For this discussion, you are going to examine those items that make learning English more comprehensible for students. After reading the resources below, answer the questions that are appropriate for the context in which you are interested. Respond to either the K-12 or adult learning questions, but not both.

To structure your writing,

· Your audience will be you. This post will require reflection on your content.

· Your role is that of someone who understands the information from a research perspective.

· The format will be a two to three paragraph written post.

· The purpose is to explain themes that are arising out of the content and how affective filter impacts language learning.

Children or Students in a K-12 Learning Context

Read from your primary text:

· Chapter 5: Teaching English Language Learners

Address the following items in your original post.

· For working with ELLs, summarize two to three themes/common ideas that you are seeing in the resources and why these are important to understand?

· Examine how the affective filter can impact language learning.

· Explain how affective filter and culture shock are related.


Learning Outcomes
By the end of this chapter you will be able to accomplish the following objectives:

1. In the context of Krashen’s input hypothesis, analyze and interpret the importance of compre-
hensible language input.

2. Explain how affective factors can interfere with learning and how teachers can help to reduce
their impact.

3. Define the interaction hypothesis and assess its role in language teaching and learning.

4. Summarize the principle characteristics of communicative language teaching and explain its
relationship to communicative competence.

5. Identify and evaluate the factors that contribute to ELLs becoming long-term language

5Teaching English Language Learners






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Whatever their age and grade level, whatever their first language, ELLs have one goal in com-
mon: communicative competence—the ability to function effectively in English in both social
and academic settings. Helping them to reach that goal is the teacher’s main objective. We
ended the last chapter with a description of how the concept of communicative competence
contributed to the development of communicative teaching approaches. One of the more
prominent of these was developed by Stephen Krashen in the 1980s and was called the natu-
ral approach. This approach was based on five hypotheses about language acquisition (see
Krashen’s Five Hypotheses), and while theorists have taken issue with the scope and details
of some of them, two of the hypotheses have influenced second language teaching for the
past several decades and are widely accepted as pillars of communicative language teaching.
These are the input hypothesis (Chapter 2) and the affective filter hypothesis, which we will
examine along with the interaction hypothesis proposed by Michael Long (1996). To under-
stand how these three hypotheses are realized in classroom practice, we will examine the
four defining characteristics of communicative language teaching.

As we delve deeper into communicative teaching practices, we begin with a basic question:
What is the teacher’s main objective in teaching ELLs? Simply stated, it is to help ELLs acquire
all the English they need for social and academic purposes while simultaneously learning the
content knowledge appropriate to their grade level. With some young learners, and under
certain conditions, teachers can meet this objective fairly quickly, sometimes within the
school year. For others, especially those who begin later than kindergarten or first grade, it
takes longer, and although the authors of most accountability measures assume that it takes
three years (Chapter 3), that is not the case for all learners. The overarching goal in teaching
ELLs, then, is to keep them from becoming long-term English language learners (LTELLs),
meaning those who have been in school for more than six years but have not yet attained
adequate linguistic proficiency or the content knowledge appropriate to their grade level. But
the truth is that most teachers, especially those in the middle school and high school years,
will almost certainly encounter LTELLs, and so we conclude this chapter with a discussion
of the conditions under which ELLs become LTELLs, not only because early intervention can
make a difference, but to help to meet the needs of these higher-risk students.

Krashen’s Five Hypotheses
Prominent linguist and educator Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus at the University of
Southern California. He has received many awards for his publications, and has been greatly
influential in second language education. His theory of second language acquisition is based
on five interconnected beliefs or hypotheses:

1. The acquisition-learning hypothesis distinguishes between language learning and
acquisition. This hypothesis claims that acquisition is a subconscious process, akin to
first language learning, that requires meaningful interaction but does not involve for-
mal instruction. Language learning is a conscious process and the product of formal


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Section 5.1 Input Matters: The Comprehensible Input Hypothesis

5.1 Input Matters: The Comprehensible Input Hypothesis
When parents or other adults want to communicate with an infant or toddler, they make cer-
tain accommodations—they talk about concrete things (e.g., pointing to the family dog when
speaking its name), they simplify their language by using familiar words, and they repeat
and expand upon the child’s utterance. They make these accommodations to ensure that the
input is comprehensible, meaning that the child understands. It makes sense, then, that the
first rule of effective ELL teaching is this: Make language comprehensible. Whatever theoreti-
cal belief a teacher might hold about language learning, whatever the age and grade level of
the learner, the language used every day in every class has to be presented in such a way that
the learner understands the intended meaning—it has to be comprehensible. That may seem
obvious—to learn anything we have to be able to comprehend enough of what we hear or
read to, at the least, begin to construct meaning. Consider the following passage:


Do you understand it? Most likely not. Because the symbols mean nothing to us and because
we have no context for the sentence, most of us wouldn’t even know how to find out what the
symbols mean. Some of us wouldn’t even know what language this is and certainly not that it
is a perfectly grammatical sentence in Japanese. Now consider this passage:

Krashen’s Five Hypotheses (continued)
2. The monitor hypothesis, building on the postulated distinction between learning and

acquisition, defines the influence of learning on acquisition. Krashen’s view is that
learners have an “acquisition system” that serves to initiate, while the “learning system”
(resulting from overtly learned rules) serves as monitor or editor of the utterance. Over-
active monitors and underactive monitors can impede language production and prog-
ress, while optimal monitors somehow strike an appropriate balance between the two.

3. The natural order hypothesis is based on research evidence that in every language there
is a mostly predictable sequence in which children learn grammatical structures. Not
every child acquires structures such as the regular past tense form, the possessive, or
the regular plural in exactly the same order, but the similarities are significant. Because
there are differences in the order of acquisition—speakers of Mandarin may acquire
English grammatical morphemes in a different order from speakers of German, for
example—and because the most important factor is the content being taught, Krashen
makes it clear that the syllabus should not be structured according to a presumed order.

4. The input hypothesis is an effort to explain how learners acquire language. It is not con-
cerned with learning per se, but Krashen stresses that an environment can be created
for second language learners that makes learning more closely resemble acquisition.

5. The affective filter hypothesis. Affective factors, or variables, include motivation, self-
esteem, anxiety, and attitudes, and the hypothesis holds that these can facilitate or inter-
fere with language acquisition. He envisions them as a filter which, if raised, impedes
language learning but, if lowered, makes it possible for the learner to take advantage of
comprehensible input.

Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Krashen, 1985; Schutz, 2007, 2014.

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Section 5.1 Input Matters: The Comprehensible Input Hypothesis

The neural networks used for Synthetic ERP must include neuroanatomi-
cally realistic placement and orientation of the cortical pyramidal neurons.
(Barres, Simons, & Arbib, 2013)

Better? Yes, if only because most of us will recognize the language as English. Some of us will
know most of the words, and a few of us could work out the meanings of a few others. But
even with a medical dictionary at hand, chances are that most of us who do not happen to be
neurologists would not understand the intent, importance, or even the general subject the
sentence addresses. Why? Because the content is outside our experience, of little interest, and
a little too difficult—which brings us to Krashen’s input hypothesis.

