The Stages of Second Language Acquisition

[Facilitator:Show Slide 14.]

Key Ideas for Chapter 2
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Students acquiring a second language progress through five predictable stages. Effective ELL instruction Reflects students' stages of language acquisition. Helps students move through the language acquisition levels. Engages ELLs at all stages of language acquisition in higher-level thinking activities. [Facilitator:Show Slide 15.]

The Five Stages of Second Language Acquisition
Anyone who has been around children who are learning to talk knows that the process happens in stages — first understanding, then one-word utterances, then two-word phrases, and so on. Students learning a second language move through five predictable stages: Preproduction, Early Production, Speech Emergence, Intermediate Fluency, and Advanced Fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). How quickly students progress through the stages depends on many factors, including level of formal education, family background, and length of time spent in the country. It is important that you tie instruction for each student to his or her particular stage of language acquisition. Knowing this information about each student allows you to work within his or her zone of proximal development—that gap between what students can do on their own and what they can with the help of more knowledgeable individuals (Vygotsky, 1978). Another reason for all teachers to gain insights into their students' stages of second language acquisition is to meet the requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, which requires ELLs to progress in their content knowledge and in their English language proficiency. How are we going to accomplish this if we are not all responsible for content and language?

Activity
Complete the "stages" activity in Appendix 4. If time allows, add two more teacher strategies to each stage. When you are finished, answer these questions:

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Why should we be aware of the stages of language acquisition? What are the implications of the stages for mainstream instruction?

262). One way for mainstream teachers to engage their ELLs more is by asking tiered questions. Sample Teacher Prompts for Each Stage of Second Language Acquisition Approximate Stage Preproduction Characteristics The student Time Frame 0–6 months Teacher Prompts     Early Production Has minimal comprehension.Tiered Questions Research shows that high levels of student engagement are "a robust predictor of student achievement and behavior in school" (Klem & Connell. Of course. Although there may be an approximate time frame for each stage of language acquisition. drawing. or circling response. questions that require a pointing. To ensure that the student is being challenged and pushed to the next level. 6 months–1 year         Yes/no questions Either/or questions Who …? What …? How many …? . it is important to once in a while ask questions from the next level as well. Asking the tiered questions that accompany the stages of acquisition is one way to help students move to the next stage. [Facilitator:Explain tiered questions while showing Slides 16–17. questions should be tailored to each ELL's level of second language acquisition. Uses key words and familiar phrases.     Show me … Circle the … Where is …? Who has …? The student Has limited comprehension Produces one. It is even OK to ask Preproduction students a question every so often that requires a one-word response. Figure 2. Figure 2. Nods "Yes" and "No.1. the length of time students spend at each level will be as varied as the students themselves.1. it is OK to ask Preproduction students "Where is …?" or "Who has …?" questions—that is. because we always want to transition them to the next stage. We recommend that teachers ask frequent questions throughout their lessons. 2004. as doing so lets ELLs practice their new language and helps teachers assess how much of the content the ELLs understand. p. Does not verbalize. you can engage students at the correct level of discourse. By knowing the stages of language acquisition and stage-appropriate questions.1 summarizes the five stages of language acquisition and shows some appropriate prompts and sample questions to use for each stage of second language acquisition.or two-word responses.] As you can see from Figure 2." Draws and points.

