is ELL learning transferable to LINC? The language knowledge and skills learned with ELL, as well as an understanding of the task-based approach and responsibility for learning, are definitely transferable to LINC. The skill-using tasks completed in ELL have the potential to be accepted as evidence of learning and ability in LINC though they are not formally transferable at this time.

How long is a program using ELL? How many hours per week? The ELL curriculum contains enough material to support a minimum of 60 weeks of delivery for over 2 years. There are 12 units in ELL, with each unit containing 4 developed real-world skill-using tasks. If an ELL program is run at only 4 hours per week as it was during the pilot, only one or at the most 2 skill-using tasks could be worked toward per unit. However, the material contained in ELL could be made to support whatever number of weeks and number of hours per week is needed to meet the needs of the target clients.

Can the components of ELL (classroom learning and home tutoring) be used separately from each other? ELL language learning materials are divided into 3 documents for each unit: Instructor Guidelines, Home Visitor Scripts, and Learner Handouts for use with the scripts. This division makes it easy for a program to use ELL to deliver classroom-only learning or tutoring-only learning if desired, instead of the classroom and follow-up tutoring model of the original design.

Can ELL be used in other ways than classroom learning and home tutoring? ELL language learning materials are divided into 3 documents for each unit : Instructor Guidelines, Home Visitor Scripts, and Learner Handouts for use with the scripts. Each script provides detailed instructional language to be used by the Home Visitor so that the tutoring can be delivered successfully even if the Home Visitor has no teacher training or needs to work on her English herself. Through the scripts, learners work on speaking skills through dialogues or practice listening ompréhension or grammar. Because of how they are written, the ELL scripts or even just the learner handouts could be used by volunteers either as the basis of a conversation circle or for small-group or one-on-one tutoring. There are 144 different scripts to choose from, so there is a lot of material to meet any group of learners’ needs.

Does ELL require a qualified EAL instructor to run or can volunteers be used? An ELL language class requires a qualified EAL instructor to use the Instructor Guidelines and deliver ELL as intended. Volunteer language facilitators can use the ELL scripts as the basis of a conversation circle, or for small-group or one-on-one tutoring.

Is there any training or support available to use ELL? Organizations or programs that wish to use the ELL curriculum free of charge to support newcomers learning beginner levels of English should contact Mothers Matter Centre for access, training and support. To deliver ELL with HIPPY there are 2 training sessions each for the instructor and Home Visitors to participate in. The instructor’s sessions consist of two 6-hour days on using the curriculum and working with the Home Visitor and one joint session with the Home Visitor and Coordinator. The Home Visitors’ sessions consist of one 6-hour day on delivering the scripts and working with the Instructor, plus one joint session with the Instructor and Coordinator. The joint session allows the Instructor and Home Visitors to begin working together with the Coordinator as a team to support newcomer moms. If a program wishes to use ELL as a bridging program or for volunteer-run conversation circles or tutoring, training minus the HIPPY integration components, likely 3 to 6 hours depending on the needs of the program, could be arranged.

For organizations or programs interested in acquiring the ELL curriculum, please contact

Yusra Qadir
Director of Innovations, Advocacy and Multicultural HIPPY


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