This page was prepared for mainstream teachers at Frankfurt International School in summary of the most relevant information and advice gleaned from the ECIS-ESL conference in Rome 2005.
Among the speakers at this conference were Professor J. Cummins and Professor S. Krashen, probably the two most important and influential researchers in second language acquisition.
Below is a brief summary of the information that emerged from their sessions
which is of relevance for mainstream (non-ESL) teachers.
Language learning: Krashen's theory of second language acquisition is simple
We learn language when we understand that language. In other words, if we are hearing or reading something
in the new language that is comprehensible to us then we are learning that language. An important precondition, however,
is that we have no psychological barrier to the input. If we are poorly motivated or highly anxious,
or we are not interested in what we are hearing or reading, then we will not be
receptive to the input and little or no language learning will take place.
Implications for the mainstream teacher:It is essential that what
the ESL student hears and reads in the mainstream class is (or is made)
comprehensible. Furthermore, subject teachers should aim to reduce the
ESL student's barriers to language (and subject matter) input. It is essential
that the ESL student is not made to feel anxious or not wanted in the
research is convincing evidence of the strong correlation between
reading for pleasure and school success. By reading for pleasure, he means
reading what you, the student, have chosen to read. This can include comics
and magazines or internet articles. As Krashen said at the conference: "If
you read for pleasure while you are at school, you will be ok. If you don't
read for pleasure, you probably will not be." Implications for the mainstream teacher: Encourage your students to
read in your subject. Give them booklists of suggested reading. Have magazines
on display in the classroom and available for borrowing. Consider
devoting part of a lesson on a regular basis for silent, self-selected reading
of materials in your subject.
Teachers interested in reading more about Krashen's research, including his involvement in Proposition 227, can visit
There is more detailed information about classroom strategies concerning ESL
students in many other places on this Teachers website.
Esteem and second language learners: Cummins'
work has been enormously influential in the field of second language education, and is summarized in my
webpage entitled What mainstream teachers need to know about language acquisition. In this conference Cummins spoke about the
impressive improvements in language that can be made when English learners are
engaged in work that allows them to demonstrate their intelligence, their
imagination and creativity, their linguistic knowledge (of their own language)
and their personality. Such tasks are important in maintaining and
enhancing the ow about language acquisition
".. when students' language, culture and experience are ignored or
excluded in classroom interactions, students are immediately starting from a
disadvantage. Everything they have learned about life and the world up to
this point is dismissed as irrelevant to school learning; there are few
points of connection to curriculum materials or instruction and so the
students are expected to learn in an experiential vacuum. Students' silence
and non-participation under these conditions have frequently been
interpreted as lack of academic ability or effort, and teachers'
interactions with students have reflected a pattern of low expectations
which have become self-fulfilling."
Cummins J (1996) Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in
a Diverse Society Ontario CA California Association for Bilingual
Implications for the mainstream teacher: The experiences and
background knowledge of the ESL students in your classes can be utilized for
the benefit of all students. Show interest in the ESL students, their
culture and language, and give them opportunities to demonstrate what they
know and can do. This will enhance their self-esteem and promote their
learning both of your subject and of English.
Following is a random list of suggestions for mainstream teachers, culled from the other
Rome conference sessions. Most of it is widely-known as good practice for the
teaching of all students, not only of ESL students. However the list serves as a
activate background/prior knowledge at the beginning of a unit
pre-teach essential vocabulary items
preview and review the lesson
allow thinking time before getting answers to questions
provide model answers
make expectations explicit
teach learning strategies appropriate to the subject
cooperative learning activities
connections to other subjects
be explicit what task is to follow a reading or listening text
alert students to cognates or helpful mother-tongue equivalents