Teaching ELLs

Th goal of SLA should not be native speaker competence. Few L2 learners ever become as proficient as a native speaker. This means that second language learners should be judged against what L2 learners do rather than native speakers proficiency. The goal of SLA should be bilingualism.

The Twin Pillars of Language Acquisition

Massive Input

In short, lots of listening and lots of reading. BUT it should be comprehensible, interesting and relevant. (This is a nigh on impossible feat to perform in a class where the reading ages of children may differ in years, which means just vary the input difficulty). This means a content-based curriculum, not a grammar-based one.


For input to become intake, children need to notice things about the input, in particular grammatical structures and vocabulary – the lexis. Human beings do this naturally – we are genetically programmed to acquire language. But to accelerate this process, teachers need to draw attention to language features.

Some language features might benefit from explicit teaching, but only as a way of raising an awareness of these features. This is so that when attention is drawn to them, the noticing is more active because of prior teaching. The students won’t actually learn the feature from the teaching alone.  Some areas of grammar that I think would benefit from explicit teaching, because noticing alone needs some sort of prior grounding, might be:

  • modal verbs
  • the past and present perfect tenses
  • articles and determiners
  • prepositions


Frankfurt International School’s Guide to Learning English


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