English Language Learning

Walnut Hill is a more complete and interesting community thanks in large part to the international students who come to live, learn, and practice their art here. Many of our international students are non-native English speakers, and for those students we offer an English Language Learning program designed to help with their coursework, giving them the resources they need to succeed at Walnut Hill and beyond.

Requirements in English Language Learning

All non-native English speakers are required to take an English Language Learning (ELL) placement test at the beginning of the school year. The test results, in conjunction with placement classes, writing samples, interviews, and placement materials, determine placement in the ELL program. ELL courses count toward Walnut Hill’s four-year English graduation requirement.

Students placed in ELL Intermediate cannot have a grade placement higher than grade 10, as they must spend a majority of their academic time studying English in order to prepare for other coursework in the program. Between semesters, a student may be able to advance in his or her ELL level by showing a strong performance and with the recommendation of the department, the Director of Studies, and the student’s advisor.

Students who demonstrate appropriate skills in English and place out of the ELL program will take either American Literature and Culture or a regular grade-level English course as offered by the Humanities Department.

Courses in English Language Learning


This two-semester course focuses on building a strong foundation in grammar in order to improve overall language skills. Through a series of intensive grammar exercises, vocabulary development, and writing practice, the students will become more proficient at producing a wider variety of language in both their speaking and writing. Classroom tasks are designed to promote active language use through group work that requires collaboration and participation. Course materials include news articles, short stories, novels, and a variety of listening materials to promote better reading and listening comprehension. Students will concurrently take American Literature once in Intermediate B. Placement is determined by the ELL placement test.

The grammar points that this course focuses on include:

  • use of parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, articles)

  • use of tenses, particularly the simple and continuous forms of past, present tenses, and present perfect

  • nouns, including count, non-count and measure words

  • Indefinite and definite articles

  • frequently used prepositions and common usages

  • conjunctions

  • simple and compound sentence structures


Taken in conjunction with ELL Intermediate class, this one semester course is designed to build a strong foundation of reading and writing skills necessary for future academic classes. Students will expand vocabulary usage and progress from writing grammatically correct sentences to structured paragraphs and essays. Additionally, they will read a variety of fiction and non-fiction. The goal of the class is to provide students with opportunities to further develop their reading and writing skills needed to comprehend material in higher level courses.


This one-semester course is designed to expand upon the skills and language proficiency acquired in previous studies and to further develop skills for academic expression in oral and written presentations. A particular emphasis is on academic writing and analysis, utilizing different artistic works including: novels, plays, articles, films, audio recordings, images, and personal interviews. Classroom tasks are designed to promote active use of the language in small and large groups where students are expected to defend and challenge ideas meaningfully. Placement is determined by the ELL placement test.

The grammar points that this course focuses on include:

  • future and perfect tenses

  • passive voice

  • subject - verb agreement

  • conditional clauses, real and unreal

  • modal and phrasal verbs

  • gerunds and infinitives

  • complex sentence structures


This one-semester course is designed to continue the development of the reading and writing skills necessary for future mainstream academic classes. Students will learn to read and write in English in a more complete and nuanced way through intensive exercise in both areas. Students will acquire and be required to employ a wider array of grammatical concepts and vocabulary in order to broaden their expression. Students will read authentic English literature and develop close reading and analytical skills in order to be able to interpret increasingly complex texts and write about them. Students will concurrently take a mainstream English class.


ELL Faculty

Rachel Kadish

Rachel Kadish

Associate Director of Student Life - International Support, ELL Teacher
Erika Picciotto Zanussi

Erika Picciotto Zanussi

Interim Head of World Languages