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Second Language Acquisition in Early Childhood: A Teacher's

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Lina Aimée Fuglheim

on 13 February 2015

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Transcript of Second Language Acquisition in Early Childhood: A Teacher's

Early Childhood
The stage in human
development from
two to seven years
of age
Stage 1
This stage usually lasts about 0-6 months
and is also know as the "silent period." According to language researcher Stephen Krashen, most new learners of English will go through a "silent period," where they are unwilling or unable to communicate orally. (Cunningham & Shagoury, 2013)
Children learning a second language move through stages.
Early Production
This stage lasts from 6 months to a year.
The student starts to speak using short words and sentences, but the emphasis is still on listening and absorbing. There will be many errors in this stage (Ford & Robertson, 2008).
Second Language Acquisition
in Early Childhood

A Teacher's Guide
to Understanding & Supporting Young English Language Learners

Second Language
Process through which humans learn a second language
It is important for educators to
fully understand the process
through which children undergo
second language acquisition. This will
enable them to provide proper support
strategies and differentiated
instruction based on the needs
of the English language learners
(ELLs) in the classroom.

Stephen Krashen and Tracy Terrell first
explored stages of second language
acquisition in their 1983 book,
"The Natural Approach."
(Flynn & Hill, 2006)
1 2 3 4 5
Knowing, understanding, and
being able to identify these different stages of language acquisition that an ELL is experiencing is crucial for effective classroom
Minimal comprehension

Students may repeat, or "parrot" what you say but do not actually understand what they are saying

Able to respond to pictures, visuals, and and to duplicate gestures and motions to show comprehension

Ability to nod "yes" or "no"

Students have up to 500 words of receptive vocabulary
Emphasize listening comprehension by using
read-alouds and music.

Use visuals and have students point to pictures or act out vocabulary.

Speak slowly and use shorter words, but use correct English phrasing.

Model "survival" language by saying and showing the meaning. For example, say, "Open your book," and then open a book while the student observes.

Avoid excessive error correction. Reinforce learning by modeling correct language usage
when students make mistakes.
(Haynes, 2007)
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
Teacher Prompts
Show me...
Circle the...
Where is...?
Who has...?
(Flynn & Hill, 2006)
Stage 2
Teacher Prompts

Yes/no questions
Either/or questions
One- or two-word
Classroom Strategies
Accept one or two word responses

Give students opportunities to participate in
whole class activities

Ask yes/no and either/or questions.

Expose students to print by using simple books
with predictable text

Ask students to point to pictures and say the word

Model a phrase and have the student repeat it
and add modifications. Example: "This book is
very interesting." The student repeats it and
says, "This book is very boring."

(Haynes, 2007)
Characteristics of Stage 2
Limited comprehension

Students can usually speak in one- or two-word phrases

Able to use short language chunks that have been memorized although these chunks may not always be used correctly

Uses present tense verbs

Students will develop a receptive and
active vocabulary of about 1000 words
(Haynes, 2007)
(Flynn & Hill, 2006)
Stage 3
Speech Emergence
This stage lasts from 1-3 years. Students are able to communicate using simple phrases and sentences. They can ask simple questions, that may or may not be grammatically correct. They will initiate short conversations with classmates and understand easy stories read in class with the support of pictures. They will also be able to do some content work with teacher support (Haynes, 2007).
Students have developed a vocabulary of
about 3,000 words and have good comprehension

They are able to:
Sound out stories phonetically
Read short, modified texts in content area subjects.
Complete graphic organizers with word banks.
Match vocabulary words to definitions.
Participate in pair/choral reading activities.
Understand teacher explanations and two-step directions.
Compose brief stories based on personal experience
Teacher Prompts
Phrase or short-sentence
Classroom Strategies
Introduce new academic vocabulary and model
how to use it in a sentence

Provide visuals and make connections with student's background knowledge as much as possible

Ask questions that require a short answer and are literal

Introduce charts and graphs by using easily understood information( ex: class survey of food preferences)

Have students re-tell stories or experiences and have another student write them down