According to Krashen, learners will acquire language when the language they hear is challenging
but easy enough to understand without making a conscious effort to learn it—in other words,
they can figure it out given the context. The hypothesis holds that the input learners receive
should be just beyond their level of competence (Krashen, 1985). It should be noted that Krashen
also stated that language acquisition differs from language learning in that acquisition is an
unconscious process and the product of normal interaction, whereas learning is the product of
formal instruction (Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Krashen, 1985). His view of comprehensible input
was that it was linked to acquisition but not to learning. However, he also believed that acquisi-
tion could happen in the classroom. What this means in practice is that teachers should strive to
make the classroom as authentic and communicative as possible: The experience in the class-
room needs to more closely mirror first language acquisition. The significance of this hypothesis
to communicative language teaching (CLT), as we saw in the example above, is this:

The goal of any language program is for learners to be able to communicate
effectively. By providing as much comprehensible input as possible, especially
in situations when learners are not exposed to the TL (target language) out-
side of the classroom, the teacher is able to create a more effective opportu-
nity for language acquisition. (Bilash, 2009)

Now consider this passage:

The three competing theories for economic contractions are (1) the Keynesian,
(2) the Friedmanite, and (3) the Fisherian. The Keynesian view is that normal
economic contractions are caused by an insufficiency of aggregate demand (or
total spending). This problem is to be solved by deficit spending. The Fried-
manite view, one shared by our current Federal Reserve chairman, is that
protracted economic slumps are also caused by an insufficiency of aggregate
demand, but are preventable or ameliorated by increasing the money stock.
(Hoisington & Hunt, 2011, p. 1)

The difference between this passage and the two previous, for most of us, is that although we
could not accurately paraphrase it because we don’t know all the word meanings in this context,
we can at least see the potential for understanding the meaning by drawing on what we do know
of the word meanings in other contexts and, perhaps, using a dictionary or asking for explanations.

The issue for teachers is how to find input that is challenging enough to motivate learners but
not so difficult that it frustrates and causes them to give up. In oral communication, there is
usually enough immediate feedback for the teacher to judge the appropriateness of the level

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Section 5.2 The Affective Filter

and to make adjustments. In reading, a quick way to gauge whether a text is too difficult or not
is to excerpt a short passage and do a Cloze test (Chapter 4).

5.2 The Affective Filter
Comprehensible input is not comprehensible if
the learner is not receptive to it. Certain attitudes
can impede receptivity and thus learning. Negative
attitudes or feelings about the language or having
to learn it, the people who speak it, or schooling
in general are the kinds of variables that can serve
as barriers to learning. Krashen envisions these
variables in terms of affective filters, which, when
raised, screen out much of the language input but,
when lowered, make the input available to the
learner for processing. Moreover, Krashen argues
that the strength or permeability of the filter can
vary from learner to learner:

Those whose attitudes are not optimal for second language acquisition will
not only tend to seek less input, but they will also have a high or strong Affec-
tive Filter. Even if they understand the message, the input will not reach that
part of the brain responsible for language acquisition, or the language acquisi-
tion device. Those with attitudes more conducive to second language acquisi-
tion will not only seek and obtain more input, they will also have a lower or
weaker filter. They will be more open to the input, and it will strike “deeper.”
(Krashen, 1987, p. 31)

The notion of an affective filter resonates with practitioners because experience has taught
them that children who are bored, angry, or frustrated are resistant to learning and thus
harder to teach. But when they are interested, contented, and engaged, they are more recep-
tive to learning and it is easier for teachers to design effective learning activities (Bilash, 2009;
Poole, 2011). The practical application of this hypothesis is obvious: to maximize language
learning and find ways to lower the affective filter. Although many different attitudes and feel-
ings can contribute to the existence and strength of the affective filter, they are all subsumed
under four factors: motivation, attitude, self-confidence, and anxiety level.

Every teacher knows the importance of motivation, and hundreds of books and thousands
of articles have been written on the subject. Definitions vary, but most educators concur
with Gardner that motivation is “the extent to which the individual works or strives to learn
the language because of a desire to do so and the satisfaction experienced in this activity”
( Gardner, 1985, p. 10).

In terms of second language acquisition, both Gardner (Gardner & Lambert, 1972; Gardner,
1982, 1985) and Krashen (1985, 1987) mark a distinction between integrative motivation and


Talking to her child about the family
dog, this mother adjusts her speech,
simplifying and repeating to make it
more comprehensible to an infant.

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Section 5.2 The Affective Filter

instrumental motivation. Integrative motivation results from a learner’s genuine interest in
or affection for the language, its culture, and its people. Children acquiring their first language
do so in order to become part of the family or group. People who love opera and Italian food
might be motivated to learn Italian as a way of integrating into that culture. Instrumental
motivation focuses on the practical advantages that will accrue to the learner as a result of
learning the language. People who need to learn a language in order to get a job with the State
Department or to pass a test for a graduate degree are motivated instrumentally. The two are
not mutually exclusive, and research on which is more likely to predict success in second lan-
guage learning is mixed. Although there is no definitive evidence that one form of motivation
is superior to the other—because the different ages of subjects, studies, and many other fac-
tors contribute to success—“. . . it is important to note that instrumental motivation has only
been acknowledged as a significant factor in some research, whereas integrative motivation is
continually linked to successful second language acquisition” (Norris-Holt, 2001).

Although there is no compelling research evidence either way, it is safe to assume integrative
motivation is a stronger force for children up through the elementary years than instrumen-
tal motivation for acquiring English. It is also clear that the strength of motivation affects the
receptiveness to a new language, but although it has an impact on learners’ success, it also
interacts with other factors including attitude, self-confidence, and anxiety levels.

We all understand what is meant by attitude—it is how we think or feel about something. As
a psychological construct, attitude refers to evaluative, emotional reactions to people, objects,
or events. There is strong evidence that affect influences cognition: “An extensive review of
the latest brain-based research (Jensen, 1995) has clearly shown the critical links between
emotions and cognition and has concluded that in a positive state of mind, the learner is able
to learn and recall better” (de Andres, 2002–2003).

Attitude is believed to influence language acquisition in three ways:

1. Learners with positive attitudes tend to learn the new language more easily and
faster, whereas those with negative attitudes are more resistant and make slower

2. Attitude helps determine learners’ commitment. Those who give up easily are more
likely to have a negative attitude.

3. Learners with positive attitudes are more likely to participate in class and thus take
advantage of interaction.

In terms of the affective filter, a positive attitude tends to make the filter more permeable (or
keep it lowered), while a negative attitude makes it denser (or keeps it raised). As noted, how-
ever, attitude interacts with the other three components of the affective filter.

Anxiety Level
Culture shock is a phenomenon that can affect ELLs’ ability to learn (Chapter 2). One of the
underlying causes of culture shock is the necessity to learn a new language, often very quickly,
and language anxiety or fear can make it harder for learners to acquire a new language. This,
in turn, creates more anxiety. For children who have attended school in another country,

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Section 5.3 The Importance of Interaction

school shock can induce anxiety with the same result. Other kinds of anxiety can also affect
children’s ability to learn—test anxiety (Chapter 4), fear of negative evaluation or judgment,
or performance anxiety (related to speaking or reading aloud) can contribute to high levels
of stress. The role of the teacher is to minimize anxiety by creating a nonthreatening, non-
judgmental environment. It is an important role: “The effective language teacher is someone
who can provide input and help make it comprehensible in a low-anxiety situation” (Krashen,
1987, p. 32). Another potential contributor to feelings of anxiety relates to self-confidence.