Frequently misunderstands jokes. Can produce simple sentences. a 1st grade teacher asks the school ESL teacher to demonstrate the strategy in her class during a discussion of The Three Little Pigs. such as yes/no and either/or questions. . Classroom Example To improve her ability to ask tiered questions. It is OK to sometimes ask these students questions requiring a multiple-sentence response. How about Intermediate and Advanced Fluency students? It is OK to ask them questions that require a lot of verbal output.    What would happen if …? Why do you think …? Questions requiring more than a sentence response Advanced Fluency The student has a nearnative level of speech. Early Production: Ask questions that students can answer with one or two words ("Did the brick house fall down?" "Who blew down the straw house?")." "Where is the house?"). You also want to begin asking students at this stage questions that require a phrase or short sentence. the ESL teacher asks the following types of tiered questions:   Preproduction: Ask questions that students can answer by pointing at pictures in the book ("Show me the wolf. are acceptable.     Why …? How …? Explain … Questions requiring phrase or short-sentence answers Intermediate Fluency The student 3–5 years   Has excellent comprehension. but it is not OK to ask them questions requiring minimal verbal output. The student 1–3 years     Has good comprehension. You can use tiered questions to include all ELLs in whole-class activities or one on one to check comprehension or content learning. questions that require a one-word response. Makes few grammatical errors. Makes grammar and pronunciation errors. Speech Emergence Uses present-tense verbs. Speech Emergence students should be asked to answer questions that require a short-sentence response. you will need to know each student's stage of language acquisition. For each stage of second language acquisition. but it is not OK to ask them questions requiring a pointing or one-word response. To accomplish this. 5–7 years   Decide if … Retell … For Early Production students.

Hill. Figure 2.]  Activity Turn to the sample lesson plans in Appendix 5–8 and select the one that's most appropriate for your grade level. & Krathwohl. [Facilitator:Show Slide 18. but not the house made of bricks?") Advanced Fluency: Ask students to retell the story.] Tiered Thinking Across Stages of Second Language Acquisition What distinguishes low-level questions from high-level ones? You likely use or recall Bloom's taxonomy (Bloom. match the sample student responses at the end to their respective stages of second language acquisition. which provides a structure for categorizing the level of abstraction of questions. Englehart. starting with questions for recalling information (low level) and concluding with questions for predicting and discriminating among ideas (high level). [Facilitator:Show Slide 19. Figure 2. After reading the lesson. Levels of Bloom's Taxonomy .  Speech Emergence: Ask "why" and "how" questions that students can answer with short sentences ("Explain why the third pig built his house out of bricks.2 illustrates the levels in the taxonomy. 1956). Furst." "What does the wolf want?"). including main plot elements but leaving out unnecessary details. Intermediate Fluency: Ask "What would happen if …" and "Why do you think …" questions ("What would happen if the pigs outsmarted the wolf?" "Why could the wolf blow down the house made of sticks. You may be asked to share your responses with the larger group.2.

However. when they did.] Have you ever seen the levels of thinking from Bloom's taxonomy aligned with the stages of second language acquisition? For some reason.and late-exit transitional programs). "How can I possibly ask a Preproduction or Early Production student a high-level question if the most that student can do is point or give a one-word response?" Do not mistake an ELL's limited output for an inability to think abstractly.3. 1992) found that in all the language programs studied (including immersion and early. students did not produce any oral language.3 shows. teachers tended to ask low-level questions. many people think that students in the initial stages of acquisition can only answer low-level questions and that those in the advanced stages are more likely to answer highlevel questions. the levels of thinking and the stages of second language acquisition should operate more as axes than in side-by-side alignment. but the students must do more than simply recall knowledge. [Facilitator:Show Slide 21. We can't have ELLs stuck at the lowest levels of thinking.The Ramirez study of bilingual educational programs (Ramirez. [Facilitator:Show Slide 20. in more than half of their interactions. It's easy to keep asking Preproduction students yes/no questions or have them respond by pointing. Figure 2. You may ask yourself.] As Figure 2. they engaged in simple recall. this is not the case. In fact. Relationship Between Bloom's Taxonomy and the Stages of Second Language Acquisition .

] Appendix 1 shows an actual matrix using both the levels of thinking and the stages of second language acquisition. review. [Facilitator:Show Slide 25. The students have already acquired and integrated plant knowledge and are now ready to practice.[Facilitator:Show Slides 22–24. English language learners at all stages of acquisition should be asked questions at all levels of thinking. We want to challenge their thinking and speaking abilities. We don't want them to get stuck at a knowledge level only.] Card Sort Activity [Facilitator:Bring out one premade game board and set of cards for each table or small group (see Appendix 9). How would you engage students across all stages of second language acquisition at all levels of thinking? Place the activity cards on the most suitable space on the game board.] The statements on the cards for this activity in Appendix 9 are taken from a high school science class during a plant unit. . and apply what they've learned.

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