Provide minimal error correction. Focus only on
correction that directly interferes with meaning
(Haynes, 2007)
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
Stage 4
Intermediate Fluency
This stage can take 3-5 years. Students are beginning to use more complex sentences when speaking and writing and are willing to express opinions and share their thoughts. They will ask questions to clarify what they are learning in class. At this stage, students will use strategies from their native language to learn content in English (Haynes, 2007).
Excellent communication
Able to communicate fluently in social
Few grammatical errors in speaking
Able to understand more complex concepts
Demonstrates higher order thinking skills in the second language, such as offering an opinion or analyzing a problem
Ability to read and understand modified texts in content area subjects
Student writing at this stage will have many
errors as they try to master the complexity
of English grammar and sentence structure
Vocabulary of 6,000 active words
Teacher Prompts
What would happen if...?

Why do you think...?
Classroom Strategies
Identify key academic vocabulary and phrases
and model them.

Introduce more academic skills, such as
brainstorming, prioritizing, categorization,
summarizing and compare and contrast

Introduce idioms and give examples of how to use them appropriately. Example: "Let's wind up our work."

Have a "guessing time" during silent reading where
they circle words they don't know and write down their
guess of the meaning. Check the results as a class.
(Haynes, 2007)
(Flynn & Hill, 2006)
"In this stage, students need more correction/feedback, even on errors that do not directly affect meaning. They should be developing a more advanced command of syntax, pragmatics, pronunciation, and other elements that do not necessarily affect meaning but do contribute to oral fluency" (Ford & Robertson, 2008).
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
Stage 5
Advanced Fluency
Teacher Prompts
Decide if...

It takes students from 5-7 years to achieve cognitive social language proficiency in a second language and up to 10 to reach academic language proficiency. In Stage 5, students will be near-native in their ability to perform in content area learning. Most ELLs at this stage have been exited from ESL and other support programs. At the beginning of this stage, however, they will need continued support from classroom teachers (Haynes, 2007).

Near native-like fluency

Student may still have an accent

May use idiomatic expressions incorrectly at times

Student is comfortable in communicating in the second language
Classroom Strategies
Offer challenge activities to expand the student's vocabulary knowledge such as identifying antonyms, synonyms and the use of a thesaurus and dictionary

Demonstrate effective note-taking and provide a template

Offer error correction on academic work and on oral language. Because students at this stage have achieved near-native fluency, they benefit from support in fine-tuning
their oral and written language skills
(Flynn & Hill, 2006)
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
"By knowing the stages of language acquisition and
the stage-appropriate questions, you can engage students at the correct level of discourse. In addition, when appropriate questions are asked, content knowledge can be assessed alongside language proficiency" (Flynn & Hill, 2006).

"Knowing the level of language acquisition also allows you to work within the student's “zone of proximal development”—that area between what the student is capable of at the moment and the point you want the student to reach next. You can work in a student's zone of proximal development by “scaffolding” language development, or providing the support a student
needs as they progress" (Haynes, 2007).
Importance of Stage Recognition...
Overall Recommendations
Scaffold instruction so students receive
comprehensible input and are able to successfully complete tasks at their level.

Explicit vocabulary instruction is very important in accelerating ELL students' English language development.

Error correction should be done very intentionally and appropriately according to student language ability, as noted earlier in the article.

Seek the experts in your school or district who can offer you guidance on effective instructional strategies for your ELL students.

Visit the additional links for more info
regarding language acquisition and
recommended instructional strategies.
Additional resources
for teachers...



Cunningham, Andie & and Shagoury, Ruth. (2013). Understanding the "Silent Period"
with English Language Learners. Retrieved from http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles- detail-view.php?id=47.

Ford, Karen & Robertson, Kristina. (2008). Language Acquisition: An Overview.
Retrieved from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/26751/.

Haynes, Judie. (2007). Getting Started with English Language Learners: How Educators
Can Meet the Challenge. Alexandria, VA.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hill, Jane D. & Flynn, Kathleen M. (2006). Classroom Instruction That Works with
English Language Learners. Alexandria, VA.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

(Haynes, 2007)
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
(Ford & Robertson, 2008)
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