The level of confidence that learners have in their
own abilities to learn could have different sources.
It can originate in the family or be a result of pre-
vious experience in school. If the latter, then it
becomes a circular issue—a learner struggles or
fails to learn something, which leads to feelings of
inadequacy or low self-worth, which in turn affects
his ability to learn. It is very common for adults,
for example, who have failed to learn a foreign
language in school to conclude that the fault lies
within them rather than in the teaching approach.
Equally common is to carry that failure, in their lack
of self-confidence, into the next language learning
experience where it might well impact their abil-
ity to learn. Lack of confidence tends to go hand in hand with inhibition—learners who have no
confidence in their abilities are less likely to try anything that involves a risk of failure because
failure only serves to confirm their feelings of inadequacy. Language learning always involves
making mistakes, and learners who cannot tolerate making mistakes are less likely to engage in
the kinds of language activities that will help them learn. In contrast, learners who have fewer
inhibitions, as well as a higher tolerance for uncertainty, are more likely to engage in classroom
activities, conversations, and other kinds of interactions with native speakers. These kinds of
interactions, as we will see, are crucial to the acquisition process.

5.3 The Importance of Interaction
Children learn their first language without being taught (Chapter 3). But even though they are
innately wired to acquire language, they would not do so in the absence of human interaction.
It is interaction that is believed to “trigger” and facilitate the development of language. Jerome
Bruner, in discussing how the natural instinct of humans to acquire language is activated by
cultural factors that are necessary for the development of language, states:

. . . language acquisition “begins” before the child utters his first lexicogram-
matical speech. It begins when mother and infant create a predictable format
of interaction that can serve as a microcosm for communicating and for con-
stituting a shared reality. The transactions that occur in such formats consti-
tute the “input” from which the child then masters grammar, how to refer and
mean, and how to realize his intentions communicatively. (Bruner, 1983, p. 1)

Dejan Ristovski/iStock/Thinkstock

Creating a safe, welcoming classroom
environment is one way of helping to
lower the affective filter.

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Section 5.3 The Importance of Interaction

Communicative language teaching, then, in mirroring environmental factors believed to facili-
tate first language acquisition, emphasizes the importance of interaction.

The Interaction Hypothesis
The interaction hypothesis, while similar to the input hypothesis, focuses not so much on
the language that learners hear, but on the importance of the communicative environment.
In its strongest form, the hypothesis holds not only that interaction with native speakers
provides ELLs the opportunity to learn language, but also that the interaction itself con-
tributes to second language acquisition (Long, 1996; Gass & Selinker, 2008). The type of
interaction that appears to facilitate language acquisition best is the negotiation of mean-
ing—when partners in conversation have to work together to express what they intend
to express. Usually, this happens when there is a failure to communicate intended mean-
ing—one party in a conversation says something that the other does not understand or
misunderstands. The two then have to use various strategies to move the conversation
forward (Richards & Schmidt, 2002). These strategies are often accommodations made by
the native speaker—slowing down of speech or speaking more precisely or paraphrasing.
Second language learners may also attempt a paraphrase or a repair, but will more often
ask for clarification or simply fail to respond, which signals a communication breakdown.
Consider the following interaction:

Lara: How many car you have?

Teacher: How many cars do I have?

If Lara’s next response is “Yes. How many cars you have?” or even “How many cars do you
have?”, then the exchange has resulted in a repair, or two, and the conversation can proceed.
She has received feedback on grammar that she was able to use to correct her utterance.
But if Lara were to respond with “I don’t know”, then the repair has gone unheeded, which
might happen, especially with young children who are more likely to focus on meaning
than form.

The effectiveness of interaction is dependent to a large extent on the type and quality of inter-
action. If it is used as an opportunity for overt correction of errors, then it can become a nega-
tive experience. Young learners are often confused and don’t benefit from overt correction.
Young learners and older learners alike are likely to become frustrated if their attempts at
conversation are constantly interrupted by correction of grammar, pronunciation, or word
choice, especially when the correction does not help to clarify their meaning. Consider the
following dialogue between Cal, age six, and his teacher:

Cal: Give me other one, please.

Teacher: The other what?

Cal: (Points to the apple slices on the table.) Other one, please.

Teacher: You want another apple slice?

Cal: Yes, please. Other one.

Teacher: Apple, Cal. It’s an apple slice. Can you say apple slice?

Cal: Appo sice.

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Section 5.3 The Importance of Interaction

Teacher: No, apple slice. Try again.

Cal: Appo sice.

Teacher: Please give me another apple slice.

Cal: (Gets up and leans across table to reach for apple slice.)

Teacher: What are you doing, Cal?

Cal: You want appo?

In North America and, indeed, many classrooms in the world, the format (if not the content)
of this exchange is very common. It is referred to as the initiation-response-evaluation (IRE)
sequence (Mehan, 1979) or “recitation questioning” (Tharp and Gallimore, 1988). As we saw
in this exchange, however, the routine does little to support or assist Cal’s language devel-
opment. Teachers should instead try to avoid evaluating the form and concentrate on the
meaning and intent of the learner’s utterance. In other words, they need to think about and
respond to what the learner has said ahead of how it has been said. Effective feedback that
encourages rather than frustrates ELLs has at least some of the following characteristics:

1. Authenticity. In the dialogue between Cal and his teacher, the exchange stops being
authentic at the point she says: “Apple, Cal. It’s an apple slice. Can you say apple
slice?” She has hijacked the conversation, which began as a simple request for some-
thing Cal wanted, and turned it into an instructional event—and an ineffective one at

2. Clarity. Sometimes ELLs do not understand the teacher’s question or the reason
for asking it. That should have been clear to Cal’s teacher when he got up and tried
to get her an apple slice. Here, he understood the words perfectly; what he misun-
derstood was her reason for uttering them. He was still trying to participate in an
authentic conversation! Not only should the meaning of an exchange be clear, so
should its purpose.

3. Elaboration. There were many different ways this exchange could have gone. What
would have happened had the teacher said to Cal, after establishing that what he
wanted was another apple slice, “I don’t blame you for wanting another one. They’re
really good. What other fruit do you like?” That would have been an example of
elaboration, one of many possible, and it would have made more sense to Cal.

4. Connection. Connecting with the learner’s interest and experience is probably the
most critical characteristic of an effective interaction. By connecting each response
meaningfully to some aspect of the learner’s experience or interests, teachers can
gently push learners to participate in more oral exchanges and, in the process,
acquire new words and phrases and, quite possibly, new knowledge and higher level
thinking skills.

