This page provides a brief introductory comment on the language learning process and several documents (below) that answer your questions with suggested strategies for you to use in your classrooms.

The goal for beginning language learners is just that; Language Learning.

Teachers need to differentiate instruction so that beginning language learners focus on:
  • essential, cross-curricular, useful language/vocabulary
  • core, cross-curricular, enduring understandings. For example: 'heat' and 'pressure' are more important than 'igneous' and 'metamorphic'. (Vocabulary and concepts that are only useful for a written test are not essential/enduring understandings.)

Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) usually takes 2 - 3 years to acquire. This is social, face-to-face language.

Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) can take up to 7 - 9 years to acquire. This is vocabulary found mainly in texts and within classroom lessons and discussions around academic topics, such as: "predict, solve, infer, complete, describe, explain, create, demonstrate, simplify, communicate, refer, analyze, summarize, research", etc.

Over time and with a lot of interaction with native English speakers, along with grade-appropriate curriculum, the learning focus will shift towards using language to acquire content knowledge.

Our job as teachers is to accelerate language acquisition by:
- getting to know our students in order to scaffold their learning according to their needs
- differentiating instruction, assignments, assessment; see "Success for all Learners; Differentiating Instruction", 1996
- providing lots of talking opportunities with native English speakers - especially classmates! (addresses BICS needs)
- providing materials for extended reading that is at, or just slightly beyond, individual student's reading comprehension level. (addresses CALP needs)

My EAL blog; provides a brief overview of roles for classroom teachers, students and E.A.s

Information and advice for classroom teachers

FAQ: Answers to many questions with additional helpful links.

How can I make my classroom welcoming to newcomers?

What can language learners do right from the start?

What basics of language learning do I need to know?

What should I focus on in my academic instruction/lessons to support language learners?

What does a responsive classroom look like?

What can I expect new language learners to do?

What can I do to support non-English speaking students? LOTS!!

What is the foundation for my approach to working with language learners?

What should I know about what IS and is NOT helpful?

How can I include non-English speaking students in everything we do in class?