Student Support Schema
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Illustration of Dr. Jim Cumminsí Grid (4 Quadrants)


Cognitively Undemanding (BICS)



Initial levels ESL?  T.P.R.

Following Directions

Face-to-Face Conversations

Getting Absences Excused

Buying popcorn

Oral Presentations

Content Classes (Art, Music)



Embedded                                 A





Telephone Conversation

Note on the refrigerator

Written directions, instructions

(no diagram or illustrations)



 C                                 Reduced



Demonstrations, Experiments

A-V Assisted Lessons

Basic Math Computations

Plane Geometry

Projects and Activities

Health Instruction

Social Studies

Science Experiments







Standardized Tests


Reading / Writing

Math Concepts and Applications

Explanations of New Abstract Concepts

Lecture with few illustrations

Social Studies texts

Mainstream English texts

Most content classes





Cognitively Demanding (CALP)


All of the activities above the solid black line (included in quadrants A and C) fall into the category that Dr. Cummins calls Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills or BICS. As you can see the activities in quadrant A are context rich (as indicated by being left of the dotted line). In quadrant A you receive context clues to help with understanding. In quadrant C, you receive less or none of the context clues to help you (as indicated by being right of the dotted line). However none of the activities in either A or C are cognitively demanding.

When you go to the activities below the solid black line, you find activities which are cognitively demanding. The activities in quadrant B are cognitively demanding but they are also context embedded. You receive context clues to help you with understanding. To the contrary, the activities found in quadrant D are context reduced meaning that you wonít have context clues to assist with understanding.

The ultimate goal is to take students from quadrant A, where they have conversational skills but still need context clues to comprehend well, to quadrant D where they will have success with cognitively demanding tasks without context clues.

How do you do that?

The answer lies in quadrant B where students receive instruction in cognitively demanding grade level tasks but still have the support from specially designed instruction to assist them with understanding. This is why SDAIE instruction is so important for the student who is limited in English, and why teachers must provide context rich instruction.

Also, it is important to understand that a student may exhibit language which appears fluent in general conversational settings, but who may still have difficulty in academic settings. He may have the basic fluency to be successful with cognitively undemanding tasks but may lack the literacy required for academically and cognitively demanding activities. The teacher needs to be aware of the needs of the English Language Learner in order to design the instruction with all of the supports needed. With that support in place the student will eventually be able to move into quadrant D activities with great success.


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