While very common, this kind of recitation questioning is not the only kind of interaction in
which teachers and learners can participate. The “instructional conversation” (Stipek, 2002;
Williams, 2001) is another discussion format, and it is one that shares the same four char-
acteristics but encourages a high level of participation by ELLs, constituting interaction that
has the potential for being highly effective. The discussion that happens in an instructional
conversation engages students because it is interesting and relevant. For learners with lim-
ited language proficiency, it may be difficult to engage in lengthy high-level discussions, but
there are a few prompts and responses that can help keep learners engaged, as we can see in
Feedback Matters: Twelve Useful Responses.

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

Feedback Matters: Twelve Useful Responses
To keep learners engaged in discussions, try the following responses:

1. I think you’re right! Can you tell me more?
2. That’s right. How did you learn that?
3. That’s right. Why do you think it’s important?
4. I think you’re right about ____, but why do you think ____?
5. That’s close, but something’s missing. What about . . . ?
6. I think I understand what you mean, but in English we usually say____.
7. I’m not sure I understand. Can you say it another way?
8. That’s a good question to ask. That’s how we learn.
9. You are asking (teacher paraphrases the question). Right? Who can help me with an

answer to that?

Sometimes learners do not respond, either because they need more time or because they lack
the language to respond. Helpful responses are still possible:

10. Think about it and let me know when you’re ready.
11. Can you draw it or act it out?
12. Let’s ask the question this way and you can tell me “yes” or “no.”

The goal of responses in any kind of interaction is to elaborate, expand, and build learners’
language and content knowledge.

Positive, supportive, helpful responses help create a safe environment for interaction that
helps to grow language proficiency. As Mohr and Mohr point out, the teacher’s behavior can
yield other positive benefits for learners: “If teachers model the use of feedback that extends
student responses, students may likely follow the teacher’s example in their small group dis-
cussion with peers . . . . Thus, the patterns that are established during teacher-directed inter-
action may be used in conversations between students” (2007, para. 31).

Practical Applications
We have examined the role of comprehensible input, affect, and interaction, focusing primar-
ily on their impact on the learner’s acquisition of language. How do ELL teachers use this
information in practice? In other words, what does communicative teaching actually entail?
To answer this question, we must take a closer look at the defining characteristics of a com-
municative teaching approach, delving deeper into its defining characteristics.

5.4 Communicative Language Teaching
Communicative language teaching was developed during the 1980s, partly in response to
the immediate communicative needs of English learners in the United States and other English-
speaking countries. The approach was also a result of the growing awareness among linguists

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

The Chomskyan View of Language Acquisition
Rejecting the “blank slate” view of the infant mind, Chomsky contended that children are born
with an innate capacity, or a language acquisition device, that makes language learning an
inevitability—all they need is exposure. His theory was based on several observations about
children learning language:

• There is an optimal age for language learning. Children are most likely to learn lan-
guages fully and fluently between the ages of three and ten. Learning after puberty is
possible, but it is more difficult.


that first and second language acquisition were very similar processes. Stephen Krashen and
Tracy Terrell took the goal of communicative competence even further and developed the
natural approach, which eschewed use of the first language and emphasized helping learn-
ers to develop vocabulary through meaningful interaction (Krashen & Terrell, 1983; Govoni,
2011). The natural approach has been adapted, modified, and tweaked by practitioners over
the years, but its tenets remain central to what we now refer to broadly as communicative
language teaching, or the interactive approach. Any effective teaching method begins with the
goal for the learner. For ELLs, the goal is clear—being a successful communicator. What does
that entail? It requires the learner to know

• How to use English for a variety of purposes and functions,
• How to adjust language according to the participants and the setting of the

• How to read and write different types of text, and
• Strategies to use to sustain communication even with limited linguistic ability.

The theoretical underpinnings of the communicative/interactive approach, consistent with
the Chomskyan View of Language Acquisition but refined and added to in recent decades,
assume that language learning is a result of processes such as

• Interaction between learners and other users of the language.
• The collaborative construction and negotiation of meaning (speaker and hearer

work together to reach understanding).
• Paying attention to language input and actively incorporating new forms.
• Paying attention to feedback.
• Trying out new forms of language, even if imperfect.
• Experimenting with different ways of saying things (adapted from Richards,

2006, p. 4).

These assumptions about what students need to learn and how they learn it are consistent
with the four characteristics that have come to define communicative language teaching
(Richards, 2006; Spada, 2006). We will examine each of these characteristics in the following

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Teaching Is Learner-centered
The first characteristic of communicative language teaching is that it is learner-centered. The
most important way to realize this characteristic is to make sure that the language used is at
the appropriate level for the learner, as we will see shortly in discussing the comprehensible
input theory. But student-centered learning has other implications as well:

• Learners are expected to assume greater responsibility for their own learning,
participate in cooperative learning activities, and work in pairs or small groups
on tasks.

• The teacher is a facilitator and monitor of learning and progress. Where teachers
were once seen as models of correct usage whose purpose was to structure exer-
cises to elicit only error-free utterances and to work toward eradicating any errors
that were made, student-centered learning requires teachers to plan and engage in
meaningful communicative activities.

• Teachers tailor classroom activities to the interest, age, and language levels of

• Teachers create environments that optimize opportunities for interaction and
learning. The first step in creating such an environment is establishing how the
classroom will be configured for optimal language learning. There are several
options, some of which are more conducive to language learning than others
(Figure 5.1).

The Chomskyan View of Language Acquisition (continued)
• Children do not need a “trigger” for the process to begin. Parents do not need to teach

or coach children to speak. If they are surrounded by language, they will pick it up on
their own.

• As they acquire their first language, there are certain kinds of errors children never
make—they do not get the basic constituent order wrong (subject-verb-object
in English).

• Developmental errors do occur as children figure out the rules of the language, but
these tend to be of a lesser magnitude—the wrong tense or the wrong plural—
indicating that children are in the process of working out just how the rules work.

• Correcting these developmental errors is not effective. For example, a four-year-old who
says “forgotted” might respond to a parent’s correction by saying “forgot,” but she will
not change her behavior until she eventually learns that the regular past tense does not
apply to this word and certain others.

• Children go through regular and predictable stages of language acquisition no matter
what language they are learning or where.

Source: Chomsky, 1968; Lemetyinen, 2012; Piper, 2007

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

Communicative Teaching Does Not Focus on Errors
The second characteristic of communicative teaching is that it does not focus on errors. Errors
are seen as developmental, meaning that most will disappear as competence grows. Although
communicative teaching does not completely ignore errors, the focus in the classroom is nei-
ther on preventing nor correcting them. Error correction is rarely explicit, but when it occurs,







Figure 5.1: Arranging for language learning

How a classroom is configured can aid or impede language learning. Which of these configurations
would be least helpful for facilitating communicative language learning?

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

it has to be followed by opportunities for learners to use the correct form in meaningful and
relevant contexts. It frustrates, discourages, and sometimes confuses a child who is trying to
communicate something to have the teacher interject to fix her verb form. Consider the fol-
lowing exchange between Maria, age seven, and her teacher:

Maria: I forgotted my lunch, so I buyed some.

Teacher: I forgot my lunch so I bought some.

Maria: Really? What did you get?

Maria was oblivious to her teacher’s attempt to correct her mistake and so the teacher

Teacher: Maria, the word is forgot. I forgot my lunch.

