to be in her silent period—in both
Khmer and English—longer than my
other ELLs. I called her mother and
asked, “Does your daughter talk?” The
mother laughed and assured me that
her daughter came home every day
and told her all about what she learned
and did at school. Soon enough, she
was joining in more on songs and
chants and participating in our shared
readings of books.
Encourage Speaking and Listening
Throughout the Day
During all classroom activities,
teachers should take a strategic
approach to correcting student errors
in speech. The easiest way to make
students afraid to talk is to correct
them every time they open their
mouths. Instead, teachers should focus
on correcting errors that impede com-
prehension and use techniques such as
recasts to model correct usage:
S: My mom buy me shirt red.
T: Your mom bought you a red shirt?
Nice! My wife bought me a blue coat.
Explicit instruction and corrections
should focus on rules that students are
ready to learn, as determined by their
level of English proficiency:
S: We have four pet in our house.
T: Remember our lesson on plurals?
How would you say more than one pet?
T: Pets. You got it! Now try that sentence again.
S: We have four pets in our house.
Additional instructional practices
Let Them Communicate
that can develop students’ speaking
skills include songs and chants, oral
retellings of books they’ve listened
to or read independently, and oral
presentations on a variety of topics
across the content areas. Interactive
activities, such as role-plays, debates,
and acting out stories, also
provide rich opportunities
to practice new vocabulary
and language structures.
To promote students’
listening skills, teachers
can use techniques such
as total physical response
(TPR), long a staple of
ESL teachers working with
In TPR, teachers issue
short commands requiring
a physical response (such
as “stand up,” “put the
pencil on the book,” and
“run to the corner”). TPR
techniques can also be
used with intermediate
and advanced ELLs in
content-area lessons: for
example, issuing such
commands in a geography
lesson as “point to a pen-
insula” or “draw a river in
the valley between the mountains.”
Teachers can also develop students’
listening comprehension by having
them listen and respond to audio or
video recordings on high-interest
topics at appropriate levels of dif-
ficulty, which are readily available
on the Internet. Books, including
those that the teacher has read aloud
in class, can be kept at a listening
center along with audio recordings
for repeated listening practice. These
books and recordings can be sent
home for additional practice.
in Small Groups
The most effective technique for
helping students with their English
language development, however, is
simply to provide ample opportunities
for them to interact and communicate
in the classroom for meaningful
purposes. Cooperative learning is a