What can teachers honestly expect from students who are learning a second language?
It's really hard to know what to expect from students that you have trouble communicating with. However, I see it time and again - teachers expect students who have been learning English for a couple of years to perform at the level of their native English speaking peers.
So, what can teachers really expect a student to do at the different steps of learning a second language?
Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell describe the natural stages of language acquisition in their book The Natural Approach. All students who learn English as a second language will pass through these stages, some more quickly than others.
The list below is excerpted from Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners by Jane D. Hill and Kathleen M. Flynn.
It gives a comprehensive overview of the stages all students will pass through while learning a second language.
Pre-production: 0-6 Months
Early Pre-production: 6 Months to 1 Year
Speech Emergence: 1 to 3 Years
Intermediate Fluency: 3 to 5 Years
Advanced Fluency: 5 to 7 Years
The SIOP model (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol) is a system developed to ensure high quality instruction for English learners in content area teaching.
It allows both concepts and academic vocabulary to be developed in a way that bridges gaps in learning due to language acquisition.
This protocol is particularly important for students who are at the initial stages of English language fluency, although all can benefit.
In sheltered instruction, teachers must purposefully speak clearly, utilize visuals and manipulatives, and avoid the overuse of idiomatic phrases. Other things a teacher can do are:
The SIOP protocol works extremely well for learning disabled students too.
This is not to equate second language learners as having a disability. The strategies are simply equally effective for a variety of students.