Maria: I know. Me too. I forgotted my lunch.

There are times when it is appropriate to correct errors. However, teachers who understand
that Maria’s “forgotted” and “buyed” are both positive indications that she is acquiring the
regular past tense form will realize that she will get it sorted out by herself in time. Correcting
her now serves no purpose and may even keep her from speaking. The error in Maria’s verb
forms did not interfere with her making herself understood, and so attempting to focus her
attention on a grammatical form is pointless. On the other hand, consider the following utter-
ances, both made by Spanish speakers:

I buy (this book) at library.
I like cheap chocolate cookie.

In Spanish, libreria means “bookstore,” In fact, many Latin languages have a similar root, and
this Spanish speaker assumed that English would behave like Spanish. This lexical (word mean-
ing) error is called a cognate, and in this case, it interferes with meaning. There are two errors
in the second sentence, one a phonological error and the other a word order error. Spanish does
not mark the distinction between long and short “i” in the way that English does, and so chip/
cheap is not an unusual error. The word order mistake could have several explanations, includ-
ing the fact that the learner will have heard “cheap” as an adjective occurring before a noun in
many different contexts. All three errors in these two sentences potentially interfere with the
meaning that a learner wants to create, and so the thoughtful teacher will listen carefully to the
learner. If the errors or similar errors are repeated, then correction may be needed. If so, it is
important to not make the learner feel uncomfortable and to make the exercise as meaningful
and relevant as possible. In the case of the distinction between chip and cheap, it is sometimes
helpful to illustrate how the written language distinguishes between the long and short “i.”

Communicative Teaching Emphasizes Listening and Speaking
The abilities to converse in social settings and to communicate effectively in school are essential
components of communicative competence, as we have seen. Literacy is also built on a firm foun-
dation of oral language. Teachers using communicative methods understand that it is impor-
tant to provide ample opportunity for listening and speaking in the classroom; this is the third
characteristic of communicative language teaching. ELLs need to hear the language of the school
and of the content area in a way that they can understand. Listening and speaking in meaning-
ful contexts, as opposed to repetition of “correct” but irrelevant utterances, help students learn
vocabulary and sentence structure that will help them when they begin to read and write.

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Section 5.4 Communicative Language Teaching

It can be a challenge for teachers to find opportunities for authentic oral language use with
beginning ELLs without resorting to the first language. This is where we find inspiration
from our knowledge of first language acquisition. Even though they don’t have to be taught
their first language, parents or other caregivers assist them by simplifying their speech and
by providing context: they point, they hold up objects as they name them, they talk their
way through familiar routines so that infants learn to associate words with what they repre-
sent. One method that some teachers have used to teach oral language to beginners is total
physical response (TPR). Using this method, teachers construct a series of short active sen-
tences that that correspond to activities that the learners can perform. For example, a TPR
routine might consist of the following:

I pick up the book.
I open the book.
I find page 3.
I close the book.

For beginners, this is considered an authentic language activity because it teaches them
words they will need in the classroom in the context of the classroom. Having the learners
perform the appropriate activity with each sentence is a way of engaging kinetic memory
to reinforce linguistic memory. Consider that this simple exercise has used only nine words
and two sentence structures. Students can learn it easily, and the teacher can build upon it to
teach both new vocabulary and classroom routines simultaneously:

I put the book in my bag .
I lift the bag.
I carry the bag to the door .
I open the door.

Notice that a new structural component has been introduced with the two prepositional
phrases (highlighted), as well as a new pronoun (my), two new nouns, and three new verbs.
Obviously, TPR will not work as the only method of instruction and would not be effective
with more advanced learners, but its principles are sound and useful for teaching basic vocab-
ulary and sentence structures that can be used immediately in the classroom setting without
need for translation.

Communicative Teaching Does Not Rely on Home Language
Translation does not play a role in the communicative approach to teaching; the home lan-
guage is not used. This is the fourth characteristic of communicative language teaching. The
goal is not to replace the home language but to add a new language, and the belief is that
learners will master English sooner if they focus entirely on learning it. More specifically,
requiring learners to communicate only in English is based on the assumption that first and
second language learning are very similar processes. Since very young children acquire their
first language without being taught or without translation, it follows that the older learner,
with more cognitive resources to call upon, can learn a new language with the appropriate
input—comprehensible input, as we saw above. To be most effective, input needs to be not
just comprehensible but compelling. It has to be of such interest that a learner is willing, in a
sense, to overlook the fact that it is in another language.

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

With early-stage learners, compelling content will need more than language as a mode of
presentation. To state the obvious, early-stage learners are not going to be compelled by what
they cannot understand, and a teacher monologue absent any visual props will not motivate
them to learn.

As we have seen, communicative language teaching is a broad approach defined by four
principles and can embrace a variety of methods with the ultimate goal of preventing ELLs
from becoming long-term language learners, but providing guidance for teachers of those
who do.

The Long-term Language Learner
Most of the preceding discussion has focused on teaching elementary school learners, espe-
cially, but not exclusively, beginners. The goal for these learners is to keep them from becom-
ing long-term language learners, those who have been in school for more than six years
(although some standards specify an upper limit of three years) but have not yet attained
adequate linguistic proficiency or the content knowledge appropriate to their grade level. For
a number of reasons, some outside the control of the schools, a significant number will reach
middle school without the language or academic proficiency they need and with a great deal
less time to acquire them.

5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)
Researchers in California have determined that an ELL child entering kindergarten has a 50%
chance of becoming a long-term language learner. A recent study of more than 175,000 learn-
ers in 40 California school districts revealed that 59% of secondary ELLs are long-term learn-
ers, a number that is likely to increase (Olsen, 2010). These learners are part of a national
population of ELLs, half of who were born in this country—some may be second- or even
third-generation immigrants—and have attended U.S. schools since kindergarten (Ferlazzo &
Sypnieski, 2012). These are the learners considered to be long-term language learners. Many
will have high levels of proficiency in social English but will lack the literacy skills they need
to succeed in the content areas. Arguably, the various accountability movements, by putting
pressure on schools to achieve rapid language acquisition, have increased the number, but
many other factors contribute.

How ELLs Become LTELLs
One of the reasons why half of ELLs who enter kindergarten in this country will become
LTELLs is that many spend long periods of time with little or no language learning support.
Unfortunately, many school districts in this country do not have, or have not had, a sufficient
number of teachers professionally trained to identify and appropriately place ELLs or to
teach them. Without specially trained teachers, and facing the kinds of pressures described
in Chapters 1 and 2, it is unlikely that these districts will have the kinds of curricular and
learning support materials that they need to provide for the needs of ELLs. Similarly, as the
demography of the country has changed, often quickly, schools that never had ELLs have
found themselves ill-prepared to provide effective program options.

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

Another factor that contributes to the failure of some ELLs to achieve grade-level profi-
ciency in a timely manner is inappropriate placement. Studying high school LTELLs who had
attended U.S. schools for seven years or longer, New York researchers implemented and eval-
uated a bi-literacy program in two high schools. They began by examining the reasons for the
learners’ limited literacy in either language.

