Second Language Acquisition and Supporting Learners in the Mainstream Classroom

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Teachers and Cultural/Linguistic Diversity

Teachers are trained to work with new groups of learners in the facilitation of their learning and promotion of their academic achievement. The diverse student population creates various challenges for teachers in issues relating to cultural and linguistic diversity. Hence, it is crucial to include diversity and multicultural questions in the training of mainstream teachers. However, some training programs, especially those that mainstream teachers undertake, are not inclusive of ways to deal with English language learners. The teacher has to understand the capacity of their students regarding their linguistic and cultural backgrounds through creating a connection with them and understanding their reality.

ELLs Programs and Factors

The ELLs program must develop the student's proficiency in the English language as well as their academic skills. Moreover, these programs are varied because of various factors, such as the number of students in the classroom, the student's native language, and the grade they are in among other factors. Some schools use English as the only form of instruction, while others will use the student's native language to help the student keep up with the rest of the classroom. Further, other schools will have programs that support literacy development in the English language as well as the student's native language. It is, therefore, crucial to establish the number of English Language Learners in the classroom before choosing the most suitable and applicable ELLs program. Additionally, teachers should choose ELLs program models that facilitate a high-quality ELL environment.

Acquiring Proficiency in a Second Language

The acquisition of proficiency in a second language can be complicated and a life-changing process for the student. The student is required to be fully committed, involved, and to respond adequately physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Each student has a different speed of language acquisition and pace of learning due to various factors, such as contextual factors, motivation, and personality among other factors (Coelho, 2016). The learning of a new language's grammatical composition does not necessarily lead to the student becoming fluent in the language. Some students will study the language, but they cannot use it in communication, while others learn a language without the requirement of formal instruction. Some learners will effectively communicate in the language but not in a grammatically correct manner. More so, others will speak with grammatical correctness but become hesitant when they make a grammatical error. Furthermore, stress and anxiety affect the way an individual communicates in a learned language.

Language Acquisition Process

A person can acquire a language subconsciously when exposed to it or through consciously learning the language as well as the grammatical rules that apply to it. Meaningful exposure to the language will enable a learner to become fluent. The teacher must format the language input in the most useful way by considering the learner's level of proficiency, their prior knowledge of the language, and what interests them. The teacher can enhance the learner's intake and acquisition of language by prompting the learner to be keen on the linguistic features of a message. Furthermore, they should focus on the output of the learner by encouraging them to listen and read and then speak and write. Language structure is fundamental in helping the student understand the message without linguistic analysis. Social interaction is an essential aspect of second language acquisition, and, thus, the teacher should encourage the student to interact with individuals who are fluent in the language. The classroom must be a place where the learner can use and learn the language.

Inclusive Instruction for ELLs in Mainstream Classes

The ultimate goal of any teacher in a mainstream class with ELLs is to help all their students to comprehend and apply what they have been taught. The subject being taught is the primary determinant of what the teacher should make understandable for the learner. For most second language learners, there may be some vocabulary and complex sentences that are hard to fathom (Gibbons, 2015). Hence, it is the prerogative of the teacher to utilize basic instructional practices to help their students understand the English language. All ELLs have their distinct learning modalities, and they, therefore, require various exposures and experiences for easy application of information. Most importantly, the teacher must be able to make a distinction between conversational and academic language so that they can assign their students to the appropriate learning activities with their language proficiency level. In doing so, the learner will continue developing their academic language as well as their learning content.

Understanding the Needs of ELLs

The ELLs teacher must make an effort to know the needs of the English-language learners. The learning process enhancement for ELLs goes beyond knowing content and strategies. The ELLs teacher must make the ELLs part of the classroom. Therefore, all teachers should be knowledgeable of the process of language acquisition. The teacher should understand that each of their students has a diverse background that affects their learning experience. By understanding their class and the needs of their students, the teacher will be able to structure the English language in a way that enables the ELLs to acquire fluency and academic achievement.


Coelho, E. (2016). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. In Adding English: A guide to teaching in multilingual classrooms

(2nd ed.)(pp.153-181). Toronto: Pippin Publishing.

Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding Language and Learning. In Scaffolding language scaffolding learning: Teaching English language learners in the mainstream classroom (2nd ed.)(pp. 1-21). Portsmouth: Heinemann.

August 21, 2023



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