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Fatih Gn, 2011554059

ESL Strategies: What Works in Second Language Instruction

Rosa Flores, M.Ed.


It is often said that the best way to develop students? English language skills is to
totally immerse them in an all-English environment in which they hear, repeat, read
and write English only. Of the many recent studies regarding second language
learners, none support this common misconception. On the contrary, research
shows that the most effective way for non-English speakers to develop both an
understanding of academic concepts and English language proficiency is through
their first language. IDRA's experience in the field supports this; the teachers with
whom we work often state that students with previous educational experience who
are given content in their own language seem to do better academically than
language minority students placed under an English-only curriculum.
First language instruction provides the comprehensible input students need to
develop academic concepts. The reality is, however, that many second language
learners in middle schools and high schools do not receive instruction in their
native language. These students face learning both a new language and required
academic content at the same time. This reality has serious implications for the
way in which instructors teach language skills.
The needs of the second language learners in our secondary schools are unique.
The following suggestions can be used in the development of effective English-asa-Second-Language (ESL) instructional activities that specifically address those
needs. These suggestions delineate and discuss the key indicators presently used
to evaluate effective ESL instructional activities. An ESL instructional activity is
successful when it meets the following criteria:

1. Emphasis is placed on second language acquisition rather than on language


learning. Krashen (1982) clearly distinguishes between language acquisition and
language learning. Second language acquisition, he propounds, is similar to first
language acquisition where there may not be conscious awareness that learning is
taking place. In other words, language acquisition is not a learned process; rather,
it is an acquired skill. Language learning he applies to that system of language
instruction in which learning grammar rules, by such techniques as paper and
pencil activities, occurs prior to students internalizing the new language.
Language acquisition is aided when the teacher gives comprehensible input by
providing opportunities for hearing and using the second language in a natural,
low-anxiety environment. While rote memory exercises and paper and pencil
activities may minimally increase the students' proficiency, second language
learners tend to respond much more readily to meaningful conversations and
game-like activities.

Excellent opportunities for language redundancy can be found in everyday songs


and chants. Songs and chants give second language learners opportunities to
engage in practice with the appropriate native-speaker stress and intonation, can

Fatih Gn, 2011554059


help make the new language meaningful, and can reinforce the vocabulary and
specific structures according to situational contexts. Excellent instructional
materials are available that contain songs, raps and chants for the second
language learner that can make this type of activity fun and relevant for the
student. Initial physical activities such as Asher's Total Physical Response (TPR)
should be incorporated whenever possible. To introduce new language concepts,
TPR uses oral and written commands to initiate students' physical movement,
somewhat like the game Simon Says... The relaxed TPR environment provides
real-life situations with lots of natural, comprehensible input and engages students
in a variety of listening activities to expose them to the sounds of the new
language. As students receive meaningful messages, they begin to respond with
one or two word answers; these short responses become the building blocks for
their later use of phrases and sentences.
Using the objects around the room, the school and the community can be a
particularly profitable strategy for secondary school students since most are ready
and able to transfer knowledge from the first to the second language. In using the
world around them as a learning tool, students focus on labeling or giving new
names to objects and concepts they've already learned. Teachers have found that
the labeling of objects around the classroom easily provides significant results.
Additionally, field trips have proven an exciting and effective way to help students
acquire a new language naturally. Concepts new to the students and/or the
student's culture requires opportunities for hands-on learning. Students need
to see it, hear it, andtouch it, whenever possible. Unfamiliar concepts should be
introduced experientially in a meaningful and relevant format using age-appropriate
materials. If a concept is unfamiliar even in the students' native language, it is best
presented in the native language first if possible.
The use of ESL methodology can be used to introduce unknown concepts by
teachers lacking proficiency in the students' native language. Meaningful second
language instruction provides the opportunity for students to become more
proficient in the target language. Vocabulary is learned most easily when it is
integrated into a significant context-related setting. Language transmits meaning
best when it is tied to concrete, physical objects or activities. For second language
acquisition, content area instruction should be an all day effort that takes
advantage of every opportunity to infuse the new language with meaning.
Teachers may be the only English-speaking models to which the student have
access. It is important, therefore, that teachers model correct usage of new
language while allowing students to make the mistakes that are an inherent and
important part of language acquisition. Every new step takes the second language
learner closer to the goal of proficiency, so students should be praised for their
efforts and achievements; they should never be made to feel embarrassed by a
lack of skill in the target language. Game-like activities make provisions for second
language learners to feel comfortable taking risks in using their new language.
Instructors should ensure that students understand the important concepts and key
words used in each activity. By focusing on the key elements and vocabulary, the
teacher not only provides students with opportunities to use the target language,
but opportunities to quickly acquire meaning as well. Better end results can be
obtained when textbook content has been extracted to produce lessons specifically
adated to target language acquisition.