Our findings indicate that a principal cause for LTELL students’ limited liter-
acy skills in either language is that they have attended U.S. schools in the past
that primarily emphasized their English acquisition. Students have attended
English-only programs (such as English as a second language [ESL] and main-
stream) and/or “weak” forms of bilingual education, rather than consistently
attending programs that offer them the opportunity to develop native lan-
guage literacy skills. In addition, we have found that the students often move
in and out of bilingual education, ESL, and mainstream classrooms. (Menken,
Kleyn, & Chae, 2007, p. 1)

English language learners may also have been assigned to specialized intervention programs
for native speakers, often on the basis of achievement or proficiency test scores. Proficiency
and progress assessments designed for native speakers are often unfair, under representing
what ELLs know or the progress they have made (Chapter 4). The result is that too many ELLs
are assigned to programs for the learning disabled or to remedial reading or speech language
programs designed for native speakers (Chapter 9). These are generally not helpful and, in
fact, severely limit ELLs’ opportunity to learn at grade level. This is not the only practice that
exacerbates the problem. Other seemingly appropriate options can result in ELLs having lim-
ited access to the full curriculum. If, for example, ELLs are in “pull-out” programs (Chapter 4)
in which they are removed from the mainstream class for English lessons, without careful
scheduling they will routinely miss content instruction in the class. Learners who have had
these kinds of experiences along with those who represent a small proportion of school popu-
lation may come to experience social and linguistic isolation. Feelings of isolation and exclu-
sion greatly reduce the likelihood that they will engage in the kinds of interaction conducive
to learning English and succeeding in school (Olsen, 2010). This is a lesson that sixth grade
teacher Kara Crosby learned firsthand, as we see in A Teacher’s Story: Marta.

A Teacher’s Story: Marta

Marta was one of only three ELLs in my sixth grade class. From the first day, Marta appeared
to be a loner. She came from Slovakia and her English was as good as, or better than, the two
others ELLs, who spoke Spanish and English. I knew that Marta had been in the same class
with most of the other 23 students in our small town for two years, but she had apparently
made no friends and rarely joined in activities with the other children. After a couple of
weeks, I went to her fifth grade and fourth grade teachers and asked about her. They were
puzzled, too, about why she seemed so unhappy. They had both gotten to know Marta’s
family, and characterized them as loving, supportive, and as clueless as her teachers were
about Marta’s lack of adjustment. After another few weeks, I went to talk to Principal Hayes
about her.


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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

Some learners in middle and high school may appear to be LTELLs but are not. Between 9%
and 20% of ELLs in this age group are newcomers or refugees. “While some of these stu-
dents come with high literacy skills and content knowledge, the majority . . . are students with
interrupted formal education . . . who have had two or more years of interrupted schooling in
their home country” (Ferlazzo & Sypnieski, 2012, Adolescent ELLs & long-term ELLs, para. 1).
A Teacher’s Story: Life Interrupted is the story of one such child. With such limited formal
education and low levels of first language literacy, these learners have a great deal of catching
up to do and, because of their ages, not much time in which to do it. Long-term learners, then,
are a major challenge for schools and teachers. If we are to assist LTELLs across the academic
hurdles they face and avoid creating more LTELLs, we must first address some of the miscon-
ceptions about LTELLs.

A Teacher’s Story: Life Interrupted

Not long ago I ran into a former student of mine. Years before, Kam had arrived in my third
grade class a few weeks after the year began, speaking almost no English. From what I could
learn, I estimated that Kam had attended school very sporadically for the previous two years,
and it showed in his lack of preparation. He couldn’t read in Vietnamese, English, or any other
language. But by June, I thought that Kam was well on his way to becoming a success story.
I was assigned a 3-4 split for the following year, and I was hoping that Kam would be in the
class. It certainly made sense that he would be since he hadn’t reached fourth grade proficiency
in language or social studies, although he had made great strides. But Kam didn’t return to
school, and I never knew what happened to him until he came up to me in Baskin-Robbins and
introduced himself. A grown man now, Kam was well spoken and soft spoken. I asked about


A Teacher’s Story: Marta (continued)

Mrs. Hayes was new to the school, having arrived from a middle school outside Chicago. She
promised to investigate further. A few days later she came back with what she believed was
the answer. She explained that the program designed for Marta by Mrs. Hayes’ predecessor
had required that she spend a good part of each day in an ESL class, which she had done for
two years. She made excellent progress there, and even though she missed some important
content in fourth grade, she quickly caught up during fifth grade as her English got stronger
and stronger. The problem clearly wasn’t academic, but Mrs. Hayes strongly suspected it was
caused by social isolation. She believed that Marta had felt isolated and perhaps hadn’t even
been in the general classroom enough to make close friends, and, as I knew, she was at an age
when friendships had become especially important. She suggested that I refocus my attention
on using group activities in the class and monitor them to see which other students Marta was
best able to relate to. I did that, and as I identified first one, and then two, and then three others
that she worked well with, I included those students in the group with her most of the time.
Happily, by Christmas, there was a marked improvement, and by the end of the school year,
Marta seemed almost happy.

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

Mistaken Beliefs About LTELLs
One of the major misconceptions is that time spent speaking or reading and writing the home
language is wasted because what these learners need is more time in English. Yes, as we have
seen, exposure to English is very important. But there is compelling research to demonstrate that
literacy in the home language helps the learner in acquiring literacy skills in another (August &
Shanahan, 2006; Genessee et. al., 2006). It also gives them confidence about their ability to learn.

Bilingual programs are beyond the means of many districts, but elementary school teachers
and leaders should encourage home literacy, whatever the language (Chapter 4). Dr. Deborah
Short points out that the majority of adolescent ELLs are second- or third-generation immi-
grants, meaning that it is likely that their families may still be struggling with literacy. On the
other hand, recently arrived ELLs with high levels of education and literacy in the home lan-
guage can frequently acquire both academic English and content and exit special programs
within two years or so (Short, 2011).

Another common misconception is that LTELLs cannot learn to read and write without being
proficient in oral language. For younger children, this is generally true, but for adolescent
learners, it is not necessarily the case. They need a variety of authentic language experiences,
oral and written, but with their greater cognitive and “puzzle solving” abilities, they can usu-
ally benefit from exposure to content text better than younger learners. Some adolescent
learners struggle with correct pronunciation and because of their age are less willing to speak
for fear of making errors. For these learners, especially, time spent on reading and writing
provides them with opportunities to expand their vocabulary, knowledge of sentence struc-
ture, and content-area knowledge in a nonthreatening way.

Is There Hope for LTELLs?
Undoubtedly, for learners who have been in school for more than six years, the prognosis is
grim if we rely on what the numbers tell us. But teachers don’t teach numbers: They teach
individuals, and for most of them there is hope. Often, it is a matter of finding the appropriate
approach to use with these learners. While some aspects of language learning are easier for
younger learners, adolescent learners may have an advantage in learning and applying the
rules of language. Whereas with younger learners, we might take a more natural approach,

A Teacher’s Story: Life Interrupted (continued)

what he’d been doing, and he looked down at the floor, embarrassed. “I work,” he told me. “Did
you finish school?” I asked. He told me that his family had taken him back to live in Cambodia,
waiting until it was safe to return to Vietnam. After a few years, they returned to the States and
he went back to school, this time in seventh grade. He said he hadn’t been to school much in
between and he was way behind. It was hard, he said, but he could do the math, he worked hard,
and he thought he was doing okay. Then, when his ninth grade teacher told his parents he was
only reading at a third grade level, they decided to take him out of school and put him to work.
“We own a business,” he said, proudly. “I cook and keep books.” But his demeanor told me that he
had regrets, and a moment later, he confirmed it: “I wish I stay in school,” he said. “I wish.”

