Under development

New software that boosts English vocabulary among new Canadian children

The ESL Assistant is an interactive research-based software product designed to improve the English language skills of children in ESL programs in Canadian schools. The ESL Assistant will incorporate research findings about best practices in language and literacy development to reinforce the teaching of English vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar to aboriginal, immigrant and minority language children in Kindergarten through Grade Two. The software is being developed by Linda Siegel of the University of British Columbia and the Software Development Group core facility at the University of Western Ontario.

When complete, the ESL Assistant will contain 12 games structured around the current education curriculum and set in the following environmental settings: farm, school, library, home, park, zoo, restaurant and neighborhood (including fire hall, post office, police station and grocery store). These settings will help teach relevant vocabulary in the context of cultural practices. Each game will have its own set of English vocabulary and syntax objectives, incorporating a reward system for each environmental setting. For example, objectives of the farm game are the learning of words related to farm animals, as well as verb forms and plurals designed to help develop syntactic skills.

The ESL Assistant will help fill a gap in the current education system by enhancing children's English language and literacy skills early in life, leading to improved economic and social status in later years. This will result in measurable improvements in the largest growing demographic in Canada-immigrant families-whose ESL needs must be met.

For more information, contact Jennifer Starcok, Network Manager at or 519.850.2901.

My reading disabilities were hard to identify because the tests were designed for English readers. They didn't reflect my cultural background.

It's only by asking the right questions that we can identify and treat my reading disabilities - and take steps to keep French as a first language vibrant and alive.

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