The whole language approach focuses on learning from the general to the specific,
or from the whole to the part. This style of instruction provides the meaningful
contexts that help students grasp new concepts. Techniques such as Language
Experience Activities (LEA), Total Physical Response (TPR), chants, drama and

Fatih Gn, 2011554059


other performances, word banks and journal writing can contribute to the creation
of meaningful context for the students. When students are actively involved in
whole language development, they acquire the target language naturally.
Integrating a thematic curriculum centered around interesting themes can help
students engage. By linking content area subject matter to theme-related topics,
the instructor can facilitate students' transitions from one subject to the next.
2. Natural redundancy in the use of language is used to reinforce language
acquisition.
3. The whole body is recognized as an excellent tool for language acquisition.
4. Concrete examples and objects in the environment are used to encourage second
language acquisition.
5. New concepts are presented contextually in a participatory manner with extensive
opportunities for practice.
6. Instruction for language acquisition is focused on meaning.
7. Students are encouraged to take risks in order to acquire the new language.
8. Teachers establish a background and context for the natural acquisition of
language.
9. Whole language strategies are used as an excellent means for teachers to meet
the needs of second language learners.
10. Holistic, integrated, thematic instruction is best used to provide language-enriched
learning.

Teaching a second language can be an arduous and painful task, or it can be a fun
and rewarding experience. Second language learners can be apathetic or
enthusiastic students depending on their classroom experiences. As teachers, we
set the tone with our attitudes and expressions as well as with the activities in
which we choose to involve our classes. The criteria presented can help you
choose fun, informative activities that provide students with meaningful learning of
content as well as second language acquisition toward increasing their English
language proficiency.

Resources
Asher, James J. (1982). Learning Another Language Through Actions: The Complete Teacher's
Guidebook. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions.
Cummins, J. (1986). Empowering Minority Students: A Framework for Intervention. Harvard
Educational Review, 56 (1).
Krashen, S.D. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergomon.
Krashen S.D. & T.D. Terrell. (1983). The Natural Approach. San Francisco, CA: The Alemany Press.
Langer, J. A. & G. R. Tucker. (1990). Construction in School Literacy Tasks. American Educational
Research Journal, 27, 427-471.

Fatih Gn, 2011554059


In the article, firstly it is stated that the students who are given instructions using L1 seem to
do better that the ones who are given instructions using L2. So an English-only environment
is not always useful as it seems to be. But in many schools, second language learners do not
receive any instructions in their native language and they have difficulties as they have to be
successfull in both learning the language and the academic content.
The the article goes on with suggestions to give effective instructions in ESL classrooms.
Students learn language by learning grammar rules, by such techniques as paper and pencil
activities, etc. While these activities may improve the students proficiency, second language
learners tend to respond much more easily to meaningful conversations and game-like
activities. So, second language learners can engage in practice and reinforce the vocabulary
and specific structures according to situational contexts. As students start to receive
understandable input, they begin to respond with one or two word answers, which will be the
first steps for their use of the target language. Meaningful second language instruction also
provides the opportunity for students to become more proficient in the target language. If a
concept is unfamiliar even in the students' native language, it is best presented in the native
language first if possible.

Mostly teachers are the only English-speaking models to the students in schools. Therefore,
it is important for the teachers to allow the students to make mistakes while teaching the new
language. As the students make mistakes, they will get closer to language proficiency so the
students should never be made to feel embarrassed by lack of skills in the target language,
they should be praised for their efforts instead. By focusing on the key elements and
vocabulary, the teacher not only provides students with opportunities to use the target
language, but also opportunities to quickly acquire meaning as well.
To sum up, the article mainly states that the needs of the second language learners in
schools are important so the development of effective ESL instructional activities that
specifically address those needs would be beneficial. When students are actively involved in
whole language development, they acquire the target language naturally.