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

letting them figure out the rules of grammar by engaging in authentic language experiences,
with older learners it is sometimes more efficient either to explain a rule or to give them
enough instances of a structure for them to figure it out.

Adolescence is also a time of great creativity and the incipience of higher order thinking skills,
all of which make them faster learners than younger learners (Sparks, 2011). They have more
highly developed metacognitive ability, meaning that they are able to examine and reflect on
their own language learning processes and to make use of previous language learning experi-
ences. They can, in fact, be far more efficient in learning English—it’s just that they have so
much more to learn than five- or six-year-olds. Still, the potential is there to be tapped. If a
teacher can find out what interests and inspires the LTELL to want to learn—to find the com-
pelling material described earlier—then a great deal of progress is possible.

Meeting the Needs of Long-term Learners
If teachers are to help LTELLs make progress, they should begin by building relationships.
They should get to know their students and their families, if possible, to build trust, respect,
and a sense of partnership in the business of learning. Research supports the importance of
relationship building for LTELLs: A five-year study of over 400 immigrant children revealed
that “supportive school-based relationships strongly contribute to . . . the academic engage-
ment of the participants” (Suárez-Orozco, Pimentel, & Martin, 2009, p. 713). Creating an envi-
ronment of trust and safety is only the first step in assisting LTELLs. What comes next?

There is a genuine urgency to help LTELLs. Since they are a heterogeneous group, differenti-
ated instructional strategies will be necessary, and many of the techniques and strategies
suggested throughout the remainder of the book will be appropriate, with some modification.
One of the significant differences is that each LTELL will need an individualized instructional
plan that takes into account his or her particular ability or skill gaps. Even though a learner
may have an especially notable deficit in one domain, such as writing, every learner needs an
approach that includes attention to all four domains plus critical thinking skills. In particular,
it is important to concentrate on reading in the content area because all academic learning
is dependent on the ability to read and to close gaps in content knowledge. To help LTELLs,
especially those who appear to be “fossilized,” schools need to consider the following:

1. Focused reading, writing, and vocabulary across the curriculum (subject-specific).
Advance organizers can be of help! Graphic organizers can be helpful especially for
younger or beginning learners (one is illustrated in Chapter 6). Older learners can
benefit from text-based organizers that show them what to expect from the text, as
shown in Example of a Text-based Organizer.

2. Careful selection of texts to ensure rigorous content in comprehensible language.
3. Build background for students before they read (or listen or watch a film)

so that they know what to expect and look for. “This is a story of a gruesome
murder . . . .”

4. When teaching literature, stay near grade level to maintain interest (don’t use
second grade stories with fifth graders, or fifth grade stories with high school

5. Use available technologies!
6. Strategic creation of groups that integrate ELLs with content-proficient native

7. School-wide emphasis on study skills and self-awareness of learning processes.

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

8. Accommodation for testing. Most states and districts have policies governing what
kinds of testing accommodation are allowed for certain assessments, some of which
are described in Assessment Accommodations for ELLs.

9. Use overt instruction for problematic structures but within authentic context (real
text). It’s okay to teach some sound-symbol correspondence—how sounds get
represented in letters—but always within a meaningful context. Point it out, provide
or elicit another example or two, and move on.

10. Link reading and writing and focus on reading comprehension rather than oral reading.
11. Keep portfolios of work to assist in determining progress (which should be carefully

12. Individual, group, or class projects focusing toward a common goal that they work

toward over time.
13. Finally, the fact that 70% of all ELLs speak Spanish (Short, 2011) means that

schools may be able to benefit from bilingual programs such as those described in
Chapter 4. Even if school leaders are unable to establish a bilingual program, they
may have the resources to assess and help ELLs develop the Spanish literacy skills
that can benefit them.

Example of a Text-based Organizer
Text-based organizers, sometimes in the form of outlines, can be used to help ELLs, particu-
larly older learners, anticipate what is to come in a text. The following is an example of one
such organizer:

The Organization of Chapter 4 (example)

Principles of Assessment
Categories of Assessment
Proficiency Testing
Identifying and Placing ELLs
Oral Language Assessment
Reading and Writing Assessment
Monitoring Progress
ELL Program Options
English Mainstream Classroom
ELL Classroom
Bilingual Programs
English Learning Center
Sheltered Classroom
On Choosing
Instructional Methods
Structural Approaches
Functional Approaches
Communicative/Interactive Approaches

Teaching English Language Learners (next chapter)

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Section 5.5 Identifying the Long-term Learner (LTELL)

ELLs become long-term language learners for a variety of reasons, and one or more of the affec-
tive variables discussed earlier will undoubtedly be a factor, whether cause or result. As teach-
ers, our goal is to offer the kinds of instruction and support that ELLs need to progress at an
appropriate pace. Nevertheless, for many reasons, some beyond the teachers’ control, some will
struggle through six or more years of schooling without reaching grade level in language and
content. They are at higher risk for dropping out, for unemployment or underemployment, or
for being channeled into low-paying jobs. They deserve and need the concentrated attention of
schools and teachers engaged in productive, and often individualized, instruction.

Before leaving this chapter, let’s hear again from a teacher who learned on his own how to
implement communicative language teaching as he struggled to make content meaningful for
his ELLs. In Why I Teach: A Year to Remember, we see how Jorge developed methods consistent
with the comprehensive achievement test approach and put them into practice.

Assessment Accommodations for ELLs
Although research results cannot determine which, if any, particular accommodation is
unequivocally reasonable, most states allow some accommodation for ELLs for taking tests,
particularly standardized tests measuring achievement in content areas. They typically fall
into four categories, and some of the more commonly used ones include


• Increased test time.
• Breaks during test period.
• Text schedule extended (ELLs have more time to prepare).


• Test administered individually or in small group.
• Test given in setting with minimal distraction.
• Test administered in ESL classroom.
• Additional individual support provided in mainstream classroom (e.g., ESL teacher or



• Directions repeated in English.
• Directions read aloud in English.
• Key words in directions highlighted.
• Directions simplified.
• Directions explained or clarified in home language.
• Test items read aloud in English.
• Simplified English version of test provided.


• Copying assistance provided between drafts (essays or essay answers).
• Spelling assistance/spelling dictionaries or spelling and grammar checker

• Test taker dictates or uses a scribe to respond in English.

Source: Educational Testing Service, Research report no. 2008-6, Testing accommodation for English
language learners: A review of state and district policies. Retrieved from

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Summary & Resources

Summary & Resources

In this chapter we have looked at how a communicative theory of language acquisition is
supported by the three pillars of comprehensible input; the affective variables of motiva-
tion, attitude, anxiety, and self-confidence; and the quality of interaction. Understanding
how language is acquired is necessary, but this understanding alone is insufficient for
determining how to work within the framework of communicative language teaching, to
organize instruction, and to teach ELLs so that they do not become long-term language
learners, all while being consistent with the four defining characteristics of communica-
tive language teaching. We saw that communicative language teaching is learner- centered,
does not focus on errors, emphasizes listening and speaking, and does not rely on any
use of the home language. The goal of communicative language teaching is to keep ELLs
from becoming long-term language learners, those learners who are neither linguisti-
cally proficient nor able to meet grade-level content standards. Although LTELLs vary in
the skills they lack, almost all will lack adequate cognitive academic language proficiency
and therefore will not be able to meet grade-level content standards. Literacy skills are
at the heart of the problem, and they are also the solution. In Chapter 6 we will examine
in greater detail some of the approaches to teaching literacy that have been shown to be
effective and the importance of these approaches.

Key Ideas

1. The main goal of all ELL teachers is to help learners acquire all the English they need
for social and academic purposes while simultaneously learning the content knowl-
edge appropriate to their grade level.

Why I Teach: A Year to Remember
That was a very long year. When I got over my initial panic, I did a quick refresher on the
FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test) to see what my kids would be up against. I
started to devise strategies to teach them to take a test like this, but a it only took me about
two weeks to abandon that strategy. I decided instead to focus on the content of the math and
getting that across any way I could. I used all kinds of objects to make the lessons more inter-
esting, thinking that if they could touch and manipulate objects, the concepts would be more
tangible, more real. Reading worried me more. I knew that I could get an exemption for the
girl who was a true beginner, and when I looked at all the different kinds of text they’d have
to respond to, I wished I could exempt them all. But then I talked to a colleague. Her advice
was to make reading fun and interesting, help them to get the basics of vocabulary and word
identification in stories they wanted to read, and they’d get there. She was right. I told them
outlandish, fanciful stories about the adventures of two puppets we had in the room, Joe Bob
and Brutus, and then had them retell the stories while I typed them and they followed on
the smart board. A few weeks before the test, I started preparing them for the format and
doing practice tests with them. I was still worried, but not so much. When the results finally
came, I looked at their individual reports before I looked at the school’s. Of the 11 who had
written the tests, 10 scored at 2 or higher on a 5 point scale, which for ELLs was considered
adequate progress. Four of the kids scored above 3 in math. I was so proud! Of them. And that
is why I teach.

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Summary & Resources

affective factors The emotions and attitudes
that affect a learner’s state of mind and
willingness to learn. Also called variables.

affective filter An affective factor that,
when raised, screens out much of the lan-
guage input but, when lowered, make the
input available to the learner for processing.

communicative language teaching A
teaching approach that recognizes the simi-
larities between first and second language
acquisition, emphasizing interaction in
authentic settings as the way in which learn-
ers acquire a second language.

instrumental motivation Motivation to
learn that focuses on the practical advan-
tages that will accrue to the learner as a
result of learning the language.

integrative motivation Motivation to learn
that results from a learner’s genuine interest
in or affection for the language, its culture,
and its people.

interaction hypothesis A hypothesis
that focuses not so much on the language
that learners hear (the input hypothesis),
but on the importance of the communica-
tive environment. In its strongest form, the
hypothesis holds not only that interaction
with native speakers provides ELLs the
opportunity to learn language, but also that
the interaction itself contributes to second
language acquisition.

kinetic memory A form of procedural
memory that involves consolidating a spe-
cific motor task—such a dance movements,
bicycle riding, and steering a car—into
memory through repetition.

2. No matter what theoretical stance a teacher might take, the language used every day
in every class has to be presented in such a way that the learner understands the
intended meaning—it has to be comprehensible and at a level that is challenging but
not frustrating.

3. Affective factors can create barriers to language acquisition, but teachers can reduce
their impact by providing a safe, positive, and supportive environment.

4. The quality of interaction that occurs between ELLs and native speakers plays an
important role in the ELLs’ learning. In general, the more authentic, the better.

5. Authenticity does not mean that teachers should ignore grammar, pronunciation, or
vocabulary development or overt teaching. It means that instruction should always
expand upon the broader context of the lesson.

6. Teachers using communicative methods understand that it is important to provide
ample opportunity for listening and speaking in the classroom.

7. Error correction must be done judiciously, focusing on mistakes that cause or have
the potential to cause miscommunication. Especially with younger ELLs, it is helpful
to think of most oral language errors as “developmental.”

8. Early identification and correct placement of ELLs is critical because too many of
them spend long periods of time with little or no language learning support.

9. Focusing on reading is especially important for LTELLs because content learning is
heavily dependent on reading.

10. It is acceptable and often desirable to teach for LTELLs but always within a meaning-
ful context—point it out, provide or elicit another example or two, and move on.

Key Terms

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Summary & Resources

language acquisition Learning language
as an unconscious process and through the
product of normal interaction.

language learning Learning language
through formal instruction.

sound-symbol correspondence The rela-
tionship between the individual sounds in a

word and how those sounds are represented
in print.

total physical response (TPR) A teaching
approach based on the notion that learning
occurs with physical movement.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. Read the box Why I Teach: A Year to Remember again. How does Jorge’s experience
illustrate the importance of the comprehensible input hypothesis, the interaction
hypothesis, and the affective filter hypothesis?

2. Krashen states that despite his belief that learners acquire grammatical forms in a
mostly predictable order, this order should not be used for designing a syllabus or
course (see the box Krashen’s Five Hypotheses). Why? (Hint: Would it violate any of
the tenets of communicative language teaching?)

3. What are the theoretical and practical reasons for teaching all levels of ELLs using
only English?

4. Construct a short TPR (total physical response) routine appropriate for first-grade
beginners in English. Explain why you chose the topic you chose for them.

5. As stated in this chapter, “The goal is not to replace the home language but to add a
new language, and the belief is that learners will master English sooner if they focus
entirely on learning it.” How do you reconcile this statement with this book’s asser-
tion that first language literacy is important to the development of literacy in the
second language?

6. How do you think that affective variables might interfere with the comprehensibility
of input? Be specific.

7. Five-year-old Sofia is an ELL learner who produced the following sentences. Which
errors she makes are likely to be developmental? Which, if any, would you correct?
a. I no like mango.
b. My mama no like mango too.
c. I like banán.
d. No wants mango.

8. Review the box Assessment Accommodations for ELLs. For each accommodation, sug-
gest one kind of test or one category of ELL for which the accommodation might not
be appropriate.

9. What cultural factors should be taken into consideration when considering appro-
priate forms of interaction for ELLs?

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Summary & Resources

Additional Resources
For succinct guidelines for implementing communicative teaching techniques, see

For an exceptional discussion and examples of appropriate and effective teacher feedback,

Experts provide an excellent introduction to middle and high school ELLs at

Dr. Deborah Short (2011) provides an excellent overview of the middle and high school ELL
learner together with strategies for teaching ELLs, especially literacy, in a webcast at

For an overview of teaching academic English to ELLs, see

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